Notes on awkward Debian Squeeze netinst experience

Few weeks ago I have decided to install Debian Squeeze on one of my machines. I have obtained and burned the latest netinst image so I could install the most current and up-to-date packages from the repositories. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, this wasn’t such a comfortable ride…

Wireless problems

I use cable broadband and a home WLAN for providing Internet access to the connecting clients, and thus wanted to perform a network installation via wireless connection. This is where it had all begun.

I know – Equi donati dentes non inspiciuntur, but this PCI wireless NIC that I had in the machine was an unsupported and notorious Broadcom chip. When the d-i (debian-installer) tried to load a driver for it, it failed, and the console output complained about missing firmware. This device needs proprietary firmware to be loaded onto the chip before it can operate. Ok, so I performed a couple of reboots to search the net for the right firmware for my WiFi device, and when I finally found one, d-i had loaded the firmware but it could not sense the link. I tried a couple of different firmwares I had found on the Internet, but without luck. Finally, I though my wireless card was dying.

Luckily enough, I have had another USB powered WiFi NIC. Since this was a RealTek, it had no problems with missing firmware, but again it could not sense the link. So another half an hour of troubleshooting, and I had found out what was the problem – the Debian installer does not support encrypted WPA! This was a shock. When I reconfigured my wireless router to use WEP, it worked.

Overlapping partitions problem

Debian installer could not recognize my existing and working partition table (this machine had a working setup consisted of Windows XP and Ubuntu). I tried several moves to resolve this, such as writing the partition table again with fdisk and similar, but at the end I had found that I had overlapping partitions problem. It was resolved by using a powerful and free data recovery utility testdisk.

Audio playing faster problem

On this machine I have a professional audio interface, E-MU 0404 PCI variant. The lack of driver support for it on Linux was the main reason why this machine wasn’t used primarily as a Linux box. Since ALSA did include the support for this interface, I wanted to give it a try. I installed the module (snd_emu10k1) and it worked out of the box but the playback was slightly faster 🙂 This was resolved by changing the sampling rate to 48kHz by creating the file /etc/asound.conf with the following configuration:

pcm.!default {
        type plug
        slave {
                pcm "hw:0,0"
                rate 48000

Aaaand, this machine was finally usable 🙂 I am not saying that this is all Debian‘s fault of course (although WPA support during install time and some hints regarding partition table recognition would be nice), but I had just remembered how Linux installation used to be a pain in the ass a long time ago 🙂 Yet this kind of working-my-way-through was sure one of the things that attracted me to GNU/Linux in the first place.

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