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Subjectpdc-ultra promise 150tx2+ driver bug? hard lock/other crashiness
(I'm not subscribed, please CC any replies and flames to me)

I'm bringing this up here because I noticed traffic in the past month on this
driver being GPL'd and possibly finding its way into the kernel itself. I'm
also hoping that someone here can think of something I've overlooked or
something to try to test why this is happening, or has come across this and
knows of a fix.

I have a dual athlon 2400 (real MPs) with 1GB of RAM in a MSI K7D Master
motherboard. This worked great with no instability or freezes for some time,
then one day the system overheated when the AC went out. When I restarted it,
everything worked except the IDE controller built into the motherboard would
not operate in any DMA modes, in Linux or Windows. I ordered a Promise SATA
150TX2plus to replace this, since it has a PATA interface built in. After
some work I managed to build the drivers provided by Promise, and
Linux would boot from the SATA controller. This worked for about two days
before the system locked up hard. I thought "Well, maybe its the parallel
IDE interface" so I purchased an PATA->SATA converter, plugged it in, and
booted. Again, it ran for a while then froze hard. I thought "well, maybe
its the converter?" so I purchased a 250GB SATA drive. (side note: I can
access the full drive in Linux, and can confirm the data is correctly placed
in windows 2000. Did I misread the messages saying that I should be unable to
access past 137GB?). Now, something interesting happened. I discovered that
I was able to repeatedly freeze the system by copying /usr from one drive to
another. Intrigued I found out that I can produce the following behavior
repeatedly, in various kernels from 2.4.20 to 2.4.22-rc1 with both the driver on Promise's site, and the driver linked here last

Using vmstat 1, I can watch as cache consumes nearly all available RAM. When
about 6-10MB of free RAM is available, memory consumption slows and then holds
steady for a few seconds, then continues until about 4-8MB of RAM remains,
at which time one of the following three things happens (side note: the
system *never* used the swap partition every time I tried this. The swap
partition is also residing on the SATA controller. I tried using a swapfile,
loop0 attached to a swapfile, and finally no swap and received the same
results in each case)

1 - If I am using X, I almost always (90%) obtain a hard lock with capslock
and scroll lock lights lit on my keyboard. The remaining 10% of the time,
either #2 or #3 occurs.

2 - If I am writing to the drive, the system freezes hard. No messages at all
are printed to the console, and the caps/scroll lock lights stay off. The
filesystems (all either ext3fs or ext2fs) are more-or-less OK. I can repeat
this with "dd if=/dev/zero of=/mnt/scratch/foo" and letting it run until the
system freezes. The resulting filesize of foo seems to depend on how much
memory is in use outside of cache and how much was flushed to disk, as it
varies each time I repeat this, but is roughly between 970MB and 1100MB.

3 - If I am reading from the drive, the system goes into what I call "slow
death" mode. The e100 driver is the first to die, all networking just stops
(confounding attempts to log whats going on remotely). Shortly afterwards,
the OCHI driver quits running the mouse (ps/2 keyboard still functions).
After this, the kernel starts dumping ext3fs errors for bad directory inodes
and errors for attempts to access beyond the end of the device (this is with
both a 80GB drive and the 250GB drive, mind you). At this point, the entire
filesystem across *all* rw mounted partitions becomes corrupt. I can no
longer run most executables (oddly, I can still run "ls" and "cat", yet they
are not bash builtins) and many files are replaced by binary garbage (I tried
to look into the logs to see if any useful information was present. What's
worse, if I do not immediately reboot, it appears that the kernel actually
begins to flush the corrupt cache back to the drive... the last time I spent
maybe 15 minutes looking to see if I could get useful log information out of
the system, when I did finally hard reboot the computer (the shutdown program
could not be run), fsck.ext3 detected no problems on a journal check
with /usr, but my /usr/include and /usr/share directories were both corrupted
(a full fsck.ext2 reattached the subdirectories into lost+found). This did
not happen any other time I experienced this behavior, but every other time I
rebooted the system immediately. To replicate this, I can execute "find /usr
-exec cat \{\} \; > /dev/null".

In working out what was going on, I tried several things. First, I believed
I had found a bug in ext3fs that had somehow escaped detection despite massive
usage. So I created a scratch ext2fs partition and found I could repeat the
symptoms on it. I could NOT repeat the crash over NFS (in fact, when using
NFS, the swap partition on the SATA controller was actually used). I tried
compiling the kernel with and without SMP, with highmem IO on and off, and
with 4GB highmem support and no highmem support (also recompiled the sata
driver each time). Under each of these configurations the crash would occur.
The crash does NOT occur when writing to the drive directly, via
"dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb1" The computer will happily fill the entire
partition without freezing. I found that I can buy more time by unmounting
the affected partitions (which returns the filesystem cache to free RAM).

After checking the lkml archives for similar problems, I came across a post
about the NMI watchdog. I tried booting the kernel with the nmi_watchdog=1
parameter, and received a boot message reading:

testing NMI watchdog ... CPU#0: NMI appears to be stuck!

after which everything proceeded normally. This had no apparent effect and
produced no further output when the system froze. The documentation seems
to indicate that the oops part requires a (seperate?) boot parameter, but
nmi_watchdog.txt neglects to mention what it is (unless the nmi_watchdog=n is
the enabling parameter).

I've also tried running memtest86 on all tests for 10 passes, after which I'm
fairly certain its not the memory or cpu0's cache or processor. Is 10 enough
for me to be certain about this or should I let it run longer before I make
this claim?

So now, any suggestions or hints on debugging this? Given that it only
happens when the filesystem cache for a SATA partition fills up, it seems
that its something that happens when the kernel decides that its time to write
dirty cache to disk or to abandon some old cache in favor of new data. This
is, of course, my uninformed opinion on the subject, given that I do not
understand how Linux handles its filesystem cache, or how the SATA driver

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