I thought that installing Debian without a CD would just take a similar sort of jiggery-pokery as installing DSL or SUSE from one partition to another. Unfortunately, the default Debian installer is hard-coded to look for a CD-ROM drive and will refuse to load its packages from anywhere else. Once I figured out the necessary steps, it was pretty straightforward:
- Download the "business card" network install CD
- RTFM: see sections 4.5 and 5.1.2 and 220.127.116.11 of Debian Install Guide
- In a clean partition, create /boot/newinstall. Copy vmlinuz and initrd.gz from here to /boot/newinstall. Copy businesscard.iso from step one to /boot.
- Add new entry to GRUB configuration:
title New Install
kernel (hd0,3)/boot/newinstall/vmlinuz root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=12000
- Accept all defaults in installer.