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Re: d-i on ancient hardware

Hi Adam,

Next time please file an installation report [1] instead of sending an 
email to the list.

Thanks for your elaborate report though. Overall I'd say your installation 
was successful.

[1] http://d-i.alioth.debian.org/manual/en.i386/ch05s03.html#submit-bug


On Sunday 09 July 2006 05:08, Adam Borowski wrote:
> I wonder what's the purpose in shipping loadlin these days.  It
> needs to be run in real mode, and AFAIK even Windows98 can't be
> forced to start it.  The incidence of real-mode-capable DOS is so low
> that loadlin can be reasonably purged from any space-tight images.

You can run it from a windows 98 boot floppy. There is also drdos and 

> On the other hand, if you insist on keeping loadlin, please provide a
> .bat file.  A beginner user won't know to look in isolinux.cfg to
> copy the append line; also, there's no GPM in stone-age OSes...

We should document it better, that is true (and ship a more recent 
version). On my TODO list, but fairly low down.

> 2. [G-I]: If the graphics card is not VESA-compliant, the error
> message about an invalid _text_ mode can be confusing.

Could you please give us the exact message? I would guess it is a kernel 
message though, so nothing we can influence.

> 3. [G-I]: On lowmem, it would be better to flat-out refuse to run the
> graphical installer; a blank screen is an ugly way to die.

Already answered.

> 4. [G-I] [Off-topic]: As you already don't support my magnificent 486
> and similar, why won't you slap any theme on?  The current widgets
> are hideous, and since there's space for games...

This is still Beta. We are working on that before the release, though as 
always opinions differ:

> 5. A question "Choose a country, territory or area" has "Choose
> language" on the dialog caption.  What language, who, where?
> Especially as lowmem just gave me a message about continuing in
> English, this can be confusing.  What about "Choose location"?

Already answered.

> 6. As proceeding through module selection on lowmem is doomed to
> lose, the user needs to turn swap on before.  Too bad, the initial
> lowmem message doesn't suggest _when_ swap can be turned on.
> Various points:
> * the lowmem message: console 2 is not yet available
> * "Detecting CD-ROMs": this is when ide drivers are probed
> * d-i module selection: can't continue past
> A simple hint in the lowmem message would save people some time.

Not sure about that as IIRC swap is turned off again during partitioning. 
However, I'm not a lowmem expert. The most important part is not to load 
more modules than you strictly need.

> 7. On 24MB+37MB swap, even with no extra d-i modules chosen, anna
> goes into an OOM loop.  Increasing the swap to 100MB doesn't help
> either.

We test releases at 32 and 48 MB. I'm not completely surprised that 24 MB 
does not work. We already know that the current lowmem levels need to be 
checked and probably adjusted.

> 8. I chosen IPv6 support -- incidentally, my network segment was
> v6-only.  Yet, DHCP failed and stateless configuration wasn't used
> either.  The manual config, being given 2002:5033:a761:4::1 started
> to lecture me how an "IP" address looks like -- saying "IP" where it
> meant "IPv4".

I don't think IPv6 installations have ever really been tested. It would be 
great if you could do trace the cause of the problems and help us fix 
them. Please file specific bugs against the relevant d-i components if 
you find issues.
If you need help getting started with that, feel free to ask on the 
mailing list or in #debian-boot on IRC (irc.debian.org / OFTC).

> I set up network connectivity manually.  By the way, having "ping"
> and the like around would be helpful; installation is exactly the
> point where network diagnostics is the most useful.

We use wget for basic connection testing.

> 10. And yet, even though ftp.pl.debian.org is reachable over IPv6,
> mirror-chooser wasn't happy.  It turns out that the 'wget' binary
> provided by busybox is a crippled IPv4-only.

That should be a matter of enabling the relevant options in the busybox 

A quick grep on the busybox config gives me:

Looks like the first needs to be enabled...

> 11. It turned out the disk controller/mobo/something on the P1 box
> was somewhat flaky, causing intermittent faults.  If something bad
> happens during debootstrap, the d-i wrapper over it gives a dialog
> box with two choices: "Go back" and "Continue".  Too bad, whatever
> you choose, it proceeds with the latter -- yet, failing at the end
> even if you fix the error manually.

Handling of the two buttons can indeed be improved in some places. It's 
not always as easy as it sounds to define correct behavior though.

> 12. Why does it use debootstrap AT ALL?  This is something that could
> be much better done at d-i build time instead of the installation
> itself.  Unpacking a tarball takes seconds even on this bitty box.
> Debootstrap takes ages on modern hardware, too -- on the order of
> 5mins on my desktop when pulling debs from a proxy over a 350KB/s
> link.

Please tell us how to get a full tarball on a floppy or inside a netbooted 

> 13. When booting, I get "Begin: Waiting for root file system... ..."
> and a >5min wait before getting dropped to a shell.  It then needs a
> "modprobe ide-disk".  Curiously, you need to wait several seconds
> before closing the shell or it will fail again -- this gives a good
> hint towards the cause.
> (This happens both on the 486 and the P1, with the same disk).

Please make sure you have very latest udev and initramfs-tools installed. 
If it still happens then, please file a bug report against 

> 14. On minimal systems, shouldn't the locale be C.UTF-8 instead of C?
> It's a matter of a 9KB deb (much bigger uncompressed).  Having both
> 8bit and UTF-8 locales on a single box -- hell, even on the same
> network/company -- is nothing but loudly asking for data loss.

No comment.

> 15. Once the installation finished, the keyboard mapping got screwed
> on the next boot with regards to Caps Lock:
> (especially funny considering that I used a cluster of uppercase
> letters as a part of my password)

No comment.

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