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NMI loops during install on intel VLB system

I'm trying to install potato on this Intel machine using floppies, and when it gets up to the point where you are supposed to insert the root diskette it goes into a loop that says:

NMI received for unknown reason 2c
Dazed and confused, but trying to continue.
Do you have a strange power saving mode enabled?
NMI received for unknown reason 3c
(messages repeat...)

Although this keeps cycling across the screen, if I just press enter, it will read the root diskette anyway, and then go through installing the 3 driver disks, but after partitioning the hard drive it gets stuck in this loop for good and I can't get any further. I have tried using the old CPU install option, and tried both parity & nonparity RAM. All power saving and cache is disabled. The system previously ran DOS & Windows OK.

The machine in question is a 486DX2 CPU on a Soyo 25N VESA Local Bus motherboard with 32MB RAM. The only cards in the system are a Promise EIDE2300+ floppy/hard disk controller and an STB Sprint 1.1 Trident-based video card. The BIOS is an Award 2C4I9S23.

I am a Windows expert but have no experience in Linux, never installed it before and really wanted to try it out on another system before I took the plunge on my primary box. I tried the Storm freeware version and had the same problem. Is there anything I can do with this machine or should I just give up trying to run Linux on it? I really see great potential for Linux once the installation & update of it can be streamlined, but running into a wall like this is what scares the consumer away and keeps them tied to M$.

If I do get Linux installed with floppies, will I be able to use a dialup internet connection to download the rest of the modules?

How much disk space are we talking about just for a basic Linux system with Xwindows or Motif, a web browser, and email client?

Thanks for your patience with all these questions.

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