Note: this is work-in-progress. This note will be gone when the post is finished.
Being the distro with the most versatile CPU architecture support, it was no wonder that Debian and its derivative systems were the first to be installed and run on homebrew-enabled Wii once the linux kernel was successfully ported. Debian is equipped with a powerful and easy-to-use Debian Installer, which enables people unfamiliar with linux to install and enjoy Debian without needing any fancy tool or ‘professional help’. Unfortunately, installing Debian-based systems on Wii has always been a headache, because Debian Installer can not output correct colour due to an issue with Wii’s framebuffer data format, and the user is unable to interact with it. It may be a little bit late, but that issue can now be dealt with and it is now possible to install Debian on Wii in the real ‘Debian way’.
This post will guide you through the process of installing Debian on homebrew-enabled Wii using a customized Debian Installer. However, if you prefer to go the lazy/easy way, there is a pre-installed disk image file available for download towards the end of the post, along with explanations on usage.
- Homebrew-enabled Wii
Checkout WiiBrew if you have no idea what this means.
- Debian Installer for Wii
Note: only Lenny supports the currently available version of ‘cube’ Xorg driver.
- SD(HC) card
This will hold the Debian Installer for Wii files and go into the front SD slot of Wii. The card should be formatted as a single FAT(16/32) partition or has its first partition formatted as FAT(16/32).
Extract the ‘apps’ folder, which holds files of IOS version of the installer, or the ‘bootmii’ folder, which holds files of MINI version of the installer, to the root folder of the (first partition of the) card. For the MINI version to work, Bootmii files (armboot.bin, ppcboot.elf and bootmii.ini) should also be placed inside ‘bootmii’ folder.
- Debian CD/DVD ISO image
One businesscard (smallest), netinst (medium size) or DVD (HUGE!) ISO image is needed. A copy of netinst ISO is included in the Installer packages for your convenience. For other types of images, please use this debian-cd mirror, which has the most complete collection. Just select a version and browse into ‘powerpc/iso-cd’ or ‘powerpc/iso-dvd’. Larger images usually save some installation time, because fewer packages need to be downloaded. Remember to use Lenny ISO for Lenny Installer, and Squeeze ISO for Squeeze Installer.
- USB storage device
This will hold the Debian ISO image during installation onto the card in front SD. Extract the ISO image from downloaded installer archive and save it, preferably in the root folder, to any partition of this device.
(Alternatively, you can place the Debian ISO image on the front SD card and install Debian onto this USB device. In fact, this device can be omitted. Advanced users can partition the front SD card into at least 2 partitions, which is not a trivial task in Windows, but trivial enough in Linux, with the first formated as FAT to hold both the Installer files and ISO image, and install Debian onto the second partition.)
- USB Keyboard
USB mouse is only required after the installation is complete and if you intend to install and use a GUI desktop.
- Network connection through USB LAN/wifi adapter (IOS/MINI) or Wii native wifi (MINI)
Actually, this is not absolutely necessary, except when businesscard ISO is being used, but without it, you will end up with a very limited (base) system, unless you use the Debian DVD ISO image for installation. As much support for various USB LAN adapters and USB wifi adapters as possible have been built into the Installer. Note that the Installer’s wifi support is limited to WEP-based security mode.
You most likely will also need a USB hub. Just remember that USB 1.0/1.1 hubs might slow down transfer speeds of connected USB storage devices, especially in MINI.
Boot Debian Installer for Wii
The IOS version of the Installer can be directly loaded through HBC by selecting ‘Debian Installer’. In this version, Wii’s native wifi and DVD drive are unavailable.
The MINI versions are in the ‘bootmii’ folder with names like ‘d-i.480i(NTSC).elf’. You can load the file corresponding to your TV signal format through Bootmii GUI, or rename the file to ‘ppcboot.elf’ and let Bootmii auto-launch it at Wii power-on, or boot directly into it by launching Bootmii installed as IOS from HBC. You might want to remove all files incompatible with your TV signal format to avoid confusion and make selection in bootmii GUI easier.