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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Motorola 680x0 - 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 Motorola 680x0, 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 m68k architecture. Separate versions of this document exist for other architectures.

2.1.2 CPU, Mainboards, and Video Support

Complete information concerning supported M68000 based (m68k) systems can be found at the Linux/m68k FAQ. This section merely outlines the basics.

The m68k port of Linux runs on any 680x0 with a PMMU (Paged Memory Management Unit) and a FPU (floating-point unit). This includes the 68020 with an external 68851 PMMU, the 68030, and better, and excludes the ``EC'' line of 680x0 processors. See the Linux/m68k FAQ for complete details.

There are four major flavors of supported m68k flavors: Amiga, Atari, Macintosh and VME machines. Amiga and Atari were the first two systems to which Linux was ported; in keeping, they are also the two most well-supported Debian ports. The Macintosh line is supported incompletely, both by Debian and by the Linux kernel; see Linux m68k for Macintosh for project status and supported hardware. The BVM and Motorola single board VMEbus computers are the most recent addition to the list of machines supported by Debian. Ports to other m68k architectures, such as the Sun3 architecture and NeXT black box, are underway but not yet supported by Debian.

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. Low-density installation floppies (720 k) are also provided for Ataris.

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. In fact, installation from your local disk is the preferred installation technique for most m68k machines.

The last option is network installation. You can install your system via NFS. You also boot your system over the network. Diskless installation, using network booting and NFS-mounting of all local filesystems, is another option -- you'll probably need at least 16MB of RAM for this option. 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.

Pretty much all storage systems supported by the Linux kernel are supported by the Debian installation system. Note that the current Linux kernel does not support floppies on the Macintosh at all, and the Debian installation system doesn't support floppies for Amigas. Also supported on the Atari is the Macintosh HFS system, and AFFS as a module. Macs support the Atari (FAT) filesystem. Amigas support the FAT filesystem, and HFS as a module.

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.

On the Amiga the size of FastRAM is relevant towards the total memory requirements. Also, using a GVP (or ``Zorro'') card with 16-bit RAM is not supported; you'll need 32-bit RAM. The amiboot program can be used to disable 16-bit RAM; see the Linux/m68k FAQ.

On the Atari, both ST-RAM and Fast RAM (TT-RAM) are used by Linux. Many users have reported problems running the kernel itself in Fast RAM, so the Atari bootstrap will place the kernel in ST-RAM. The minumum requirement for ST-RAM is 2 MB.

On the Macintosh, care should be taken on machines with RAM-based video (RBV). The RAM segment at physical address 0 is used as screen memory, making the default load position for the kernel unavailable. The alternate RAM segment used for kernel and ramdisk must be at least 4 MB.

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.

Any network interface card (NIC) supported by the Linux kernel should also be supported by the boot disks. You may need to load your network driver as a module. Again, see Linux/m68k FAQ for complete details.

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. Unfortunately, it's quite rare to find any vendor shipping new Motorola 680x0 machines at all.

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. In fact, no specifications or documentation have ever been released for any Macintosh hardware, most notably the ADB controller (used by the mouse and keyboard), the floppy controller, and all acceleration and CLUT manipulation of the video hardware. In a nutshell, this explains why the Macintosh Linux port lags behind other Linux ports.

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 Motorola 680x0
version 2.1.11, 28 August, 1999
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo