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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For SPARC
Chapter 5 - Booting the Installation System


Subject to limitations in some cases, you may boot the installation system from a Debian GNU/Linux CD-ROM, floppy disks, a partition on a hard disk, or from another machine via a local area network.


5.1 Boot Parameter Arguments

Boot parameters are Linux kernel parameters which are generally used to make sure that peripherals are dealt with properly. For the most part, the kernel can auto-detect information about your peripherals. However, in some cases you'll have to help the kernel a bit.

Full information on boot parameters can be found in the Linux BootPrompt HOWTO; this section contains only a sketch of the most salient parameters.

If this is the first time you're booting the system, try the default boot parameters (i.e., don't try setting arguments) and see if it works correctly. It probably will. If not, you can reboot later and look for any special parameters that inform the system about your hardware.

When the kernel boots, a message

     Memory:
     availk/totalk available

should be emitted early in the process. total should match the total amount of RAM, in kilobytes. If this doesn't match the actual of RAM you have installed, you need to use the mem=ram parameter, where ram is set to the amount of memory, suffixed with ``k'' for kilobytes, or ``m'' for megabytes. For example, both mem=65536k and mem=64m mean 64MB of RAM.

If your monitor is only capable of black-and-white, use the mono boot argument. Otherwise, your installation will use color, which is the default.

If you are booting with a serial console, generally the kernel will autodetect this . If you have a videocard (framebuffer) and a keyboard also attached to the computer which you wish to boot via serial console, you may have to pass the console=device argument to the kernel, where device is your serial device, which is usually ``ttya'' or ``ttyb'' for SPARC, or otherwise something like ``ttyS0''. Alternatively, set the input-device and output-device OpenPROM variables to ``ttya''.

Again, full details on boot parameters can be found in the Linux BootPrompt HOWTO, including tips for obscure hardware. Some common gotchas are included below in Troubleshooting the Install Process, Section 5.6.


5.1.1 dbootstrap Arguments

The installation system recognizes a few boot arguments which may be useful. The effects of quiet and verbose are listed in Effects of Verbose and Quiet, Section 11.5.

quiet
This will cause the installation system to suppress confirmation messages and try to do the right thing without fuss. If you are familiar and comfortable with what the installation system is going to expect, this is a nice option to quieten the process.
verbose
Ask even more questions than usual.
debug
Emit additional debug messages to the installation system log (see Using the Shell and Viewing the Logs, Section 5.7.1), including every command run.
bootkbd=...
Pre-select the keyboard you want to use, e.g., bootkbd=qwerty/us
mono
Use monochrome rather than color mode.
nolangchooser
Some architectures use the kernel framebuffer to offer installation in a number of languages. If framebuffer causes a problem on your system you can use this option to disable the feature. Problem symptoms are error messages about bterm or bogl, a blank screen, or a freeze within a few minutes after starting the install.

5.2 Booting from a CD-ROM

The easiest route for most people will be to use a set of Debian CDs. If you have a CD set, and if your machine supports booting directly off the CD, great! Simply insert your CD, reboot, and proceed to the next chapter. Most OpenBoot versions support the boot cdrom command which is simply an alias to boot from the SCSI device on ID 6 (or the secondary master for IDE based systems). You may have to use the actual device name for older OpenBoot versions that don't support this special command.

Note that some problems have been reported on Sun4m (e.g., Sparc 10s and Sparc 20s) systems booting from CD-ROM.

Note that certain CD drives may require special drivers, and thus be inaccessible in the early installation stages. If it turns out the standard way of booting off a CD doesn't work for your hardware, revisit this chapter and read about alternate kernels and installation methods which may work for you.

USB CD-ROM drives are supported by the `bf2.4' flavor. FireWire devices that are supported by the ohci1394 and sbp2 drivers may also be useable with the `bf2.4' flavor.

Even if you cannot boot from CD-ROM, you can probably install the Debian system components and any packages you want from CD-ROM. Simply boot using a different media, such as floppies. When it's time to install the operating system, base system, and any additional packages, point the installation system at the CD-ROM drive.

If you have problems booting, see Troubleshooting the Install Process, Section 5.6.


5.3 Booting from Floppies

Be warned that the newer Sun4u (ultra) architecture does not support floppy booting. A typical error message is "Bad magic number in disk label - Can't open disk label package". Furthermore, a number of Sun4c models (such as the IPX) do not support the compressed images found on the disks, so also are not supported.

Several Sparcs (e.g. Ultra 10) have an OBP bug that prevents them from booting (instead of not supporting booting at all). The appropriate OBP update can be downloaded as product ID 106121 from http://sunsolve.sun.com.

To boot from floppy on a Sparc, use

     Stop-A -> OpenBoot: "boot floppy"

If you have problems booting, see Troubleshooting the Install Process, Section 5.6.


5.4 Booting from NFS

To install the system via NFS, simply select NFS for the location of the images and files and follow the instructions provided. You will be prompted for the server:/directory where the images are located.

