I went through the procedures in the document "Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 for Intel X86".
1. Following the download from the specified sites i.e. 'current', I end up with a version 2.2. This is not really a problem compared to what follows.
2. I was able to proceed smoothly like partition the drive into /boot, /, /usr and swap; make the system bootable by copying the MBR into /boot; all the way until a boot floppy was generated. I then re-boot into Linux from this floppy. At the end of the boot messages there was a line which I remembered vaguely warning that the MBR record size was bigger than my whole drive. Some numbers were displayed for the sizes which I can't recall exactly. But it booted up alright. The '#' prompt appeared. So I did a "cd /" followed by "ls". The sub-directories were displayed OK. Then disaster struck. There was a message about "IDE0 interrupt...". I heard knocking sound from the harddisk drive. Then smell of something burning. I powered down the system. The harddisk, some surface-mounted discrete components on the PCB, to be precise, were burnt out.
3. What is the reason? Is there a bug? After having found the MBR to be bigger that the drive size, shouldn't the boot be aborted?
I have not lost faith in Debian or Linux. In fact I want to get a new drive and try out 3.0. But it would be interesting to know what really happens. The HD should not be a suspect. This is my slave drive which I only used to backup important info from the C drive which is definitely more heavily used.
Hope to get some answers soon.