Damn it, lenny. Come on now.
March 28, 2009 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Increasingly annoying problem installing Debian 5.0.0 'lenny' on an HP G60 with an Itanium (ia64) processor that is currently running Vista Home Premium. Specifically, the debian-installer consistently falls under the impression that I have an AMD 64-bit (amd64) processor. Why?

So I told a client (one who's more adventurous than most, which is awesome!) that I'd install Debian 5 on his laptop this weekend; the specs are above. However, I've found it impossible to boot the standard debian-installer, and difficult to run the installer-loader for netbooting correctly. Here are the steps I've followed:

1) First, I wanted to try this new wubi-like Debian installer loader to see how easy it was and to see if I could possibly recommend it to people. In general, it went very smoothly; I downloaded and ran the Windows loader, selecting the 'Expert/custom' install and the 'stable' release. This went fine. Then, at the end of the loading of the installer, it prompted me to reboot, which I did. This brought me into the Vista BCD selection screen, from which I could choose 'Windows Vista' and 'debian installer.' Of course, I selected debian installer. That brought up the debian installer. It took a few times rebooting to get it to recognize my network hardware and download all the installation components, but finally it did; I proceeded through the install, set up separate partitions for swap, /root and /home, and installed the base system. Then I set up a GRUB.

After the installation was finished and I had a partition with Debian on it, I spent some time figuring out chainloading a GRUB. Not excessively difficult, especially with EasyBCD.

But when I booted Debian from the chainloaded GRUB, the kernel would run along and start booting until a certain point, at which time it would fail at a procedure and stop. Right off I figured there was just a problem with the install, so I turned around, jumped back into Vista, and ran the same install again.

And that's when I noticed what the problem had been: watching the installation take place, it was clear that the installer was downloading and installing the files with the '.amd64.' extension in the middle of them. It thought this was an amd64 machine! But it's not!

I let it finish the install, but the same thing: an inexplicably unbootable system.

So I deleted that partition and started over a different way.

2) I downloaded the full installation DVD of 'lenny' from debian.org. (I checked the md5 sum, by the way.) I burned a copy (with InfraRecorder) and booted up again; but when the BIOS screen finished and disappeared, the DVD drive spent about ten seconds running, a flashing cursor appeared in the top left-hand corner of the screen, and after about a minute and a half, the computer booted back into the BCD selection screen (where I only had the options to select Vista and the Debian installer, which I'd since deleted anyway, so it wouldn't boot to that.) I thought to myself, 'ah- a BIOS issue. Simple.' So I went into the BIOS - which is, by the way, completely current, and this is a brand-new laptop - and checked: it's set to boot to CD-ROM. That's when it occurred to me that some BIOSes don't have the necessary drivers to boot from DVDs - okay, simple fix, right?

3) I then downloaded the set of three full install CDs from debian.org, md5sum-checked them, and burned copies. But when I try to boot these, the same thing happens! I've tried pretty much all installation images supported by my architecture now - I went back and tried installing the 'testing' package, then the smaller netinst image. Same thing on boot every time.

4) At this point, I start to get worried about the way this thing can't seem to boot to CD even though the BIOS is set up for that. So I grab my Knoppix boot cd (5.3.1) - works just fine, boots right up into Knoppix! Fluke? I grab my Super GRUB Disk - same thing, boots fine. I d/l a new version of the latest Knoppix (a disappointment, by the way, since they're moving toward something sparser and it's pretty stripped-down) - boots just fine. What's going on?

The only thing I can imagine is that the installer invariably sees this machine as amd64 instead of what it is, ia64, and therefore can neither boot into the installed (amd64) debian system nor boot to the proper disk. But that's just a working theory - frankly, I'm pretty damned confused. I'd be satisfied if I could get the installer loader to recognize correctly, as that's the farthest I've gotten with any method. I'm getting more frustrated as time goes on; I've always loved the Debian installer, and I've run installations on it about six times! It's never not worked like this. Help!

Does anyone know what the hell is going on?
posted by koeselitz to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Did you get the right Debian install DVD?

Here is the status page for the ia64 version, and it can be downloaded through the usual channels.
posted by Geppp at 8:54 PM on March 28, 2009

Best answer: AMD64 is the correct architecture name as the 64 bit extensions were AMD's doing. Itanium is a mostly-failed server-only Intel architecture that doesn't have anything to do with x86. Vista doesn't run on Itanium and Itanium was never a laptop processor.
posted by chairface at 9:01 PM on March 28, 2009

Response by poster: Argh - what a stupid mistake. I still don't know why that first install didn't work, but I'm off to d/l and try the proper installation disks.
posted by koeselitz at 9:58 PM on March 28, 2009

Best answer: Yeah I was going to say, I've never heard of a laptop with an Itanium chip.

Intel calls their implementation of AMD's 64 bit extensions "EM64T", but generally they just call it "Intel 64" according to Wikipedia. IA64 refers to the instruction set used by Itanium.
posted by delmoi at 11:19 PM on March 28, 2009

Response by poster: All loaded and installed. Thanks, all,
posted by koeselitz at 9:20 AM on March 29, 2009

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