OK, I feel I have tried everything, so now I'm desperate for some help.
After struggling many hours setting up/finding the correct etch image for booting from a usb pen to install etch, I made it work in the end!
So now I'm booting up debian (yeey!) and when about to configure the network I get the "ethernet card not found" in my face. Depressing. I've searched everywhere, but not found any help.
and did a 'zcat boot.img.gz > /dev/sdb
booting from the usb, linux starts and i get the menu. I want to setup my ethernet card so i do a "Detect network hardware", and get the incredible "ethernet card not found". I tried to put another super-compatible NIC inside, but same message.
My two ethernet cards are (cut n paste from 'lspci')
Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation 82547EI Gigabit Ethernet Controller (LOM)
Ethernet controller: 3Com Corporation 3c905C-TX/TX-M [Tornado] (rev 74)
...so linux know about the cards but cant find them..hmm
modprobe <just about anything i try> gives "FATAL: Module x not found."
Please, pick me down from the wall and help me