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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Installing Debian on a MSI Wind PC

I've been putting together a new backup box using the MSI Wind PC. I ran into a couple of issues that I'll mention here - maybe it will save someone else some time!

My approach was to boot from a USB key, and install the appropriate network install (netinst) .iso. This installs a basic system, and from there you're off to the races. The first set of issues for me was discovering how to create a bootable USB key, and what to put on the key. The second set of issues surround the RealTek 8111C network controller. The default Lenny kernel (2.6.26-1) has a driver r8169 built in, but it just doesn't work reliably, most notably the network device would hang for me when doing large transfers. I ended up going to the Realtek website, and getting the source code for the latest driver, which is r8168 (they clearly rolled back the driver), compiling it and modifying my install to use it. This is very easy to do. I'll list the key points below.

To boot from USB key and install the latest Lenny netinst.iso:

1. Follow these instructions:

http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/446

But for boot.img.gz, use this image:

http://http.us.debian.org/debian/dists/lenny/main/installer-i386/current/images/hd-media/boot.img.gz

and for the netinst.iso, use this image:

http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/lenny_di_rc1/i386/iso-cd/debian-testing-i386-netinst.iso

2. Mark the USB partition as bootable, if it isn't already. You can do this with /sbin/parted.

3. Install a master boot record:

install-mbr /dev/xxx (where xxx is the usb device)

install-mbr is part of the mbr package on Debian.

Now plug your USB key into your Wind PC, and boot. If the hard drive does not have a bootable image on it yet, the bios will boot from your USB key. If it does, you'll need to go into bios setup and tell it to boot from USB first, before the hard drive.

2.6.26-1 has the r8169 driver built in, so Debian installer will detect your network and get an IP address over DHCP. I was able to go through the install without problems (including installing software from the repository). However if you use it for any length of time, you will encounter this bug where the network device simply stops working. You need the latest version of the driver. Once you are done with your install, follow the directions listed here:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1022411

I suggest a small modification to the instructions: build the driver before removing the old one, because you'll find you will need to install components to build correctly, like kernel headers, and possibly make. After building and before installing, remove the current r8169 driver, install the new one, and proceed as usual.

2 Comments:

Blogger Pierre said...

Hello,
Thanks for the tuto, I am installing lenny on my wind right now. Everything is working fine, until now...
A+
Pierre

4:40 AM  
Blogger Pierre said...

Hello,

My wind became now my main machine, running with Lenny, no problem at all. I don't need neither wifi nor webcam for now, so I didn't bother trying to make them work.
Just one thing is not working: no 3D acceleration, although all parameters seem fine in xorg.conf, when I read forums. Anyone has an idea?

A+
Pierre

3:24 PM  

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