For tonight I set myself a rather trivial task: install Debian on a remote server which I can only netboot grml on, and where I have no console access. I figured it wouldn't be too difficult. However, Debian figured that it would be best to throw any possible obstacle my way.
I booted into grml, set up the partitions and file systems (/dev/md0 as /boot, /dev/md1 with lvm and the root file system). Then I mounted them in place and ran debootstrap. However, debootstrap said the configuration phase of the packages failed. So I chrooted into the system and ran dpkg --configure -a.
Then, I figured that Debian prefers to leave the most important programs uninstalled, so I ran apt-get install less bzip2 pax openssh-server sysklogd grub-pc linux-image-2.6.32-5-amd64. However, grub-pc decided it doesn't want to install itself successfully. A manual run of grub-install fixed this glitch as well. Then I set up a root password, enabled root logins for now in the ssh configuration and configured /etc/fstab and /etc/network/interfaces. I added a netconsole to the grub configuration, just in case.
Then I figured it was time to test the system, so I rebooted. However, I never saw the system come up. Also, the netconsole didn't log a thing. So I booted back into grml, installed kvm and tried to boot the system, only to find grub saying:
error while parsing number
So I fixed the device paths and re-ran update-grub2. Then the system booted but still didn't respond to ping, and had nothing on the netconsole. So I booted grml and saw that there was finally at least a dmesg.0 file. This file contained a number of hints:
netconsole: eth0 doesn't exist, aborting.
e100: eth0: e100_request_firmware: Failed to load firmware "e100/dm101m_ucode.bin"
So I figured that apparently the Debianists no longer ship firmwares anymore. I found a package called linux-firmware in the non-free repository and installed it. Then I rebooted and received ping replies from the system, but ssh never came up, the connection remained refused. So I booted into grml and found all logs in the chroot to be empty:
grml# ls -l
-rw-r----- 1 root adm 0 Aug 31 23:20 /mnt/vms-planck--root/var/log/messages
-rw-r----- 1 root adm 0 Aug 31 23:20 /mnt/vms-planck--root/var/log/syslog
-rw-r----- 1 root adm 0 Aug 31 23:20 /mnt/vms-planck--root/var/log/daemon.log
So I installed Dropbear and configured it to listen to port 2222, then rebooted. The system pinged, but ports 22 and 2222 remained refused. When running the system in kvm again, I discovered strange messsages though and found the root cause to be a popular debootstrap bug:
grml# cat /sbin/start-stop-daemon
echo "Warning: Fake start-stop-daemon called, doing nothing"
So I moved /sbin/start-stop-daemon.REAL back to /sbin/start-stop-daemon, but instead of typing reboot I accidentally typed poweroff, and now I have to wait for the hoster to flip the power switch of the server again before I can continue, so things will remain interesting.
I guess being bitten by debootstrap, defaults, grub, netconsole, firmware and start-stop-daemon on the same day was a bit too much. Time to watch V for Vendetta and go to bed.
Update: Note to those who didn't realize: no, I didn't watch the film, I just found it fitting.