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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Alpha - Chapter 2
System Requirements


This section contains information about what hardware you need to get started with Debian. You will also find links to further information about hardware supported by GNU and Linux.


2.1 Supported Hardware

Debian does not impose hardware requirements beyond the requirements of the Linux kernel and the GNU tool-sets. Therefore, any architecture or platform to which the Linux kernel, libc, gcc, etc. have been ported, and for which a Debian port exists, can run Debian.

There are, however, some limitations in our boot floppy set with respect to supported hardware. Some Linux-supported platforms might not be directly supported by our boot floppies. If this is the case, you may have to create a custom rescue disk, or investigate network installations.

Rather than attempting to describe all the different hardware configurations which are supported for Alpha, this section contains general information and pointers to where additional information can be found.


2.1.1 Supported Architectures

Debian 2.1 supports four architectures: Intel x86-based architectures; Motorola 680x0 machines such as Atari, Amiga, and Macintoshes; DEC Alpha machines; and Sun SPARC machines. These are referred to as i386, m68k, alpha, and sparc, respectively.

This document covers installation for the alpha architecture. Separate versions of this document exist for other architectures.

This is the first official release of Debian GNU/Linux for the Alpha architecture. We feel that it has proven itself sufficiently to be released. However, because it has not had the exposure (and hence testing by users) that our i386 and m68k versions have had, you may encounter a few bugs. Use our Bug Tracking System to report any problems; make sure to mention the fact that the bug is on the Alpha platform. It can be necessary to use the debian-alpha mailing list as well.


2.1.2 CPU, Mainboards, and Video Support

Complete information regarding supported DEC Alphas can be found at Linux Alpha HOWTO. The purpose of this section is to describe the sub-architectures supported by the boot disks.

Alpha stations are grouped into sub-architectures because there are a number of generations of motherboard and supporting chip-sets. Different sub-architectures often have radically different engineering and capabilities. Therefore, the process of installing and, more to the point, booting, can vary from system to system.

The following table lists the sub-architectures supported by the Debian installation system. The table also indicates the code name for these sub-architectures. You'll need to know this code name when you actually begin the installation process:

     Family/Model                     Code Name
     =============                    =========
     ALPHAbook 1                      book1
     
     ALCOR                           
       AS 600                         alcor
       AS 500 5/3xx                   alcor
       AS 500 5/5xx                   alcor
       XL-300/366/433                 xlt
     
     AVANTI
       AS 200 4/*                     avanti
       AS 205 4/*                     avanti
       AS 250 4/*                     avanti
       AS 255 4/*                     avanti
       AS 300 4/*                     avanti
       AS 400 4/*                     avanti
     
     EB164                            eb164
       AlphaPC164                     pc164
       AlphaPC164-LX                  lx164
       AlphaPC164-SX                  sx164
     
     EB64+                   
       EB64+                          eb64p
       AlphaPC64                      cabriolet
       AlphaPCI-64                    cabriolet
     
     EB66                             eb66
     
     EB66+                            eb66p
     
     JENSEN
       DECpc 150                      jensen
       DEC 2000 Model 300             jensen
     
     MIKASA
       AS 1000 4/xxx                  mikasa
       AS 1000 5/xxx                  mikasa-p
     
     NONAME
       AXPpci33                       noname
       UDB                            noname
     
     NORITAKE
       AS 1000A 4/xxx                 noritake
       AS 1000A 5/xxx                 noritake-p
       AS 600A 5/xxx                  noritake-p
       AS 800 5/xxx                   noritake-p
     
     Personal Workstation
       PWS 433a or 433au              miata
       PWS 500a or 500au              miata
       PWS 600a or 600au              miata
     
     RUFFIAN
       Deskstation RPX164-2           ruffian
       Samsung AlphaPC164-UX/BX       ruffian
     
     SABLE
       AS 2100 4/xxx                  sable
       AS 2000 4/xxx                  sable
       AS 2100 5/xxx                  sable-g
       AS 2000 5/xxx                  sable-g
     
     TAKARA                           takara
     
     XL
       XL-233/266                      xl

Different Alpha sub-architectures have different methods of bootstrapping: MILO, or SRM. Some sub-architectures may use both; most use either one or the other. You'll need to determine which bootstrapping method your sub-architecture uses; it will make a different below.

