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I am trying to connect two devices one of which is only capable of 10Mbps and does not support auto-negotiation. (The other is a black box, I am unsure how to tell whether it supports auto-negotiation, although it works when connected to my PC at both 10/100Mbps)

I can connect these devices using a switch, and they talk quite happily. However if I connect the devices directly to each other then no packets seem to traverse the link. I have tried four cables, a straight-through, a cross-over, a straight-through with TX+ and TX- wires swapped, and a cross-over with TX+ and TX- wires swapped. I have tried the latter two cables both ways around. (This is in case pins 3 and 6 are swapped in either device, I read that this can be a problem with 10M which uses polarized transmission).

I can connect to either device from my PC if I limit my NIC to 10M and ask it not to auto-negotiate.

Is there something else that the switch could be doing to make this connection work? Are there any other things I could try to get a cable between these devices?

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I have tested with a dual speed hub in addition to the switch which I was using, this works perfectly. I have also tested all the cables in half and full duplex as per the excellent answer Hauke Laging gave (although sadly not correct). When I use direct cables the link and activity lights suggest traffic is being sent, but no packets arrive either side. – Weir_Doe May 31 '13 at 18:16

Have a look at the Wikipedia article.

The switch may correct a duplex mismatch. Maybe you can switch the non-blackbox between half and full duplex?

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Very good point, thank you. I have tried both full-duplex and half-duplex modes on the device I have control over. I will read the rest of that article you suggested, hopefully it will shed some light. – Weir_Doe May 31 '13 at 15:37
If I understand correctly, I should leave the device I have control over in half-duplex, and only try sending traffic in one direction, then this will rule out a duplex problem? At least until I can get a connection working without the switch that is. – Weir_Doe May 31 '13 at 16:40
@Weir_Doe It's obviously difficult to send traffic in one direction only. I have no experience with that case but I assume the problem is strongly related to the amount of traffic. It does not cause much traffic but it may help to make a static ARP assignment on the system you control. And if you do not have to send much data it may also help to use tc with HTB and rather extreme settings so that after each packet there is a pause. – Hauke Laging May 31 '13 at 17:48
I have complete control of one device, and the other sends a single test packet every few seconds, so in this case I do not need a pause to ensure low traffic in one direction. It is a good suggestion though, especially the tc-htb mention if other people have similar issues. – Weir_Doe May 31 '13 at 18:20
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Finally solved it.

When using Auto-Negotiation, Parallel Detection is used to determine the link speed when the other device is not capable of Auto-Negotiation.

The concern raised by Hauke Laging is a valid one, especially in this case as a duplex mismatch can cause a link to be established but an extremely slow connection. When using Parallel Detection both devices should default to Half-Duplex though, since it would be impossible to tell if a device was capable of full / half duplex just from the LTP which is transmitted by a device which doesn't support Auto-Negotiation.

In my case the black box was failing to do Parallel Detection and was defaulting to 100M despite the spec claiming it supported Parallel Detection. A Firmware update fixed this.

The reason that the link worked to my PC was that even when I limited my NIC to 10M HD, it was still using Auto-Negotiation to communicate it's capabilities, and so the black box correctly detected the required rate. Likewise, this worked perfectly when connected to a switch as the switch detected both the LTP and AutoNegotiation pulses correctly.

Thanks for all the helpful comments and useful links. If anyone has a similar issue I would be happy to help debug.

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