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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For S/390
Chapter 4 - Obtaining System Installation Media

4.1 Official Debian GNU/Linux CD-ROM Sets

By far the easiest way to install Debian GNU/Linux is from an Official Debian CD-ROM Set (see the CD vendors page). You may also download the CD-ROM images from a Debian mirror and make your own set, if you have a fast network connection and a CD burner (see the Debian CD page for detailed instructions). If you have a Debian CD set and CDs are bootable on your machine, you can skip right to Booting from a CD-ROM, Section 5.2; much effort has been expended to ensure the files most people need are there on the CD. Although a full set of binary packages comprises of seven or more CDs, it is unlikely you will need packages on the third CD and above.

If your machine doesn't support CD booting, but you do have a CD set, you can use an alternative strategy ( tape, emulated tape, hard disk, or net boot) to initially boot the system installer. The files you need for booting by another means are also on the CD; the Debian network archive and CD folder organization are identical. So when archive file paths are given below for particular files you need for booting, look for those files in the same directories and subdirectories on your CD.

Once the installer is booted, it will be able to obtain all the other files it needs from the CD.

If you don't have a CD set, then you will need to download the installer system files and place them either on your hard disk, installation tape or a connected computer so they can be used to boot the installer.

4.2 Downloading Files from Debian Mirrors

When downloading files from a Debian mirror, be sure to download the files in binary mode, not text or automatic mode. It's important to replicate the directory structure you find on the mirror to create a local `sub-mirror'. You should start your local directory structure at the level under disks-s390, for example:


You don't need to download every file under that level, just those that apply to you (you'll find out which ones apply as you read on). Just name the directories the same as the mirror's, and keep the files in their proper directories.

If your machine is set up to automatically decompress/decode files you download, you must turn that feature off when downloading the installation system files. They will be decompressed just-in-time by the installer. Decompressing in your current system will waste space and time, and if the original compressed archives are deleted by the decompression program, they won't be there later when the installer needs them.

4.2.1 Installation Options

Files you may need fall into three categories:

  1. Files needed to boot into the installation system (for example, kernel.debian, parmfile.debian, and initrd.debian)
  1. Files the installation system will need access to after it has been booted in order to install the operating system kernel and peripheral drivers (for example, rescue.bin and drivers.tgz)
  1. Base system installation files (for example, basedebs.tar)

If you have a working Ethernet connection on the computer, and your Ethernet card is of one of the types compiled into the installation kernel, you may only need the install system boot files. The installer is capable of installing the kernel and drivers over the network for many common Ethernet cards.

If you have an Ethernet connection for which the installer doesn't have built-in support, you may need both the install system boot files and the kernel and peripheral driver installation files.

If you are installing on a system without a working network connection, or if your network connection is via PPP (using a modem) rather than Ethernet, you will need to obtain all three types of files before starting the installation.

If you're not sure which files you need, just start with the install system boot files. If your first attempt to configure the network within the installer fails, you can just quit, get the extra files you need, and re-start the installation.

The base system installation file basedebs.tar is currently about 27M. If you are able to use a CD, or configure your network before installing the base system, it is better to do so; in that case you won't need this file. The network location is listed in the appendix (Debian Base System Installation Files, Section

4.2.2 Choosing the Right Installation Set

Installation files include kernel images, which are available for various ``subarchitectures''. Each subarchitecture supports a different set of hardware. The subarchitectures available for S/390 are:

Includes a kernel image which supports booting (IPL) from a tape (emulated or real) and a DASD (Direct Access Storage Device). You need these files if you want to install Debian GNU/Linux native or in an LPAR (logical partition) but they can also be used to install under VM with a tape (real or emulated).

FIXME: what about the nolabel kernel?

Includes a kernel image which supports booting (IPL) from the VM reader and a DASD, These files can only be used if you want to install Debian GNU/Linux in a VM guest.

Both of these kernels include almost all drivers supported by Linux built as modules. Support for standard hardware is compiled into the kernel, so it is unlikely that you will need to configure any modules during installation.

Both kernels were also built to directly support IBM's OCO modules. You can simply download then from IBM's developerWorks web site and load them into the running kernel. Please make sure that you pick the modules for the standard kernel, i.e. not the ones for a kernel with the ``on-demand'' timer patch.

4.2.3 Where to Find Installation Files

The network locations of installation files for each s390 flavor are listed in the Appendix. These include:

The rescue image contains a compressed Linux boot kernel. It is used for the Linux kernel when the kernel is being installed on your machine. The kernel binary linux.bin is an uncompressed binary kernel. It is used when booting the installer from tape, emulated tape or the VM reader.

The peripheral drivers may be downloaded as a series of floppy images or as a tarball (drivers.tgz). The installer system will need access to the drivers file during installation. If you have a hard drive partition or connected computer which will be accessible to the installer (see below), the tarball will be more convenient to handle. The floppy image files are needed only if you must install the drivers from floppies.

When downloading files, you should also pay attention to the type of file system you are downloading them to, unless you will use floppies for the kernel and drivers. The installer can read files from many kinds of file systems, including FAT, HFS, ext2fs, and Minix. When downloading files to a *nix file system, choose the largest possible files from the archive.

During the installation, you will erase the partition(s) on which you are installing Debian before beginning the installation. All downloaded files must be placed on partitions other than those on which you are planning to install the system.

4.3 Creating an IPL tape

If you can't boot (IPL) from the CD-ROM and you are not using VM you need to create an IPL tape first. This is described in section 3.4.3 in the Linux for IBM eServer zSeries and S/390: Distributions Redbook. The files you need to write to the tape are (in this order): kernel.debian, parmfile.debian, initrd.debian and optionally a second initrd with the OCO modules. The first three files can be downloaded from the tape sub-directory, see Where to Find Installation Files, Section 4.2.3,

FIXME: talk more about the second initrd

4.4 Automatic Installation

For installing on multiple computers it's possible to use the fully automatic installation called FAI. The Debian package fai has to be installed on a computer called the install server. Then all install clients boot from their network card or floppy disk and automatically install Debian on their local disks.

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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For S/390

version 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002

Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo