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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 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. Please refer to the Ports pages at http://www.debian.org/ports/alpha/ for more details on alpha architecture systems which have been tested with Debian.

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 3.0 supports eleven major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as 'flavors'.

     Architecture         | Debian Designation / Flavor 
     Intel x86-based      | i386
                          |   - vanilla
                          |   - idepci
                          |   - compact
                          |   - bf2.4 (experimental)
     Motorola 680x0:      | m68k
       - Atari            |   - atari
       - Amiga            |   - amiga
       - 68k Macintosh    |   - mac
       - VME              |   - bvme6000
                          |   - mvme147
                          |   - mvme16x
     DEC Alpha            | alpha
                          |   - generic
                          |   - jensen
                          |   - nautilus
     Sun SPARC            | sparc
                          |   - sun4cdm
                          |   - sun4u
     ARM and StrongARM    | arm
                          |   - netwinder
                          |   - riscpc
                          |   - shark
                          |   - lart
     IBM/Motorola PowerPC | powerpc
       - CHRP             |   - chrp
       - PowerMac         |   - powermac, new-powermac
       - PReP             |   - prep
       - APUS             |   - apus
     HP PA-RISC           | hppa
       - PA-RISC 1.1      |   - 32
       - PA-RISC 2.0      |   - 64
     Intel ia64-based     | ia64
     MIPS (big endian)    | mips
       - SGI Indy/I2      |  - r4k-ip22
     MIPS (little endian) | mipsel
       - DEC Decstation   |  - r4k-kn04
                          |  - r3k-kn02
     IBM S/390            | s390
                          |  - tape
                          |  - vmrdr

This document covers installation for the alpha architecture. If you are looking for information on any of the other Debian-supported architectures take a look at the Debian-Ports pages.

2.1.2 CPU, Main Boards, 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 systems supported by the boot disks.

Alpha machines are subdivided into different system types because there are a number of generations of motherboard and supporting chip-sets. Different systems (``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 system types supported by the Debian installation system. The table also indicates the code name for these system types. You'll need to know this code name when you actually begin the installation process:

     Hardware Type                   Aliases                 MILO image
     =============                   =======                 ==========
       AlphaStation 500 5/266.300    Maverick                alcor
       AlphaStation 500 5/333...500  Bret                    alcor
       AlphaStation 600/266...300    Alcor                   alcor
       AlphaStation 600/300...433    XLT                     xlt
       AlphaBook1 (laptop)           Alphabook1/Burns        book1
       AlphaStation 200 4/100...166  Mustang                 avanti
       AlphaStation 200 4/233        Mustang+                avanti
       AlphaStation 205 4/133...333  LX3                     avanti
       AlphaStation 250 4/300        M3+                     avanti
       AlphaStation 255 4/133...333  LX3+                    avanti
       AlphaStation 300 4/266        Melmac                  avanti
       AlphaStation 400 4/166        Chinet                  avanti
       AlphaStation 400 4/233...300  Avanti                  avanti
       AlphaPC164                    PC164                   pc164
       AlphaPC164-LX                 LX164                   lx164
       AlphaPC164-SX                 SX164                   sx164
       EB164                         EB164                   eb164
       AlphaPC64                     Cabriolet               cabriolet
       AlphaPCI64                    Cabriolet               cabriolet
       EB64+                         EB64+                   eb64p
       EB66                          EB66                    eb66
       EB66+                         EB66+                   eb66p
       DEC 2000 Model 300(S)         Jensen                  N/A
       DEC 2000 Model 500            Culzen                  N/A
       DECpc 150                     Jensen                  N/A
       Personal WorkStation 433a     Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 433au    Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 466au    Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 500a     Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 500au    Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 550au    Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 600a     Miata                   miata
       Personal WorkStation 600au    Miata                   miata
       AlphaServer 1000 4/200        Mikasa                  mikasa
       AlphaServer 1000 4/233..266   Mikasa+                 mikasa
       AlphaServer 1000 5/300        Mikasa-Pinnacle         mikasa
       AlphaServer 1000 5/300        Mikasa-Primo            mikasa
       UP1000                        Nautilus                N/A
       UP1100                        Galaxy-Train/Nautilus Jr. N/A
       AXPpci33                      Noname                  noname
       UDB                           Multia                  noname
       AlphaServer 1000A 4/233...266 Noritake                N/A
       AlphaServer 1000A 5/300       Noritake-Pinnacle       N/A
       AlphaServer 1000A 5/333...500 Noritake-Primo          N/A
       AlphaServer 800 5/333...500   Corelle                 N/A
       AlphaStation 600 A            Alcor-Primo             N/A
       Digital Server 3300           Corelle                 N/A
       Digital Server 3300R          Corelle                 N/A
     PLATFORM 2000
       P2K                           P2K                     p2k
       AlphaServer 1200 5/xxx        Tincup/DaVinci          N/A
       AlphaServer 4000 5/xxx        Wrangler/Durango        N/A
       AlphaServer 4100 5/xxx        Dodge                   N/A
       Digital Server 5300           Tincup/DaVinci          N/A
       Digital Server 7300           Dodge                   N/A
       DeskStation AlphaPC164-UX     Ruffian                 ruffian
       DeskStation RPL164-2          Ruffian                 ruffian
       DeskStation RPL164-4          Ruffian                 ruffian
       DeskStation RPX164-2          Ruffian                 ruffian
       DeskStation RPX164-4          Ruffian                 ruffian
       Samsung AlphaPC164-BX         Ruffian                 ruffian
       AlphaServer 2000 4/xxx        Demi-Sable              N/A
       AlphaServer 2000 5/xxx        Demi-Gamma-Sable        N/A
       AlphaServer 2100 4/xxx        Sable                   N/A
       AlphaServer 2100 5/xxx        Gamma-Sable             N/A
       21164 PICMG SBC               Takara                  takara
       AlphaServer ES45              Privateer               N/A
       UNKNOWN                       Yukon                   N/A
       AlphaServer DS10              Webbrick                N/A
       AlphaServer DS20              Catamaran/Goldrush      N/A
       AlphaServer DS20E             Goldrack                N/A
       AlphaServer ES40              Clipper                 N/A
       DP264                         DP264                   N/A
       SMARTengine 21264 PCI/ISA SBC Eiger                   N/A
       UNKNOWN                       Warhol                  N/A
       UNKNOWN                       Windjammer              N/A
       UP2000                        Swordfish               N/A
       XP1000                        Monet/Brisbane          N/A
       XP900                         Webbrick                N/A
       AlphaServer GS160             Wildfire                N/A
       AlphaServer GS320             Wildfire                N/A
       XL-233...266                  XL                      xl Graphics Card

