Debian Sarge on a Dell Poweredge SC440


Useful sites: – Installing Debian on 9G server range – Custom install .iso


Debian Sarge has to be installed from custom Debian .iso (for me this contains a working tg3 driver for NIC to allow me to perform a network based install). The .iso is available at (info from This also contains all the drivers for the PERC 5 SAS RAID controller and SAS 5 non-RAID controllers (no experience yet of using these):

I used LVM for all partitions (with each partition having the reiserfs filesystem) with the exception of /boot which is on it’s own partition (200MB – maybe oversized, but the drive on the SC440 is 160GB so there’s enough to go around!) with filesystem ext2. Always ensure sshd is installed and running before leaving the console to work over ssh!

New Kernel (Debian Backport)

I want to install a new (Debian) kernel source from backports to prevent me from having to use vanilla kernels from and to make sure our live db server and test server were running similar kernels. This is where the fun started for me, but here’s the way to do it…

apt-get -t sarge-backports install kernel-package \
           kernel-source-2.6.18 initramfs-tools

Set up kernel-package to use mkinitramfs-kpkg by default in /etc/kernel-img.conf:


Configure the new kernel (see link to .config below) and install generated .deb

> cd /usr/src
> bunzip2 linux-source-2.6.18.tar.bz2
> tar xvf linux-source-2.6.18.tar
> ln -s linux-source-2.6.18 linux
> cd /usr/src/linux
> make menuconfig
> make-kpkg --append-to-version=.070314 --revision=1 /
            --initrd kernel-image
> cd ..
> dkpg -i linux-image-

Reboot to test! (check /boot/grub/menu.lst first to be on the safe side!)

Notes: The custom Debian boot .iso used has a few packages that are from sarge-backports, and for some reason, mkinitrd refused to produce a working initrd image (this change occurred after 2.6.15, but our live db server (not using LVM, but using the same backported 2.6.18 kernel) will compile this first time without additional backported packages. Most odd. Another useful pointer – if you try and compile LVM in monolithically rather than a module, mkinitrd will throw up and complain that LVM support is not included in the kernel (since it looks for the module)). Anyhow, the trick of using mkinitramfs (from initramfs-tools in backports) and setting the ramdisk option in the kernel-img.conf file (plus updating kernel-package) seemed to fix it – now I have LVM (and RAID) support compiled as modules and correctly loaded within the initrd image at boot).

tg3 may be removed from the Debian distributed kernel in future due to licensing incompatibilities – be careful (check it is still there in future) or you will land up with no network. On a server, this is a Bad Thing TM;.

Reconfigure debconf

> dpkg-reconfigure debconf

Set to: dialog, all (or apache won’t install without the postinst crashing).

Install Server Monitoring Tools

Dell offer a set of monitoring tools (OMSA) – they are available for download from the Dell Linux site at (version 5.1 for Debian):

(or use a deb source: deb dell sara; apt-get install dellomsa)

Install all 3 packages (dellomsa, libopenipmi, openipmi).

Enable SNMP hooks (requires smnpd to be of use):

> /etc/init.d/dataeng enablesnmp
> /etc/init.d/dataeng restart

Test using snmpwalk (from snmp package):

snmpwalk -v 1 -OS -c public localhost .

Also installed hddtemp ( to allow hard-drive temperature monitoring (this is supported):

> apt-get install hddtemp

Then add the following to the /etc/hddtemp.db file to allow it to recognise the Seagate drive correctly:

"ST3160812AS"  194  C    "Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 SATA 160GB 8MB"

Now we can monitor the temperature of the drive:

> hddtemp /dev/sda
/dev/sda: ST3160812AS: 29°C

Web Management (OMSA)

This requires a Java (SDK) environment – the guide here:

gives the suggested method of installing Sun’s Java on Debian systems.

Symlink the web service config file:

> ln -s /opt/dell/srvadmin/iws/bin/linux/omawsd.src omawsd.src

Edit the iws.ini file (must change username/password):

> /opt/dell/srvadmin/iws/config/iws.ini

Start the service:

> /opt/dell/srvadmin/iws/bin/linux/dsm_om_connsvc start

I haven’t found this all that useful at present – largely because we don’t use RAID on this server, and the SC440 is reasonably limited in its hardware monitoring capabilities (i.e. virtually none!). Still – this may be of more use for people with other Dell servers – I don’t know.

2.6.18 Kernel Configuration

Here’s the kernel .config file I used for the kernel recompile.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Debian Sarge on a Dell Poweredge SC440 by Graeme Coates is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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