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root login on console not allowed -- why and how?

Hello list!

A colleague of mine set up a Debian 3.1 (or was ist 3.0?) box a couple
of months ago and has had the following problem since then:

When booting the machine everything seems fine and it gets to the login
prompt eventually. There every non-system, non-root user can login and
(if authorized) do an `su'. All is well. A login as the superuser,
however, fails. No matter what password is entered, the system refuses to
let us in as root. The root-password can be changed without problem
when `su'-ed to root so the problem is not that it's mistyped at the
prompt or anything.

A (I think) related problem is that there's only one virtual console
available (the first). Pressing Alt-F2, ..., F12 doesn't work, no other
ttys are there. That disturbs me.

What's the problem here and where would I start fixing it? It's not that
root logins are that neccessary or anything, but I'd like to know anyway
what (if anything) went wrong during the installation. Can't be normal
behaviour to have no consoles and no root login available, can it?

Thanks in advance for any pointers!

Andreas "daff" Ntaflos 
daff AT dword DOT org
Vienna, Austria 

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