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Re: Etch installation media doesn't boot (neither NETINST CD, nor floppies), but other distros do... :-(

Original Message:
From: Douglas A. Tutty dtutty@porchlight.ca
Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2008 09:10:03 -0500
To: debian-user@lists.debian.org
Subject: Re: Etch installation media doesn't boot (neither NETINST CD, nor
floppies), but other distros do... :-(

On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 10:24:36PM -0900, Siraaj Khandkar wrote:
> I wanted to install a minimum Debian system on an old Dell PowerEdge  
> 350 server, but the NETINST CD is just ignored by the system (yes,  
> the boot order is correct :-) ), so I tried floppies, but those too  
> are ignored (I can hear it click as the system tries to read it on  
> boot, but it then proceeds to boot off the HD). The exact same Debian  
> CD that failed to boot on PE350, worked just fine on PE1850's, as  
> well as a bunch of other, older Compaq ProLiant servers (ML350's and  
> 370's), as well as my HP laptop. I tried booting off Ubuntu 6.06 CD  
> and it worked just fine, I tried booting RHEL 4 CDs, and it too  
> worked just fine on that PE350.> 

Tell us what a dell PowerEdge computer is.  At least 486 with 64 MB ram?

If the same CD will boot other computers but not this dell, then there's
obviously a problem with the Dell.

> I really have no idea what, but there must be something different  
> about Debian installation media. Can you guys enlighten me on what is  
> going on here? Any ideas on how to get Debian on that damn thing.
> If it is something about support for older systems being dropped in  
> Etch, perhaps I can use an older release for installation, and then  
> apt-get dist-upgrade? What do you guys think?

I have a 486 that couldn't boot the Sarge installer so whenever I'd have
to change drives or something, I'd run the woody installer and just do
the basedebs (as long as I had another box to dialup the internet, if
not I'd install ppp and pppconfig too).  Then I'd install aptitude then
upgrade from there.

This stopped working when the box couldn't upgrade from Sarge to Etch
because libc6 kept killing itself.  I did the drive shell-game from
another computer to get Etch on it only to find out that etch was way to
slow to be useful.  So now on the old box I use OpenBSD and it is quite
zippy again.

The ultimate answer for you will likely be to read the installation
manual then subscribe to debian-boot list, then send in a (failed)
installation report.  Great help will be forthcoming from people who
know what may be going on with the installer, on the debian-boot list.

A quick check for the ability of the box to boot a modern free OS would
be to download the OpenBSD install floppy (read their on-line FAQ so you
know what image file to use), then verify that it will boot.

If your Dell has a unix-type OS on it, you could use the debootstrap
install method from the installation manual.  If debain-boot can't help
you get the box booting, yet the OpenBSD floppy will boot, you may be
able to boot the OBSD floppy, go to a shell, use the OBSD fdisk to
format the drive, then put a copy of the hd-media debian boot stuff
somewhere, use a grub-disk and boot that.  (Grub disk is a debian
package that contains the image of a grub floopy with which you can boot
anything).  If this doesn't work, use the OBSD floppy, get the
debootstrap script somewhere useful (see the docs and man page) then use
debootstrap to give you a minimal Etch system.  Remember to have
debootstrap include a kernel since you'll be running OBSD for

Anyway, those are some ideas.  Good luck.


The PowerEdge was a Dell line designed to be used as a server (Dell shipped
it with Windows NT on it).  Most had a dual Intel processor, lots of RAM
(at that time) and at least one SCSI drive, usually two.  Several years ago
I put Red Hat Linux on one and a colleague successfully installed Fedora on
one just last year.  I'm guessing it's a problem with the Dell. 

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