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Bug#387424: debian-installer: No option to install kernel/inirtd without base system

Package: debian-installer
Severity: wishlist

I recently had a hard time recovering a system after upgrading the
hard drive. Eventually d-i let me sort things out but it was
difficult, slow, and has probably caused some other problems in the
process due to having to overwrite a load of existing stuff on the

The ability to simply install a new, bootable, kernel/initrd after
booting with d-i would have made things enormously easier. Given the
way stock kernel+initrd debian systems now work, it seems to me that
this situation ('I changed something so it won't boot - I need a new
kernel/initrd pair') will be a fairly common event that d-i ought to
be able to cater for, so I humbly request that separating 'install
base system' and 'install kernel/initrd' be considered. (Perhaps it
already is in which case it needs to be easier to discover - I
couldn't see how).

(I was using a d-i version from a few months ago so ignore me if this
is all fixed in the latest version.)


The old drive had reiserfs on hda1. The new drive had ext3 on
hda4. Grub was the bootloader. Everything was copied over, but of
course it wouldn't boot because the grub bootloader knew it should be
booting from hda1, and, more seriously - the intrd only had the
reiserfs module, not the ext3 module so couldn't boot from ext3 no
matter what I told it to try. The stock kernel without initrd didn't
understand either fs and so not using the initrd was not an option

Booting with a grub CD didn't help as grub wasn't really the main
problem (but it took me a while to realise this).

Booting with d-i, either in rescue mode or in normal mode let me see
the new drive rootfs, but the only way I could see to let me install a
new kernel was to do 'install new base system', which overwrites a
whole pile of stuff (in this case with older stuff as my d-i was older
than the unstable system I was trying to boot/recover).

I did try 'expert' mode but I got stuck with that. Perhaps it does
separate 'install kernel' and 'install base'?

In fact the 'install kernel' failed anyway due to presence of existing
/lib/modules so in the end I had to copy the kernel and initrd
packages off the cd, then pivot_root, then udpkg -i the packages. (I
couldn't see how to run udpkg so it operated on the rootfs in /target
not /(the initrd) - how does d-i deal with this?). 

This did finally (after some 10 hours of messing about) get me a
system which tried to boot off the new drive (hooray!). It just seems
to me that it shouldn't be this hard, And I thought I was a fairly
competent user. The initrd scheme (with a very minimal base kernel)
makes it much harder to get out of things when you make an
incompatible boot change. d-i is the natural next port of call, so
making it as easy as possible to deal with this situation seems
worthwhile (obviously with out overly distracting from the primary
task of d-i as an installer).

-- System Information:
Debian Release: testing/unstable
  APT prefers testing
  APT policy: (500, 'testing'), (500, 'stable'), (50, 'unstable')
Architecture: i386 (i686)
Shell:  /bin/sh linked to /bin/bash
Kernel: Linux 2.6.17-1-k7
Locale: LANG=en_GB.UTF-8, LC_CTYPE=en_GB.UTF-8 (charmap=UTF-8)

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