I am currently trying to install debian "etch" on an Dell Inspiron 7500O
with network connectivity provided via a 3Com lan/modem PC card.

The initial phase of the install appears to run ok - although I do have
to back out and return to the main menu and re-run the "configure the
network" step manually to bring up eth0. The problem starts when I
reboot for the second phase of the install.. ntpdate fails to sync the
clock and when I get to a shell and run ifconfig it only displays the
loopback interface.

This is a standalone laptop connected to a motorola svb5120 cable modem
and here are the network interfaces definitions:

-------------------------------------------------------------------
$ cat etc/network/interfaces

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

# This is a list of hotpluggable network interfaces.
# They will be activated automatically by the hotplug subsystem.

mapping hotplug
script grep
map eth0

# The primary network interface

iface eth0 inet dhcp
--------------------------------------------------------------------

I have tried a number of things to bring up eth0 manually but most
everything so far has failed silently:

$ /etc/init.d/pcmcia restart
$ /etc/init.d/networking restart
$ /etc.init.d/ifupdown restart
$ ifup eth0
$ dhclient

... and various combinations of the above..

The only useful output I have seen is when I run dhclient manually.. it
goes through a bunch of successive broadcast attempts on 255.255.255.255
and eventually goes back to sleep after displaying a message informing
me that it was unable to obtain a lease.

The "ifconfig -a" command does list an unconfigured eth0 and I do not
see anything in the output of cardctl info/status or lsmod that would
indicate anything is wrong with the NIC proper. Besides, the exact same
hardware was detected and configured without a problem when I installed
debian sarge a year ago and has worked flawlessly ever since. The only
difference I have spotted reagarding network definitions is this
"mapping hotplug" entry in the interfaces file above.

For the record thinking there might be some irq-related issue lurking
behing all this I have tried just about any boot options I could find
such as noapic.. nolapic.. acpi=off etc.

I also installed the 5.10 ubuntu distro that also ships with a 2.6.12
kernel.. but then that's really another version of debian.. but to no
effect whatsoever regarding my network connection.

Google has not really provided any clear reports of similar cases and I
find this rather surprising.. since my hardware is pretty much
run-of-the-mill - certainly not recent or absurdly ancient stuff..

Naturally since debian installer routine never asks me for anything
regarding network configuration - apart from host/domain names - I don't
really have much of a chance of doing anything different.. So, I would
have imagined that more than a few laptop users with similar laptops &
network hardware should have run into a similar problem..??

So I have a few questions:

.. Has anyone encountered such problems with a laptop + pccard NIC with
one of the more recent 2.6 kernels..?

.. Might this "hotplug" layer/service be responsible in any way.. and if
so, is there anyway I can remove/disable it and get back to the 2.4
setup.?

** the reason I was thinking along those lines is that the initial
installation boot - what I called phase one above - can be eventually
persuaded to bring up eth0.. but then an install boot process would not
likely need hotplugging capabitities.. otoh the resulting system that
gets installed to the hard drive seems to have a lot of trouble bringing
up the network.. just a thought.. **

.. Is there anything else I could try to bring up eth0 manually..?

.. In the event nobody having run into a similar problem is in a position
to recommend a workaround.. how should I go about determining the cause
of the problem..?

I have already spent over a week trying to crack this one so any help
would be much appreciated.

Chris.

NB. Hope that's ok but I cross-posted this to c.o.l.portable with
follow-up to same..