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This is my first post ever, so forgive me if I look like a complete idiot now...
On to the question.
Have you by any chance compiled that kernel yourself? Did you remember to include the file system?
If you did this in xconfig (make xconfig) you find it in the "File systems" tab. Tick "Y" on "Ext3 journalling file system support". Having Ext3 as a loadable module ("M") will not do, since the file system will then need the file system to load itself and... You get the picture.
Good! You seem to be happy and I'm happy about that. Two more happy people.
One more thing, since compiling a kernel takes some time and getting a useless kernel is no fun. You may have to add RAM disk support too. You'll find it under "Block devices". This configuration seems to work for me:
"RAM disk support" "Y"
"Default RAM disk size" "1024"
"Initial RAM disk (initrd) support" "Y"
I remember having a kernel that refused to boot because of that missing.
I'm trying to learn the inner workings of the Linux kernel and the boot process. Can someone give a medium in-depth explanation of why an initial RAM disk is needed? What is the kernel putting on that RAM disk and why?