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Qemu can be used to simulate various hardware configurations and to easily test the debian installer in various conditions; it's great for testing "delicate" things like a partitioner, since disk devices are usually represented by files.

It can be used also to emulate other architectures: I tested amd64 and powerpc versions on the installer on my i386 host machine. At the moment (qemu-0.8.0) sparc and ARM are being worked on and have some basic support.

Here some possible d-i boot configurations:

Basic setup

First of all, you need to create a file which will acts as an hard disk for the virtual machine:

$ qemu-img create hd_img.img 500M

You can then download an iso image of the installer, or create one yourself; you can then run a g-i session by running the following command:

$ qemu -net user -cdrom mini.iso -hda hd_img.img -boot d

Qemu monitor

Qemu has a "monitor" (ctrl-alt-2) which can be used to access various funcionalities such as:

Floppy install

To test an installation from the floppy images, you first need to grab [ boot.img] and [ root.img] and use the files as if they were floppy disks:

$ qemu -user-net -fda boot.img -hda hd_image.img -boot a

once you're asked to insert the root disk, just switch to "monitor" (ctrl-alt-2) and

(qemu) change fda root.img

switch back to d-i (ctrl-alt-1) and press ENTER