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Low memory install on an IBM Thinkpad 700

The trouble I have encountered centers around the microchannel ESDI hard drive controller. I must first give props to the folks at Debian, as their loader was the only one to correctly fish the hard drive geometry correctly from the bios/controller, every other distro I've tried gives bogus numbers. I'm using the low memory install disk from the latest stable Debian distribution (only 4MB of ram, 3,904kb after shadow ram takes its toll). When the kernel hits the ESDI controller, several strange things happen:
Partition check:
PS/2 ESDI: integrated ESDI adapter found in slot 1
PS/2 ESDI: DMA arbitration level: 7
PS/2 ESDI: hard reset...                                             **can hear an audible "click" from the hard drive
PS/2 ESDI: Attention error. interrupt status: 0F
PS/2 ESDI: status: 08
PS/2 ESDI: Device Configuration Status for drive 0
PS/2 ESDI: Spares/cyls: 2
PS/2 ESDI: Config bits: Zero Defect, Skewed Format, Non-Removable, Retries
PS/2 ESDI: Number of RBA's 245760
PS/2 ESDI: Physical number of cylinders: 120, Sectors/Track: 32, Heads: 64
 eda: eda1 eda2 eda3
At this point, the partition menu comes up, but when I go to define partitions etc. it says I have no drives. I have 3 partitions on the drive which I created using partition magic (eda1 = dos, eda2 = ext2, eda3 = linux swap) which the kernel can see during boot yet can't do anything with. I haven't been able to get past this point (I've tried MANY different methods for booting) and am beginning to wonder if Linux will even load on this system. Are there boot-time parameters I have to add in order for this to work correctly?

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