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Re: Booting to floppy

You should know that I tried very hard to follow the PowerPC
instructions as written for my Mac 8500, and I ran completely into a
stone wall.

If I hadn't done a lot of google searching, I never would have installed
Debian on my PowerPC.  My very first debian installation of any sort was
Saturday night on my 8500, and the hardest part was working around the
obscure instructions.  

Once I succeeded in getting the base package installed, and also
reaching the internet through my NAT server (I still don't know why this
didn't just work, but I couldn't use my local caching nameserver, I had
to use the ISP's nameserver, and it took me several hours to figure out
that nameservice was actually the problem), I could just go to bed and
let 80 megabytes of packages download over the modem.  When I got up
there were just a few config questions to answer and I was all set.

It took me a long time to realize that TFTP booting wouldn't work on the
8500.  I read all the dire warnings about floppy booting and figured
TFTP would be the way to go, and jumped through a lot of hoops to figure
out how to get BOOTP and TFTP set up on my Slackware laptop, and to get
into open firmware from the screen and keyboard of the 8500 (using the
Apple SystemDisk tool).  I actually managed to download the boot file
for Prep into the 8500, it rejected it after the download completed.

Then I tried the floppy installation.  The installation instructions
link to a number of boot floppies for different models of Macintoshes,
but do not include the separate link for the HFS boot floppy.  It was
only after the Mac rejected the rescue disk that I started hunting
around the disk images directory directly in my browser and found the
HFS floppy.  But then I couldn't continue booting past the request to
insert the ramdisk image floppy.

So somewhere around here I went to www.debian.org and did a search for
BootX, because I was hoping I could find another way to start up,
without floppies.  I still figured I'd have to do an NFS install and I
hadn't set up NFS on my slackware box.  It was then that I found the
alternate installation instructions, extremely brief but they contained
the critical information I needed that was omitted from the "official" instructions:


the install instructions are six lines on this page, with six lines of
download files, but if it weren't for this page I would simply have had
no hope of installing.  And it wasn't necessary to configure NFS; I just
put all the files I needed on an HFS disk on my Mac; I had a whole
separate disk to dedicate to Linux.

So there's a few more criticisms:

- after you start up in your initial install and you're trying to
initialize apt for the first time, you should be given more diagnostic
information as to when something is going wrong with the network
connection, and you should be given the opportunity to reconfigure the
network without having to restart and re-do the installation.  My
problem was that Debian was unhappy with my choice of nameserver and I
must have rebooted and reinstalled my base install four or five times
for the sole purpose of trying out different network configurations.

- I tried plugging directly into the modem but couldn't figure out which
serial port to use.  The configuration utility unhelpfully tells you
which modem devices correspond to COM1:, etc. under DOS.  What is the
"Modem Port" on a Macintosh?  I kept getting errors that flew by too
quickly to read but that referred to /dev/modem

- the Macintosh disk partitioning utility should tell you what partition
types are commonly used.  It should either just list out all the known
types or give you a menu that you can pick by number.  It took me a long
time to figure out what to do to make sure I got the right partition
types, because I wanted an HFS partition on part of the disk, as well as
several linux native and a linux swap.  I was unaware that linux swap
uses the same partition type on PowerMac as ext2.   They're not the same
partition type on a PC, so I expected them to be different on a Mac as well.

On the whole, things went well.  I've had worse experiences, such as the
time the slackware installer ran out of space on my machine and made it
unbootable.  I had to reformat the drive to repair the mess.  And
nothing can top the experience I had when I launched the windows NT
installer under windows 98 on my laptop - NT doesn't understand the
partition map on drives larger than 8 GB.  Rather than just doing the
safe thing and not touching the partition map, it destroyed it and
corrupted my FAT filesystem.  I had to repartition the drive, and I only
saved my Windows files because the BeOS was able to boot off a floppy
and read a damaged fat partition.


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