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4. Getting and installing ftape

4.1 Getting ftape

The v2.0.X versions of the kernel have version 2.08 of ftape already. I recommend, however, that you grab the latest version of the full source code package for ftape. It is a newer version, includes files that are not included in the kernel distribution, and includes much better documentation about how to install ftape.

Version 2.11a or newer of ftape is available from At the time of writing this version of the HOWTO document, v3.xx is available. I recommend sticking with v2.xx unless you are ready, willing, and able to use a development release with bugs.

4.2 Installing the driver

The following sections provide some useful information to get you going with the installation of v2.11a.

Once you've downloaded the source code (probably ftape-2.11a.tar.gz), untar it. You can do this by determining what directory you want the source code to be located in. I recommend /usr/src/ or ~/src. When the tar file is extracted, it will dump everything into a ftape-2.11a subdirectory, so that you'll end up, in the example I've given, with something like /usr/src/ftape-2.11a or ~/src/ftape-2.11a. It is possible to drop the entire ftape distribution into the /usr/src/linux/drivers/char/ftape directory, but untar the file into a location like I've suggested first, read through the documentation, then decide how you want to proceed.

Read the README file. The README is required reading. It's the top of the tree, so to speak. If there are specific files that the README tells you to read then read them. It will make the process much less complicated.

Do NOT proceed with compiling the package until you have read the appropriate README files and the Install-guide.

The README mentions that the linux-tape mailing list. I recommend subscribing to the newsgroup instead. The machine serving the mailing list is overburdened.

There are two ways that ftape support can be added to the kernel.

Of these two methods, the first has fewer potential problems. The second has the benefit of only consuming memory while the driver is loaded. The original author of ftape (Bas Laarhoven) has pointed out that ftape was not originally designed to be used with modules.

I compile ftape directly into the kernel on my computer. In general, fewer difficulties or complications are reported when it is done this way. A good rule of thumb is to compile it into the kernel unless you both have a good reason not to and are willing to accept any of the complications that can arise from doing otherwise. If you do compile it into the kernel, please keep in mind that you cannot use zftape instead of ftape because the two use the same major device number.

If you are compiling the driver directly into the kernel, you can generally ignore the instructions regarding modules.

If you have a v1.2 kernel, you should use the modules-1.3.57 package, not the modules-1.2.8 package (Bjørn Ekwall, maintainer of the modules package, encourages this).

If you are using v1.3.x of the kernel, you should consider moving to v2.0.x. v1.3.x was the development release prior to the production release v2.0.x.

4.3 Following the development of the ftape driver

If you want to follow the development of the ftape driver, you should read the Usenet newsgroup This is really gatewayed from the mailing list, but since vger is brought to it's knees due to the load of the various Linux mailing lists, I recommend everyone to read the newsgroup instead.

If you are unable to read news, you can subscribe to the TAPE mailing list by sending a mail saying `subscribe linux-tape' (in the body) to When you subscribe, you will be sent a greeting mail, which will tell you how to submit real mails and how to get off the list again.

Please note that I do not, repeat DO NOT, have any special powers with regard to this mailing list. If you're stuck on the list, don't bother to tell me that. I can only shrug and send you my sympathy (but that won't get you off the list).

4.4 Mixing ftape and floppies

Since both the floppy driver and ftape needs the FDC (and IRQ6), they cannot run concurrently. Thus, if you have mounted a floppy and then try to access the tape drive, ftape will complain that it cannot grab IRQ6 and then die. This is especially a problem when designing a emergency disk for use with ftape. This solution is to either load the boot/root disk into a ramdisk and then unmount the floppy, or have two floppy drive controllers.

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