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The su command can be restricted, and it usually is. If you are logging-in directly, it ought to work, and if it doesn't, the "get to a command-line with Ctrl+Alt+Fn and try it from there" trick, as jdkaye described, is indeed the next to try. (Ctrl+Alt+F6 or some-such should get you back to GUI mode... just keep trying FKeys.)
Then, look in /var/log and look through the logfiles to see where, and how, the "illegal access" attempts were recorded. Those messages should tell you why.
Worst-case is to reboot the system either in single-user mode or, if need be, boot from a free-standing DVD-ROM so that you can finally get to look at that log.
I did the Ctrl Alt F1 thing and still couldn't log in. "Login incorrect". It drives me crazy... I can't imagine how such a simple thing doesn't work. I set the root password at installation, and now it doesn't work.
I also couldn't open any of the files iv /var/log. Will I be able to look at those files if I restart in a live Ubuntu?
When you say you know the password is correct, how do you know?
Because I reinstalled Debian 2 times yesterday and once today, exactly because each time I had the same problem and I thought I forgot the root password. After 3 new installations the issue is obviously not me forgetting the password, but something else.
Yes, I typed it in a text field and it looks OK. When I did Ctrl Alt F1 I used "root" as user name (without the double quotes) and the password. I obviously can log in as the user I created, but not as root.
You could boot in single user mode and reset the password.
Use a simple password to begin.
I would like to try that, but how would I do it?
I just reinstalled a 4th time, this time leaving out the graphical interface. It installed quickly, but I didn't get anywhere. The root password is simply not accepted. It's absolutely insane... I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with who knows what hardware component (the netbook is a Toshiba NB505).
I think I'll end up installing Ubuntu. I put it on a live USB and it looks good, and most importantly, it allows me to set up WiFi.