Thursday, April 14, 2005

Installing Debian Sarge on Dell PowerEdge SC 1425

I ran into problems, first with lack of hardware support for SATA drives, then with a real-time clock bug. Here are the steps that eventually worked.

1. Boot from Sarge Installation CD-ROM

2. At boot prompt, type linux26 to load the boot-installer using the 2.6 kernel.

The default installer kernel, 2.4, doesn't include the ata_piix module, which is required to detect SATA hard drives. (It's probably missing other modules as well).

3. Complete the first installation phase normally (partitioning, etc.).

4. After the Debian Installer reboots, the console will freeze each time it tries to read the real-time hardware clock (RTC). Press CTRL+C each time to skip it. (For me it froze 3 times).

This is a confirmed Intel bug. There are different fixes (patch the kernel, maybe patch the BIOS, use a 2.4 kernel with driver patches), but I present what I believe to be the simplest workaround. For details, continue on.

5. Open a second boot console as soon as you can by pressing ALT+F2. Log in as root with no password. (Debian Installer hasn't set a root password yet).

6. Add the --directisa option to every hwclock call by creating a shell script in its place.

# mv /sbin/hwclock /sbin/hwclock.bin
# vi /sbin/hwclock
----- contents -----
#! /bin/sh
/sbin/hwclock.bin --directisa $*
----- end -----
# chmod a+x /sbin/hwclock

(Lifted from a comment by phg here, with one minor correction -- two dashes before directisa instead of just one).

7. Type reboot at the prompt. After restart, the system should boot normally and continue into the Sarge boot-installer.