Re: kernel-image-2.6.8-3-686 fails to boot
> pivot_root: No such file or directory
I suppose this is the problem - but when looking at your additional info I
see that you've figured out that as well :)
However, if you're sure that hda5 is your root.. Are you using SATA disks?
That suggests using sdaX, as you did.
I would try the following (open door policy):
* boot using a rescue disk, running 2.6.8-something. Check your partition
table and verify that the numbering of the partitions hasn't changed;
* verify that sda or hda are detected at all. They should turn up right
after detection of the IDE controller(s). The absence of these would
suggest that there's something wrong with the initialisation / detection /
whatever of you harddisks (is IDE/ATA-2 disk support included?).