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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), SPARC
Chapter 3 - Installation System

The Debian Installer is the official installation system for Debian. It offers a variety of installation methods. Which methods are available to install your system depends on your architecture.

Images of the installer for etch can be found together with the Installation Guide on the Debian website.

The Installation Guide is also included on the first CD/DVD of the official Debian CD/DVD sets, at:


You may also want to check the errata for debian-installer for a list of known issues.

3.1 Issues with framebuffer on SPARC

Because of display problems on some systems, framebuffer support is disabled by default for SPARC for most graphics cards. This can result in ugly display on systems that do properly support the framebuffer. If you see display problems in the installer, you can try booting the installer with the parameter framebuffer=true. Please let us know if the framebuffer is not used by default, but works for your hardware.

3.2 Issues with booting on SPARC

It has been reported by several users that the installation CD fails to boot successfully upon the 'boot cdrom' PROM command, displaying the error 'Illegal Instruction'.

The apparent explanation for this problem is that it doesn't work because the machine had previously been rebooted from Solaris. The workaround is to power the machine off fully, and then boot it directly into the installation CD.

The problem was reported by users of various systems (namely, Enterprise 450, Blade 2000, Fire V240, Enterprise 250, Blade 100, Enterprise 220R, and Sun Ultra 60 at the time of writing), so it is believed to be generic. Please let us know if you observe similar issues with your hardware.

3.3 Issues with booting from qla2xxx on SPARC

It has been reported by several users that the installation system fails to recognize hard disks on machines which have the hard disks connected to a QLogic fibre-channel SCSI controller. This includes the Sun Fire 280R servers. The qla2xxx driver loads, but it cannot load firmware, which makes it useless.

The explanation for this problem is that the QLogic controller firmware is not free, and it had to be moved to a separate non-free package (firmware-qlogic) which is not used by the installation system.

There is no straightforward solution, unfortunately; one has to first provide the firmware image to the installation system, and then later do the same in the installed system. To get the installer to load the firmware, one has to have network connectivity while the machine is being installed in order to download the firmware-qlogic udeb package with wget, install it with udpkg, and then reload the qla2xxx module. After the installation is complete, mount the new root partition, chroot to it, fetch the firmware-qlogic deb package, install it with dpkg, and then run update-initramfs in order to include it in the initial ramdisk image used by the kernel.

Alternatively, install from an older installation CD (where that non-free firmware was still integrated) and then upgrade.

3.4 Size of harddisk not detected correctly

If a hard disk has previously used under Solaris, the partitioner may not detect the size of the drive correctly. Creating a new partition table does not fix this issue. What does help, is to "zero" the first few sectors of the drive:

     # dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hdX bs=512 count=2; sync

Note that this will make any existing data on that disk inaccessible.

3.5 What's new in the installation system?

There has been a lot of development on the Debian Installer since its first official release with sarge resulting in both improved hardware support and some exciting new features.

In these Release Notes we'll only list the major changes in the installer. If you are interested in an overview of the detailed changes since sarge, please check the release announcements for the etch beta and RC releases available from the Debian Installer's news history.

3.5.1 Major changes

No reboot during the installation

Previously, the installation was split into two parts: setting up the base system and making it bootable, followed by a reboot and after that the execution of base-config which would take care of things like user setup, setup of the package management system and installation of additional packages (using tasksel).

For etch the second stage has been integrated into Debian Installer itself. This has a number of advantages, including increased security and the fact that after the reboot at the end of the installation the new system should already have the correct timezone and, if you installed the Desktop environment, will at once start the graphical user interface.

UTF-8 encoding default for new systems

The installer will set up systems to use UTF-8 encoding rather than the old language-specific encodings (like ISO-8859-1, EUC-JP or KOI-8).

More flexible partitioning

It is now possible to set up file systems on an LVM volume using guided partitioning.

The installer is also able to set up encrypted file systems. Using manual partitioning you have the choice between dm-crypt and loop-aes, using a passphrase or a random key, and you can tune various other options. Using guided partitioning, the installer will create an encrypted LVM partition that contains any other file systems (except /boot) as logical volumes.

