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Re: Alpha Newbie sarge installation problems

Hi Alexandre,

Thanks for writing.  It would be appreciated if you could file an
installation-reports bug about your experiences, following the
directions at
<http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-installer/report-template>.  In the
meantime, I'll try to address some of your concerns below.

On Sun, May 09, 2004 at 01:09:54AM +0200, Alexandre Fayolle wrote:
> I got hold of an Alphastation 500 a few days ago and I'm trying to
> install Sarge on it (I thought I could maybe help testing the
> installer). While I'm quite at ease with Debian on intel machines, I'm a
> total newbie when it comes to Alpha machines, SRM and the like, though
> I've read the SRM howto. (I should probably read it a couple more times
> to get things going). 

> I grabbed the 5 mb cdrom iso image from 
> /debian/dists/testing/main/installer-alpha/current/images/ tonight,
> booted, and started the installation process. 

> First problem was during hardware detection: sr_mod.o was not found, and
> I got an error message. 

The cdrom-mini.iso you grabbed is not the normal way of installing; this
image is essentially "netboot on a CD".  The standard netinst and
businesscard images (which should both contain the sr_mod.o module) can
be found at

> Then came the time to partition the disk. I wiped of the previous
> partitions for which I had no use and got / and swap on the first disk, 
> and /home and /var on the second disk, using ext3 everywhere. I was not
> able to configure LVM, but this may be because I don't know anything
> about LVM, and didn't stop to read the documentation. 

> Installation went fine until I had to make my system bootable, which
> failed, I was told, because aboot wanted an ext2 partition. This was
> discussed mentionned on this list last january, so I won't insist. 

It's been questioned whether aboot really needs ext2, or if ext3 works
as well.  I hope to do some testing of this before beta5; if anyone on
this list has practical experience (one way or the other) using aboot
with an ext3 /boot partition, I'd appreciate hearing about it.

I also expect that beta5 of the debian-installer will be fixed to
warn about the aboot/ext2 issue at the partitioning stage; this was
supposed to make it into beta4, but I had a brain fart.

> I got back to the partitionning step, removed the / partition, inserted
> a small 2MB partition formated as ext2, not mounted at the beginning of
> the disk, put back / to fit the remaining space, and relaunched the
> installation of the base system which failed twice. 

> The first failure was "dpkg: syntax error: unknown user 'root' in 
> statusoverride file", and was caused by exim4. 

> The second error because /target/usr/bin/awk was an existing symling 
> on mawk and ln is not called with the -f option. 

This seems to indicate that you did not re-format the partitions before
trying to reinstall?

> I removed the statoverride file and the symlink and relaunched the
> installation (twice) and finally got back to the installation of aboot
> which failed again: the installer asked me on which partition the
> bootloader should be installed, and proposed the only ext2 partition on
> my machine, namely /dev/sda1, I sayed ok, and it failed because "bootcode
> overlaps with partition #1. If you really want this, use -f1". 

> I read some doc, and issued manually "/target/sbin/swriteboot -f1
> /dev/scsi/host1/bus0/target0/lun0/part1 /target/boot/bootlx" and this
> failed because "existing disk label is corrupt. Couldn't get a valid
> disk label, exiting". 

You don't really want this.  The reason aboot gives you the option of
overlapping a partition is because Tru64 partition tables traditionally
have partition 3 as "whole disk", so it overlaps no matter *where*
you're writing.  If you use the -f option pointing at a partition that
you have data on, you *will* corrupt the data on that partition.

What you need to do is leave a small amount of space at the beginning of
your disk, unpartitioned, where aboot will write the bootloader.  For
d-i, 1MB or so should be sufficient; if you plan to use aboot's rawboot
option, you would need to leave more space for a kernel.

It would be nice if the d-i partitioner (partman) also warned about
this, but I haven't figured out yet how to detect this problem.  At the
very least, I intend for this to be mentioned in the install notes.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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