I've decided to take a hiatus from Debian Linux on my primary desktop. This box is only the latest hardware permutation beneath what started long ago as a “Slink” install, but a recent 2.6 kernel reordered devices, including the root disk (whee!), and older kernels don't support the Soyo KT600 motherboard very well. I was stuck either with partial support or an install. It didn't help that I had done numerous in-place upgrades, chased the unstable branch, compiled or alien-ed my own packages and occasionally built custom kernels.
So I installed… FreeBSD 5.4. I prefer the BSDs and the desktop was the only box in the house running Linux. I chose to slice off another 18G chunk from the SATA drive and away I went.
Well, sort of. I spent an evening and late night (they're all late nights when you have a three month old, but that's another topic) fighting a kernel panic that occurred under heavy I/O load, the kind of load that, say, installing the distributions produces. If it visibly trapped I would get something similar to the below, cribbed onto the notepad I always keep nearby when I fiddle with systems, but often it would die more quietly and reboot:
Fatal Trap 12: page fault while in kernel mode
fault virtual address = 0xd8
fault code = supervisor read, page not present
instruction pointer = 0x8:0xc07550fc
stack pointer = 0x10:0xd95129f8
frame pointer = 0x10:0xd95120c28
code segment = base 0x0 limit 0xfffff type 0x15
DPL 0, pres 1, def 32 1, gran 1
processor eflags = interrupt enabled, resume, IPL
current process = 835 (bsdtar)
Turns out that a BIOS setting provokes it. I set the “System Performance” to ‘Normal’ and the kernel panic went away. I have no idea what that tweaks but I was quickly done with the base, a distribution set and off to the ports collection to build some of my preferred software- fluxbox, muttng, xemacs, firefox, irssi, crm114, cmucl, TeX, apache, etc. Copying over selected portions and configuration from the ext2fs partitions will take some time and I may have to fiddle with running a couple of things under Linux emulation but I'm pretty much all in order in an evening.