Debian's support for graphical interfaces is determined by the underlying support found in XFree86's X11 system. The newer AGP video slots are actually a modification on the PCI specification, and most AGP video cards work under XFree86. Details on supported graphics buses, cards, monitors, and pointing devices can be found at http://www.xfree86.org/. Debian 3.0 ships with X11 revision 4.1.0.

2.1.3 Multiple Processors

Multi-processor support — also called ``symmetric multi-processing'' or SMP — is supported for this architecture. However, the standard Debian 3.0 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 9.5. At this time (kernel version 2.2.22) the way you enable SMP is to select ``symmetric multi-processing'' in the ``General'' section of the kernel config.

2.2 Installation Media

In many cases, you'll have to do your first boot from floppy disks, 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 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 Booting from a CD-ROM, Section 5.4.

Installation system booting from a hard disk is another option for many architectures.

You can also boot your system over the network. Diskless installation, using network booting from a local area network and NFS-mounting of all local filesystems, is another option — you'll probably need at least 16MB of RAM for a diskless installation. After the operating system kernel is installed, you can install the rest of your system via any sort of network connection (including PPP after installation of the base system), via FTP, HTTP, or NFS.

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, which includes many drivers that won't be used for your machine (see Compiling a New Kernel, Section 9.5 to learn how to build your own kernel). Support for the widest possible range of devices is desirable in general, to ensure that Debian can be installed on the widest array of hardware. Any storage system supported by the Linux kernel is also supported by the boot system. The following SCSI drivers are supported in the default kernel:

IDE disks are also supported. Note, however, that on many systems, the SRM console is unable to boot from IDE drives, and the Jensen is unable to boot from floppies. (see http://www.linuxalpha.org/faq/FAQ-9.html for more information on booting the Jensen)

2.3 Memory and Disk Space Requirements

You must have at least 16MB of memory and 110MB of hard disk space. For a minimal console-based system (all standard packages), 250MB is required. 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 400MB. 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 Network Connectivity Hardware

Any network interface card (NIC) supported by the Linux kernel should also be supported by the boot disks. Support for the built-in DECChip (Tulip) Ethernet on many Alpha models is compiled directly into the kernel. For other cards, you may need to load your network driver as a module.

2.5 Peripherals and Other Hardware

Linux supports a large variety of hardware devices such as mice, printers, scanners, PCMCIA and USB devices. However, most of these devices are not 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.

2.6 Purchasing Hardware Specifically for GNU/Linux

There are several vendors, 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.

2.6.1 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.

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 3.0 For Alpha

version 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002

Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo