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CDs won't boot, give a failed crc, or don't give a menu

Greetings --

I've just spent a traumatic three hours trying to install Debian on a
plain 686. I've installed Debian on a dozen machines before, including
this one (it's a reinstall after a possible hacker attack).

1. First attempt: etch beta 1 daily build netinstall

Machine boots from CD, I press return to boot (and try expert), but it
gives an immediate crc error and freezes

2. Second attempt: etch beta 1 netinstall

Machine boots from CD, I press return and it loads modules -- but
produces an endless flow of debconf messages instead of making an
installation menu

3. Third attempt: debian-testing-i386-binary-11.iso

Burn the CD, mount it and check contents, looks fine -- but two of my
machines agree it's not a boot CD

4. Fourth attempt: debian-31r0a-i386-binary-12.iso

Burn the CD with k3b, mount it and check contents, looks fine -- but two
of my machines agree it's not a boot CD.

I even tried burning it again, using

   cdrecord -v speed=8 dev=/dev/hdd -data debian-testing-i386-binary-11.iso

-- checks out fine, but isn't bootable.

I noticed these have autorun.bat and .inf files in the root directory,
and the LordSutch doesn't, but find it had to believe this is the
problem. I can mount the iso image using

   mount -o loop -t iso9660 debian-testing-i386-binary-11.iso loop

No errors, looks like a valid iso. I have an old potato install CD from
LordSutch that works fine on both tested machines -- and of course the
first two images I burned booted.


Please tell me what's going on.  Have I really downloaded four broken
iso images in a row? Since I even tried a stable image, I really don't
know where to turn.

This reminds me of the very first time I tried to install Debian, on
floppies, and I knew nothing about it; I stayed up all night and got
nowhere.  I really want Debian and not Ubuntu, I'd like a recent version
at the base, and I need a driver for sk98lin or equivalent.  But I
simply cannot afford to spend this much time getting a workable CD.  One
of my burners -- a Pioneer DVR-104 -- doesn't recognize my rewritable
media, and the other, on a laptop, won't erase them, so I end up
producing lots of coasters.


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