     Code Name    Bootstrap Method
     =========    ================
     alcor        MILO or SRM
     avanti       MILO or SRM
     book1        SRM only
     cabriolet    MILO or SRM
     eb164        MILO or SRM
     eb64p        MILO or SRM
     eb66         MILO or SRM
     eb66p        MILO or SRM
     jensen       SRM only
     lx164        MILO or SRM
     miata        MILO or SRM
     mikasa       MILO or SRM
     noname       MILO or SRM
     noritake     SRM only
     pc164        MILO or SRM
     ruffian      MILO only
     sable        SRM only
     sable-g      SRM only
     sx164        MILO or SRM
     takara       MILO or SRM
     xl           MILO or SRM
     xlt          MILO or SRM


2.1.3 Multiple Processors

Multi-processor support -- also called ``symmetric multi-processing'' or SMP -- is supported for this architecture. However, the standard Debian 2.1 kernel image does not support SMP. This should not prevent installation, since the standard, non-SMP kernel should boot on SMP systems; the kernel will simply use the first CPU.

In order to take advantage of multiple processors, you'll have to replace the standard Debian kernel. You can find a discussion of how to do this in Compiling a New Kernel, Section 8.4. At this time (kernel version 2.0.35) the way you enable SMP is to edit the top-level Makefile for the kernel and uncomment the line that says SMP = 1. If you compile software on a multiprocessor system, look for the -j flag in the documentation on make(1).


2.2 Installation Media

There are four different media which can be used to install Debian: floppies, CD-ROMs, local disk partitions, or the network. Different parts of the same Debian installation can mix and match these options; we'll go into that in Methods for Installing Debian, Chapter 5.

Floppy disk installation is a common option, although generally, the least desirable. In many cases, you'll have to do your first boot from floppies, using the Rescue Floppy. Generally, all you will need is a high-density (1440 kilobytes) 3.5 inch floppy drive.

CD-ROM based installation is also supported for some architectures. On machines which support bootable CD-ROMs, you should be able to do a completely floppy-less installation. Even if your system doesn't support booting from a CD-ROM, you can use the CD-ROM in conjunction with the other techniques to install your system, once you've booted up by other means; see Installing from a CD-ROM, Section 5.4.

Installation from local disk is another option. If you have free space on partitions other than the partitions you're installing to, this is definitely a good option. Some platforms even have local installers, i.e., for booting from AmigaOS, TOS, or MacOS.

The last option is network installation. You can install your system via NFS. After your base system is installed, you can install the rest of your system via any sort of network connection (including PPP), via FTP, HTTP, or NFS.

More complete descriptions of these methods, and helpful hints for picking which method is best for you, can be found in Methods for Installing Debian, Chapter 5. Please be sure to continue reading to make sure the device you intend to boot and install from is supported by the Debian installation system.


2.2.1 Supported Storage Systems

The Debian boot disks contain a kernel which is built to maximize the number of systems it runs on. Unfortunately, this makes for a larger kernel, with a lot of drivers which will never be used (see Compiling a New Kernel, Section 8.4 to learn how to build your own). However, support for the widest possible range of devices is desirable in order to ensure that Debian can be installed on the widest array of hardware. ALPHA-TODO -- storage systems supported by linux but not supported by boot disks


2.3 Memory and Disk Space Requirements

You must have at least 5MB of memory and 35MB of hard disk. If you want to install a reasonable amount of software, including the X Window System, and some development programs and libraries, you'll need at least 300MB. For a more or less complete installation, you'll need around 800MB. To install everything available in Debian, you'll probably need around 2 GB. Actually, installing everything doesn't even make sense, since some packages conflict with others.


2.4 Peripherals and Other Hardware

Linux supports a large variety of hardware devices such as mice, printers, scanners, modems, network cards, PCMCIA devices, etc. However, none of these devices are required while installing the system. This section contains information about peripherals specifically not supported by the installation system, even though they may be supported by Linux. ALPHA-TODO -- NICs supported by linux but not supported by boot disks


2.5 Purchasing Hardware Specifically for GNU/Linux

There are several vendors, now, who ship systems with Debian or other distributions of GNU/Linux pre-installed. You might pay more for the privilege, but it does buy a level of peace of mind, since you can be sure that the hardware is well-supported by GNU/Linux.

Whether or not you are purchasing a system with Linux bundled, or even a used system, it is still important to check that your hardware is supported by the Linux kernel. Check if your hardware is listed in the references found above. Let your salesperson (if any) know that you're shopping for a Linux system. Support Linux-friendly hardware vendors.


2.5.1 Avoid Proprietary or Closed Hardware

Some hardware manufacturers simply won't tell us how to write drivers for their hardware. Others won't allow us access to the documentation without a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent us from releasing the Linux source code. One example is the IBM laptop DSP sound system used in recent ThinkPad systems -- some of these systems also couple the sound system to the modem. Another example is the proprietary hardware in the older Macintosh line.

Since we haven't been granted access to the documentation on these devices, they simply won't work under Linux. You can help by asking the manufacturers of such hardware to release the documentation. If enough people ask, they will realize that the free software community is an important market.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Alpha
version 2.1.11, 28 August, 1999
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo