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Framebuffer and Kernel issues

Hello Again,
So I got my whole system installed with Debian on the AMD64 (pure64) stuff and it seems to run well.  I'm planning on using my new system as a HTPC and I was thinking about running the AMD64 version of Debian.  Is this a good idea?  I've been getting used to Slackware over the past year or so (I'm a newbie to linux); running it on another machine in my house and I feel fairly comfortable with upgrading the kernel and getting external software running.  However, when I got the Debian release and installed it, I found that there is quite a bit different between the two distributions.
One of my problems is that I can't recompile a kernel and get the frame buffer working (using vga=0x318 with the boot options).  I find that using linux in a 1024x768 frame buffer is much more efficient than the 80x25 default.  I've learned how to use grub (it's nice) and I learned how to use mkinitrd so that my system will load required modules before the kernel gets loaded to avoid panics; but I cannot seem to get the frame buffer to work.  When I set vga=ask in the grub option and reboot to that entry, It asks like it should.  When I try 318 and the screen just goes black (system still boots, can hear disk access, and log in then reboot blindly).  I can choose 0 (80x25) and it'll work fine.  I tried compiling the VESA FB into the kernel (Y instead of M) and also with Console FB support and it still didn't work.  Now here's the kicker: when I use the precompiled kernel that came with the pure64 release and add vga=0x318 it works like a charm.  What's up with that?
Also, I noticed that the precompiled kernel is compiled with gcc 3.4.  I believe I am running gcc 3.3... I've been trying to figure out what the differences are between all the 64-bit releases of Debian.  The how-to doesn't outline them very well.  Could someone give me a list and outline the biggest differences?  From what I understand, this is my current concept of it:
Pure64 - gcc 3.3, most stable
Sid - gcc 3.4, not so stable
Sarge - not sure what this is... is it the same as the pure64?
Can anyone help me out?

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