Grr. Just about to give up on installing debian for the night. What a nightmare it has been.
First problem: can't detect my hard drive. I find this really unusual as I'm sure it has done so before. I decide to try some live cds and see what modules are loaded for it.
Ok so I try the ubuntu livecd. At this point I'm thinking, if this just works I may just install ubuntu. However the livecd doesn't work either, after a few minutes of grinding it restarts the computer.
I manage to get it to work in recovery mode, though, and it can read my HD ok. I try to setup my network card (nothing fancy, a via-rhine chipset) using some GTK tool that's on the system menu and X suddenly decides to deny all applications access, so I can't spawn any more windows. Great. xhost is no help as it can't get access either.
After paging through /proc and dmesg output I determine that my HD is a SATA drive, using the ata_piix chipset. Lovely. So, back to debian installer.
I boot as 'expert26' to try an expert installation. No dice, still doesn't detect the drive. Bring up a console, manually 'modprobe ata_piix', success! Partitioning goes fine.
Now for the actual base system install. I've been won over by 'Full CD' advocates who say you should always download a full CD rather than a net inst CD. Why? You can usefully use your computer whilst downloading a full CD, you can't whilst sitting through the download phase of a net CD.
I was suprised then when the installation opted to grab stuff from the Internet rather than the CD. It took A LONG TIME too.
However it did eventually finish, grub on MBR, no problem, reboot... kernel panic.
The kernel panic message was really weird:
/sbin/init: 431: cannot open dev/console: no such file
That looks like a typo to me. Should be '/dev/console'. How could such a crucial program, init, have such a show-stopper? Does anyone actually test the d-i builds before uploading them? (I'm sure they do. I don't really understand what's going on here).
So I pop in the d-i CD again with the intention of opening the init script (it gave a line reference, so I presumed it was a script). Trouble is somewhere along the line the installer lost the magical 'rescue CD' option, but I was not phased. Hm, can't work out the partition number for the root partition so I'll use fdisk to print out the table... no fdisk! Ok, I guess (logical drives usually start from 5 and the first one was SWAP so sda6?). I need to try and mount /dev/sda6. Lets see... no /dev/ entries for sda. Or a whole host of other useful things. Do /dev entries really take up so much space they are stripped from the installer?
I plug in my mother's laptop to look up the device entry on the internet, and end up referring to the devices.txt file in the linux source code. Heh, I'm reading (files in the) linux source code in order to install Debian. Surely a first.
So I finally have the device major and minor numbers, I've man mknod'd to remember the syntax, fumbled and created a character device instead of a block device then fixed my problem. I finally get the partition mounted and I look at sbin/init. Hang on... no vi. There's no editor on this bloody CD either. ARGH!
Now that I've steamed a little and thought about it, the init that was being executed was probably from an initrd, which I don't really understand the workings of but if I have to mount that as a loopback file or something and edit the init within that, I'm going to use the ubuntu livecd again.
At the very least, I didn't hose my boot record or partition table. But JESUS how much work is it to install Debian on this machine?