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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For SPARC - Chapter 3
Before You Start

3.1 Backups

Before you start, make sure to back up every file that is now on your system. The installation procedure can wipe out all of the data on a hard disk! The programs used in installation are quite reliable and most have seen years of use; still, a false move can cost you. Even after backing up be careful and think about your answers and actions. Two minutes of thinking can save hours of unnecessary work.

Even if you are installing a multi-boot system, make sure that you have on hand the distribution media of any other present operating systems. Especially if you repartition your boot drive, you might find that you have to reinstall your operating system's boot loader, or in some cases (i.e., Macintosh), the whole operating system itself.

3.2 Information You Will Need

Besides this document, you'll need the fdisk manual page, the dselect Tutorial, and the Linux for SPARC Processors FAQ.

If your computer is connected to a network 24 hours a day (i.e., an Ethernet or equivalent connection -- not a PPP connection), you should ask your network's system administrator for this information:

If your computer's only network connection is via a serial line, using PPP or an equivalent dialup connection, you are probably not installing the base system over a network. You don't need to worry about getting your network setup until your system is already installed. See Setting up PPP, Section 7.22 below for information on setting up PPP under Debian.

3.3 Pre-installation Hardware and Operating System Setup

There is sometimes some tweaking to your system that must be done prior to installation. The x86 platform is the most notorious of these; pre-installation hardware setup on other architectures is considerably simpler.

This section will walk you through pre-installation hardware setup, if any, that you will need to do prior to installing Debian. Generally, this involves checking and possibly changing firmware settings for your system. The ``firmware'' is the core software used by the hardware; it is most critically invoked during the bootstrap process (after power-up).

3.3.1 Invoking OpenBoot

OpenBoot provides the basic functions needed to boot the SPARC architecture. This is rather similar in function to the BIOS in the x86 architecture, although much nicer. The Sun boot proms have a built-in forth interpreter which lets you do quite a number of things with your machine, such as diagnostics, simple scripts, etc.

To get to the boot prompt you need to hold down the Stop key (on older type 4 keyboards, use the L1 key, if you have a PC keyboard adapter, use the Break key) and press the A key. The boot prom will give you a prompt, either ok or >.

3.3.2 Boot Device Selection

You can use OpenBoot to boot from specific devices, and also to change your default boot device. However, you need to know some details about how OpenBoot names devices; it's much different from Linux device naming, described in Device Names in Linux, Section 4.3. Also, the command will vary a bit, depending on what version of OpenBoot you have. More information about OpenBoot can be found in the Sun OpenBoot Reference.

Typically, with newer revisions, you can use OpenBoot device such as ``floppy'', ``cdrom'', ``net'', ``disk'', or ``disk2''. These have the obvious meanings; the ``net'' device is for booting from the network. Additionally, the device name can specify a particular partition of a disk, such as ``disk2:a'' to boot disk2, first partition. Full OpenBoot device names have the form driver-name@unit-address:device-arguments. In older revisions of OpenBoot, device naming is a bit different: the floppy device is called ``/fd'', and SCSI disk devices are of the form ``sd(controller, disk-target-id, disk-lun)''. The command show-devs in newer OpenBoot revisions is useful for viewing the currently configured devices. For full information, whatever your revision, see the Sun OpenBoot Reference.

To boot from a specific device, use the command boot device. You can set this behavior as the default using the setenv command. However, the name of the variable to set changed between OpenBoot revisions. In OpenBoot 1.x, use the command setenv boot-from device. In later revisions of OpenBoot, use the command setenv boot-device device.

3.3.3 Over-Clocking your CPU

Many people have tried operating their 90 MHz CPU at 100 MHz, etc. It sometimes works, but is sensitive to temperature and other factors and can actually damage your system. One of the authors of this document over-clocked his own system for a year, and then the system started aborting the gcc program with an unexpected signal while it was compiling the operating system kernel. Turning the CPU speed back down to its rated value solved the problem.

3.3.4 Bad Memory Modules

The gcc compiler is often the first thing to die from bad memory modules (or other hardware problems that change data unpredictably) because it builds huge data structures that it traverses repeatedly. An error in these data structures will cause it to execute an illegal instruction or access a non-existent address. The symptom of this will be gcc dying from an unexpected signal.

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