If you have problems booting, see Troubleshooting the Install Process, Section 5.6.


5.5 Booting from TFTP

Booting from the network requires that you have a network connection supported by the boot floppies, including either a static network address or a DHCP server, a RARP or a BOOTP server, and a TFTP server. The installation method to support TFTP booting is described in Preparing Files for TFTP Net Booting, Section 4.4. On machines with OpenBoot, simply enter the boot monitor on the machine which is being installed (see Invoking OpenBoot, Section 3.8.1). Use the command boot net to boot from a TFTP and RARP server, or boot net:dhcp to boot from a TFTP and DHCP server. Some older OpenBoot revisions require using the device name, such as boot le(); these probably don't support DHCP.


5.6 Troubleshooting the Install Process


5.6.1 Floppy Disk Reliability

The biggest problem for people installing Debian for the first time seems to be floppy disk reliability.

The rescue floppy is the floppy with the worst problems, because it is read by the hardware directly, before Linux boots. Often, the hardware doesn't read as reliably as the Linux floppy disk driver, and may just stop without printing an error message if it reads incorrect data. There can also be failures in the Driver Floppies most of which indicate themselves with a flood of messages about disk I/O errors.

If you are having the installation stall at a particular floppy, the first thing you should do is re-download the floppy disk image and write it to a different floppy. Simply reformatting the old floppy may not be sufficient, even if it appears that the floppy was reformatted and written with no errors. It is sometimes useful to try writing the floppy on a different system.

One user reports he had to write the images to floppy three times before one worked, and then everything was fine with the third floppy.

Other users have reported that simply rebooting a few times with the same floppy in the floppy drive can lead to a successful boot. This is all due to buggy hardware or firmware floppy drivers.


5.6.2 Boot Configuration

If you have problems and the kernel hangs during the boot process, doesn't recognize peripherals you actually have, or drives are not recognized properly, the first thing to check is the boot parameters, as discussed in Boot Parameter Arguments, Section 5.1.

If you are booting with your own kernel instead of the one supplied with the installer, be sure that CONFIG_DEVFS is not set in your kernel. The installer is not compatible with CONFIG_DEVFS.

Often, problems can be solved by removing add-ons and peripherals, and then trying booting again.

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 (see Replacing the Rescue Floppy Kernel, Section 10.3), or investigate network installations.

If you have a large amount of memory installed in your machine, more than 512M, and the installer hangs when booting the kernel, you may need to include a boot argument to limit the amount of memory the kernel sees, such as mem=512m.

If you cannot boot because you get messages about a problem with ``IDPROM'', then it's possible that your NVRAM battery, which holds configuration information for you firmware, has run out. See the Sun NVRAM FAQ for more information.

If you are booting from the floppy, and you seem messages such as

     Fatal error: Cannot read partition
     Illegal or malformed device name

then it is possible that floppy booting is simply not supported on your machine. See Booting from Floppies, Section 5.3.


5.6.3 Interpreting the Kernel Startup Messages

During the boot sequence, you may see many messages in the form can't find something, or something not present, can't initialize something, or even this driver release depends on something. Most of these messages are harmless. You see them because the kernel for the installation system is built to run on computers with many different peripheral devices. Obviously, no one computer will have every possible peripheral device, so the operating system may emit a few complaints while it looks for peripherals you don't own. You may also see the system pause for a while. This happens when it is waiting for a device to respond, and that device is not present on your system. If you find the time it takes to boot the system unacceptably long, you can create a custom kernel later (see Compiling a New Kernel, Section 9.5).


5.6.4 dbootstrap Problem Report

If you get through the initial boot phase but cannot complete the install, dbootstrap's 'Report a Problem' menu choice may be helpful. It creates dbg_log.tgz on a floppy, hard disk or nfs-mounted filesystem. dbg_log.tgz details the system's state (/var/log/messages, /proc/cpuinfo etc.). dbg_log.tgz may provide clues as to what went wrong and how to fix it. If you are submitting a bug report you may want to attach this file to the bug report.


5.6.5 Submitting Bug Reports

If you still have problems, please submit a bug report. Send an email to submit@bugs.debian.org. You must include the following as the first lines of the email:

     Package: boot-floppies
     Version: version

Make sure you fill in version with the version of the boot-floppies set that you used. If you don't know the version, use the date you downloaded the floppies, and include the distribution you got them from (e.g., ``stable'', ``frozen'', ``woody'').

You should also include the following information in your bug report:

     architecture:  sparc
     model:         your general hardware vendor and model
     memory:        amount of RAM
     scsi:          SCSI host adapter, if any
     cd-rom:        CD-ROM model and interface type, e.g., ATAPI
     network card:  network interface card, if any
     pcmcia:        details of any PCMCIA devices

Depending on the nature of the bug, it also might be useful to report whether you are installing to IDE or SCSI disks, other peripheral devices such as audio, disk capacity, and the model of video card.

