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"Can't open initial console"

If /dev is empty in a cloned root filesystem (since udev is its
own filesystem and /dev files are not copied) it does not boot up
but hangs with an error message similar to "can't open initial
console."  I've not narrowed down which console device the kernel
is looking for, nor determined whether this is a misconfiguration.
None of my systems are clean sarge installs so I can't rule out
any step that a new installer may take to avoid this.

My workaround is to just copy all the device files to the cloned
drive by hand from a live system, but this is getting old.  Does
anyone know the cause of the misbehavior?   Thanks.

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