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Re: Intel X553 NICs/ixgbe netinstall issues

Hi Lennart

On 10/05/19, Lennart Sorensen (lsorense@csclub.uwaterloo.ca) wrote:
> On Thu, May 09, 2019 at 07:22:30AM +0100, Rory Campbell-Lange wrote:
> > Target systems have A2SDi-8C-HLN4F motherboards each with 4 no. Intel
> > x553 NICs.
> > 
> > The stable netinstall ixgbe module does not load the interfaces, even
> > when modprobed by hand.
> > 
> > Buster netinstall 20190429-03:57 works fine. However I can't find a way
> > of downgrading the installation to "stable", as suggested at
> > 
> > https://wiki.debian.org/DebianInstaller/FAQ#Q:_How_can_I_install_sid_.28unstable.29_with_DebianInstaller.3F
> It suggests the exact opposite.  It suggests you can install stable and
> then upgrade to unstable.  You can't downgrade.  It doesn't suggest that
> at all.  Never could.  It suggests that people that want unstable can
> use the working stable installer and upgrade to unstable rather than
> try the potentially broken installer in testing.  Of course if stable
> isn't working on your hardware, then installing stable is very very hard.

That makes complete sense.

> > I've tried expert mode in both console and graphical mode.
> > 
> > I'm not sure if the inability to downgrade the installation is a bug or
> > policy. If the former I'm happy to report it.
> It's a matter of reality.  Packages can support upgrading from previous
> versions because they know what previous versions existed and how they
> worked.  An old package can't downgrade from something that didn't exist
> when it was made.  It doesn't make any logical sense.


> > Tips on compiling the ixgbe module for stable on a machine with only a
> > BMC and no NICs gratefully received; else how to downgrade a testing
> > netinstall to stable.
> Compiling a kernel module tends to only work for the kernel version
> it was meant for, so the kernel in stable likely is too old for your
> hardware and a newer module won't compile for it.  A newer kernel (like
> the backport kernel) might work though.
> I would think the simplest method to install would be
> to get a supported USB or PCIe network card, use that to
> install and then install the backport kernel, or possibly
> use the out of tree ixgbe driver from intel as per
> https://gist.github.com/DisasteR/db93d2db1ea82ecbc92a46eff3031b4f#install-ixgbe-module-with-dkms-support

I've finally dealt with it by doing this:

* installing from testing netboot
* using expert mode to move to the 'stable' distribution
* choosing to add backports to the package list
* rebooting at the end of the install process into rescue mode
* installing the 4.19.0-0.bpo.4-amd64 from backports after mounting /,
  /boot and /boot/efi and re-running grub-install
  (I expect I could have done this without rebooting into rescue mode
   if I understood how to use apt-get during the installation process).

All is now working as desired.

Thank you very much for your comments.


For the benefits of posterity my complete setup was:

# pxe-service=x86PC, "Install Linux", pxelinux
pxe-service=X86-64_EFI, "Install Linux bootnet", bootnetx64.efi

mkdir tftp-testing
cd tftp-testing
wget http://ftp.debian.org/debian/dists/testing/main/installer-amd64/current/images/netboot/netboot.tar.gz
tar xzvf netboot.tar.gz
# not sure why this was necessary
ln -s ./debian-installer/amd64/bootnetx64.efi ./
cp -Rp ./debian-installer/amd64/grub ./
cd ../
chown -R nobody tftp-testing

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