Rescue mode

You can use the installer to solve problems with your system, for example when it refuses to boot. The first steps will be just like a regular installation, but the installer will not start the partitioner. Instead it will offer you a menu of rescue options.

Activate the rescue mode by booting the installer with rescue, or by adding a boot parameter rescue/enable=true.

Using sudo instead of root account

During expert installations you can choose to not set up the root account (it will be locked), but instead set up sudo so that the first user can use that for system administration.

Cryptographic verification of downloaded packages

Packages downloaded with the installer are now cryptographically checked using apt, making it more difficult to compromise a system being installed over the network.

Simplified mail configuration

If the "standard system" is installed, the installer sets up a basic configuration for the system's mail server which will only provide for local e-mail delivery. The mail server will be unavailable to other systems connected to the same network. If you want to configure your system to handle e-mail not local to the system (either to send e-mail or to receive it), you will have to reconfigure the mail system after installation.

Desktop selection

The installation system will install a GNOME desktop as the default desktop if the user asks for one.

However, users wishing to install alternate desktop environments can easily do so by adding boot parameters: tasks="standard, kde-desktop" for KDE and tasks="standard, xfce-desktop" for Xfce. Note that this will not work when installing from a full CD image without using a network mirror as an additional package source; it will work when using a DVD image or any other installation method.

There are also separate CD images available that install the KDE or Xfce desktop environment by default.

New languages

Thanks to the huge efforts of translators, Debian can now be installed in 47 languages using the text-based installation user interface. This is six languages more than in sarge. Languages added in this release include Belarusian, Esperanto, Estonian, Kurdish, Macedonian, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Wolof. Due to lack of translation updates, two languages have been dropped in this release: Persian and Welsh.

Users that do not wish to use any locale can now select C as their preferred locale in the installer's language selection. More information on language coverage is available at the d-i languages list.

Simplified localization and timezone selection

Configuration of language, countries and timezones has been simplified to reduce the amount of information needed from the user. The installer will now guess what the system's country and timezone is based on the language selected, or will provide a limited selection if it cannot. Users can still introduce obscure combinations if need be.

Improved system-wide localization

Most of the internationalization and localization tasks that were previously handled by the localization-config tool are now included in the stock Debian installer or in packages themselves. This means that selection of a language will automatically install packages necessary for that language (dictionaries, documentation, fonts...) in both standard and desktop environments. Configuration that is no longer handled automatically includes the papersize configuration and some advanced X Windows keyboard settings for some languages.

Note that language-specific packages will only be installed automatically if they are available during the installation.

3.5.2 Automated installation

A lot of the changes mentioned in the previous section also imply changes in the support in the installer for automated installation using preconfiguration files. This means that if you have existing preconfiguration files that worked with the sarge installer, you cannot expect these to work with the new installer without modification.

The good news is that the Installation Guide now has a separate appendix with extensive documentation on using preconfiguration.

The etch installer introduces some exciting new features that allow further and easier automation of installs. It also adds support for advanced partitioning using RAID, LVM and encrypted LVM. See the documentation for details.

3.6 Popularity contest

The installation system will again offer to install the popularity-contest package. This package was not installed by default in sarge but it was installed in older releases.

popularity-contest provides the Debian project with valuable information on which packages in the distribution are actually used. This information is used mainly to decide the order in which packages are included on installation CD-ROMs, but is also often consulted by Debian developers in deciding whether or not to adopt a package that no longer has a maintainer.

Information from popularity-contest is processed anonymously. We would appreciate it if you would participate in this official survey, helping to improve Debian.

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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), SPARC

$Id: release-notes.en.sgml,v 1.312 2007-08-16 22:24:38 jseidel Exp $

Josip Rodin, Bob Hilliard, Adam Di Carlo, Anne Bezemer, Rob Bradford, Frans Pop (current), Andreas Barth (current), Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña (current), Steve Langasek (current)