In the bug report, describe what the problem is, including the last visible kernel messages in the event of a kernel hang. Describe the steps that you did which brought the system into the problem state.


5.7 Introduction to dbootstrap

dbootstrap is the name of the program which is run after you have booted into the installation system. It is responsible for initial system configuration and the installation of the ``base system''.

The main job of dbootstrap, and the main purpose of your initial system configuration, is to configure essential elements of your system. For instance, you may need to use certain ``kernel modules'', drivers which are linked into the kernel. These modules include storage hardware drivers, network drivers, special language support, and support for other peripherals which are not automatically built in to the kernel you are using.

Disk partitioning, disk formatting, and networking setup are also facilitated by dbootstrap. This fundamental setup is done first, since it is often necessary for the proper functioning of your system.

dbootstrap is a simple, character-based application, designed for maximum compatibility in all situations (such as installation over a serial line). It is very easy to use. It will guide you through each step of the installation process in a linear fashion. You can also go back and repeat steps if you find you have made a mistake.

To navigate within dbootstrap, use:


5.7.1 Using the Shell and Viewing the Logs

If you are an experienced Unix or Linux user, press Left Alt-F2 to get to the second virtual console. That's the Alt key on the left-hand side of the space bar, and the F2 function key, at the same time. This is a separate window running a Bourne shell clone called ash. At this point you are booted from the RAM disk, and there is a limited set of Unix utilities available for your use. You can see what programs are available with the command ls /bin /sbin /usr/bin /usr/sbin. The text editor is nano-tiny.

Use the menus to perform any task that they are able to do — the shell and commands are only there in case something goes wrong. In particular, you should always use the menus, not the shell, to activate your swap partition, because the menu software can't detect that you've done this from the shell. Press Left Alt-F1 to get back to menus. Linux provides up to 64 virtual consoles, although the rescue floppy only uses a few of them.

Error messages are redirected to the third virtual terminal (known as tty3). You can access this terminal by pressing Left Alt-F3 (hold the Alt key while pressing the F3 function key); get back to dbootstrap with Left Alt-F1.

These messages can also be found in /var/log/messages. After installation, this log is copied to /var/log/installer.log on your new system.

During the Base installation, package unpacking and setup messages are redirected to tty4. You can access this terminal by pressing Left Alt-F4; get back to dbootstrap with Left Alt-F1.

The unpack/setup messages generated by debootstrap are saved in /target/tmp/debootstrap.log when the installation is performed over a serial console.


5.8 ``Release Notes''

The first screen that dbootstrap will present you with is the ``Release Notes''. This screen presents the version information for the boot-floppies software you are using, and gives a brief introduction to Debian developers.


5.9 ``Debian GNU/Linux Installation Main Menu''

You may see a dialog box that says ``The installation program is determining the current state of your system and the next installation step that should be performed.''. On some systems, this will go by too quickly to read. You'll see this dialog box between steps in the main menu. The installation program, dbootstrap, will check the state of the system in between each step. This checking allows you to re-start the installation without losing the work you have already done, in case you happen to halt your system in the middle of the installation process. If you have to restart an installation, you will have to configure your keyboard, re-activate your swap partition, and re-mount any disks that have been initialized. Anything else that you have done with the installation system will be saved.

During the entire installation process, you will be presented with the main menu, entitled ``Debian GNU/Linux Installation Main Menu''. The choices at the top of the menu will change to indicate your progress in installing the system. Phil Hughes wrote in the Linux Journal that you could teach a chicken to install Debian! He meant that the installation process was mostly just pecking at the Enter key. The first choice on the installation menu is the next action that you should perform according to what the system detects you have already done. It should say ``Next'', and at this point the next step in installing the system will be taken.


5.10 ``Configure the Keyboard''

Make sure the highlight is on the ``Next'' item, and press Enter to go to the keyboard configuration menu. Select a keyboard that conforms to the layout used for your national language, or select something close if the keyboard layout you want isn't represented. Once the system installation is complete, you'll be able to select a keyboard layout from a wider range of choices (run kbdconfig as root when you have completed the installation).

Move the highlight to the keyboard selection you desire and press Enter. Use the arrow keys to move the highlight — they are in the same place in all national language keyboard layouts, so they are independent of the keyboard configuration. An 'extended' keyboard is one with F1 through F10 keys along the top row.

If you are installing a diskless workstation, the next few steps will be skipped, since there are no local disks to partition. In that case, your next step will be ``Configure the Network'', Section 7.6. After that, you will be prompted to mount your NFS root partition in ``Mount a Previously-Initialized Partition'', Section 6.8.


5.11 Last Chance!

Did we tell you to back up your disks? Here's your last chance to save your old system. If you haven't backed up all of your disks, remove the floppy from the drive, reset the system, and run backups.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For SPARC

version 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002

Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo