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SOLVED: installing sarge from hard drive on libretto110ct

Hi, All!

This post will summarize installation of Debian Sarge on Toshiba Libretto
110CT. Thank you, Digby and Kevin, for your help. I did not use your suggestions directly, but you gave me ideas which got me thinking in the right direction.

The main problem with Libretto 110ct is that it does not have any internal media drives: no floppy, no cd. All it has, is 2 PCMCIA slots. Its BIOS knows to boot from a PCMCIA floppy, but cannot boot from CD. If you have a blank hard drive, installation of Debian is quite difficult, as Debian installation from floppies requires a boot floppy and a root floppy, but the boot floppy does not have the drivers for PCMCIA floppy drive, so it cannot read the root floppy anyway.

So, here's what I did.

1) Install MS-DOS. I used ms-dos 6.22 and installed ms windows 3.11 on top of that - all-flopy installations, no CDs involved. DOS deals with PCMCIA floppy drive just fine. Looking back, I probably did not need windows, just having dos there would suffice. At this point 2G out of 4G of my hard drive is fat-formatted (DOS did it for me).

2) Find and install DOS drivers for PCMCIA CD drive. I have CardPort drive, file cnf_6x.zip from DriverGuide worked. It is important that it's a DOS driver, and that instllation program is small enough that you can put it on a floppy and load into the newly-installed DOS on Libretto.

3) Download Sarge installation CDs from Debian site and burn them. Because the CDROM is now accessible from DOS, I copy the whole 1st Sarge CD onto hard drive. I copied both the .iso image and the CD itself, but I only needed the .iso image in the end.

Now, other releases, like Woody, have a boot.bat in their /install directory of the first installation CD. You could copy loadlin, vmlinuz and initrd.gz into c:\ and run boot.bat from out of DOS and be happy. Well, Sarge does not have that. I looked for any installation scripts which I could run manually either from DOS or Linux on Sarge's first CD, and could not find them. Maybe I just don't get it because I am a girl, but in any case one can't install neither Sarge nor Woody on Libretto 110 CT from hard drive from out of DOS. Simply because they can't root themselves in RAM. I have 32M of RAM, and that is the minimum required for installation, so theoretically one should be able to root in RAM. Unfortunately, no matter what I did, I was getting the

cramfs: wrong magic
kernel panic: VFS: unable to mount root fs on 01:00.

upon invokation of

loadlin c:\vmlinuz root=/dev/ram rw initrd=c:\initrd.gz.

So, no installing from DOS. Thus, I needed some Linux installed on the Libretto before I get Sarge to install.

4) I got PartitionMagic and partitioned the rest of the disk into ext2. Note: it would have been better to create ext2 and a 128M swap at its end, see further item 8.

5) Download Damn Small Linux (same as Knoppix ?), make a CD and a bootable floppy. Copy Knoppix to the windows partition as described in their Wiki pages. Now I can boot into DOS with an empty floppy drive or into Knoppix with its boot floppy.

6) Boot into Knoppix. It mounted the fat partition on /cdrom. Mount the ext2 partition (/dev/hda2 in my case). Copy Sarge's 1st CD .iso file from fat partition into ext2 partition. Again, perhaps one could copy it directly from CD into ext2 partition, to save time. It's important that it's the .iso, not the CD itself - the installation manual says "Alternatively, if you intend to keep an existing partition on the hard drive unchanged during the install, you can download the hd-media/initrd.gz file and its kernel, as well as copy a CD iso to the drive (make sure the file is named ending in ".iso"). The installer can then boot from the drive and install from the CD image, without needing the network. OK, finding those /hd-media initrd.gz and vmlinuz files on the Debian sites was entertaining, but here is the link:


Put those files into /mnt/hda2 (whereto I just copied Sarge .iso)

7) Now the goal is to make /dev/hda2 bootable. I marked it as primary bootable by partitionmagic, so DOS would not get confused, but I am not sure it was necessary.

Next, find where Knoppix keeps its lilo.conf. Copy it into /mnt/hda2, because Knoppix mounts everything on / except /mnt as read-only, so you can't edit its lilo.conf in its current location. Edit it as follows:


# boot from hard drive hda

# comment out this line, otherwise lilo complains
# install=/boot/boot-menu.b


# this allows lilo to do its thing with the map on the partition I want to #make bootable. Don't know what it means, but without this lilo complains, # and it just works. Apologies for my ignorance.


# comment out this line, otherwise lilo complains


       append="devfs=mount,dall ramdisk_size=12000"


Note that the path to inage kernel and ramdisk image is different from that recommended my the installation manual (/boot/newinstall/vmlinuz), and from their real path (/mnt/hda2/initrd.gz). That's because when we boot, we will only see what's inside /mnt/hda2. So, I basically tell lilo to go look for those files in the current directory, since lilo.conf is now on /mnt/hda2 as well.

OK, run lilo, specifying where I put my lilo.conf:

lilo -v -C /mnt/hda2/lilo.conf

8) Reboot and watch Sarge try to install itself with 32M of RAM. It will fail half-way through the base install. So, I go and give it a swap with partitionmagic (shut down, partition swap, and reboot into Sarge install). Note: I tried creating swap from out of Sarge's install routine, but it fails to mount. So, looking back, when I created DOS partition, I could just create ext2 and swap partitions at that time.

9) From here on, it's pretty much a standard installation, nothing exciting. I hate that Sarge insists on graphical login and ignores my ctrl-alt-bckspace. That is rude. I had to spend too much time talking it into booting plain-text. I also have to say, the primary reason that I went Debian 4 years ago, was that it did not try to do things behind my back: I really had to install everything above the base manually. Unfortunately, now it insists on installing a whole bunch of things I don't need in the way of x-windows managers, utilities, admin tools I never touch, etc. I want to have full control over my system, and install only packages I think I need. I pay for it with my time, but at least I get the system I know. Maybe there is a way to tell the installer not to load any of that stuff, but it isn't obvious how to do that. Now I have to go back and prune .... I like how rock-stable Debian is, but I hope it does not start to patronize me like Windows does.


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