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Re: How to provide drivers to the installation

Hallo Rainer,

On Friday 26 August 2005 09:26, Rainer Koenig wrote:
> we are currently facing a driver problem that is hitting us in *every*
> Distribution, but here of course I want some hints and advice for the
> Debian distribution.

Very nice to see interest from hardware manufacturers.

> So now the question is how can I provide an updated sata_sis.ko to the
> installation process. Other distributions offer the use of a driver
> disk and we already were successful with an experimental patch on
> Fedora. But what is Debian offering here? I didn't see any issue about
> driver disks.

That is correct. Debian does have some rudimentary support for loading 
external drivers, but that is mostly when nothing is detected and in part 
this functionality has only been added after the Sarge release.
Debian does have support for building third party drivers (like nVidea 
(?), sl-modem), but that is limited to the installed system and not 
supported in the installer; also AFAIK this is only allowed to add new 
drivers, not replace existing ones.

One concern I have personally about driver disks is that disk drives seem 
to be disappearing rapidly from systems, so you would really need to 
support various alternative loading methods (floppy, usb, net).

Debian policy has always been to let new drivers trickle down through 
official channels (i.e. from kernelHQ); we fairly often do try to 
backport new drivers into our kernels when they appear stable, but that 
is _not_ done for kernel packages in stable, only for unstable/testing.

> Is it possible to switch to another console during 
> installation and then do a rmmod sata_sis and insmod from a floppy?
> Or do we need to master new installation DVDs that take care of the
> problem?

I think creating custom installation images is your best option ATM.

We had a similar request from Intel recently. You may be interested to 
read the following threads which should give you a lot of 
answers/pointers (the last has the fullest reply):
- http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2005/08/msg00061.html
- http://lists.debian.org/debian-kernel/2005/08/msg00383.html
- http://lists.debian.org/debian-boot/2005/08/msg00429.html

> And of course the other question: How do we get the patch backported
> to the current kernel images. Wouldn't be nice if a user does an
> apt-get install kernel-image... and then loses his hard disk access.
> ;-)

These are very good and important questions.
Better support for driver updates could probably be added, maybe using the 
new debian-volatile infrastructure. However, this is something that will 
need very carefull thought to avoid the problems you touch on.

Frans Pop
(assistant release manager for Debian Installer)

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