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A friend of mine brought over a P4 machine built on the Asus P4P800 Delux motherboard with the Intel ich5 controller. According to the changelog in 2.4.21 the controller is supported, but only in legacy mode which means about a 5Mb/Sec hdparm. I coulnt' even get the thing to not hang. It was a Slackware install, here's what I did:
made a scsi2.s bootdisk and removed the kernel from it.
Compiled a 2.4.21-ac4 which has support for native mode ich5 serial ATA. It'll be under the SCSI low level drivers and will register the card as a scsi card. I stripped out nearly everything to get the bzImage down to 1.25Mb, leaving in all of the flavors of the DOS filesystems for floppy and compiling in xfs and ext2/3, reiser... and vfs, then block drivers, loopback, ramdisk support, etc...
I still couldn't figure out what I was missing that would let the machine be able to mount the next floppy, install.1 and unpack its initrd... so I cheated, copied the initrd onto another, IDE, harddrive, used my 2.4.21-ac4 to boot to that, added my floppy kernel to lilo, and aimed it at the initrd from the install CDrom. Kludgey, but I'm typing this from phoenix so it worked... and well.
Sorry to bring this back to the top.
Im looking at doing exactly what you have done here. But mabye with another distro, who knows, but Im having problems mounting my root filesystem.
Do you have a copy of your .config file for your 2.4.21-ac4 kernel with s-ata support?
Everything as far as I can see in my kernel config below should work in theory, but in practice it doesn't.
I've found that this isn't exactly necessary, with the new Dells shipping it still is as they have mickey mouse BIOSes, but with a normal board you can force the IDE channel into "legacy" mode, which means a pio (2-5Mb/sec on the drive instead of 60-ish) transfer rate and the kernel should handle the drive normally. It'll be one slow install and then a very slow kernel compile after the install, but then it should work, although it'll go from being a /dev/hdX to an sdX, I also haven't checked the new Cox patches or any advances on the 2.4.22 tree past -pre4 so it may have been incorporated.
The machine I did this for wasn't mine, and isn't accessible remotely right now, I could get the .config, but it may take a day or two.
Well. Im not using a dell system, and im using the Vanilla P4P800, No delux or VM edition.
The debian bf2.4 kernel can successfully access the device in legacy mode on both /dev/hdc and /dev/ataraid/d0 . but when using a custom kernel the device doesn't mount, even when copying the config file straight accross, strange eh?
So ive decided to get the thing going full throttle, none of this "Legacy" stuff that they throw in.
So far, ive been taking stabs in the dark.
Ive tried turning IDE devices into a module, other device points (/dev/ataraid/dX , /dev/sdX , /dev/mdX (friend's suggestion?)) Yet no success.