Potentially hardware damaging bug in kernel 2.6.27

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Possible Hardware Damaging Bug

Linux 2.6.27 has a serious bug where it can permanently disable your e1000 ethernet device by damaging the firmware stored on the device. Linux 2.6.27 has recently been included in the Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) alphas. Testing the Ubuntu 8.10 alphas on your e1000 hardware is potentially very dangerous.

If you’re unsure whether you have an e1000 card, and if you’re running a previous Intrepid alpha, or if you’d like to try it out, it might be best to check first. You can check whether you have an e1000 network card with the “lspci” command in a terminal, which will show you a list of PCI connected hardware. You can also check whether you have the e1000 module currently loaded by typing “lspci  | grep e1000″. If your’e still unsure, please ask a friend to help you check.

Bug report in Launchpad

The Ubuntu bug report on this matter states:

In some circumstances it appears possible for the 2.6.27-rc kernels to corrupt the NVRAM used by some Intel network parts to store data such as MAC addresses. This is limited to the new e1000e driver, and reports have only appeared from users of “82566 and 82567 based LAN parts (ich8 and ich9)” (to quote Intel). The reports seem to be isolated to laptops, but it is not clear if this is because desktop/server parts are not vulnerable, or if use cases simply increase the chances of laptop users being hit.

It’s not clear whether users of older e1000 cards are affected, but on-board ethernet devices typically aren’t easy to replace, so I suggest you play it safe until there is more clarity on the issue.

Developer announcement

An announcement has been made on the ubuntu-devel-announce list, which states that users who do testing should be informed of this problem:

While we expect alphas to include a fair number of bugs, and rely on your continued support and testing to help resolve these bugs for Ubuntu releases, bugs that damage hardware are quite another matter.  As a result of this bug we must recommend that users do *not* use Intrepid alphas, including the LiveCDs, on machines with Intel GigE ethernet.

Please tell your friends who use Intel Gigabit network cards to be careful, and not use Intrepid Alphas or Betas until this issue has been known to be resolved.

In The Meantime

Testing of the Ubuntu 8.10 pre-release versions is still strongly necessery and encouraged. If you are affected by this bug, you can test Ubuntu in a virtualised environment in the meantime using either of the following (linking to instructions):

If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest option, I recommend VirtualBox.


The e1000e module will be removed from the module-init-tools package, preventing it from being loaded. This is hopefully a temporary solution, according to Tim Gardner:

Pursuant to discussions on this list, ongoing discussions in the bug
report (Bug #263555), and IRC chats with our release manager Steve
Langasek I've uploaded module-init-tools_3.3-pre11-4ubuntu10 to Intrepid
with a blacklist file for e1000e. Hopefully this is a temporary measure.

When the updated module-init-tools makes it into the archive, the daily builds should be completely safe to use on your computer with an e1000 card. The downside is that your ethernet card won’t work. On desktop machines, it’s usual to have a spare PCI slot and quite easy to add another cheap ethernet card. On servers it’s not always the case, and on laptops it’s certainly not, so don’t take any big chances. I’m hoping badly that this is just a temporary solution. The release date is already starting to loom, and the beta is imminent. Shipping an Ubuntu version where ethernet adaptors don’t work will not be cool.

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One Response to “Potentially hardware damaging bug in kernel 2.6.27”

  1. oliver Says:

    Speaking of Virtualbox: did you get the VB guest extensions (mouse integration and high-res video driver) to work with the Ubuntu Ibex packages? Because I didn’t, and was wondering if that’s a bug or just a config problem.

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