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I'm attempting to install linux on a (mostly headless) machine that fails when it attempts to pipe out VGA resolution graphics (or, in other words, it can only handle vanilla console text). Ten years ago, this wouldn't really be a problem, but I can't seem to find a linux distribution with an installer that doesn't have a VGA bootloader splashscreen.

For what it's worth, every installer that I've seen has a VGA splash screen, including "text only" CLI/TUI installers like Arch and Ubuntu Alternate. Once it switches to VGA, the card fails and I can't get it back without rebooting.

Is there a config file that can be edited such that GRUB goes into text-only mode? I'm using Debian 6.05, but the actual distribution doesn't matter as long as it's some linux variant.

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The config file /etc/default/grub is where you would go to set options like

GRUB_TERMINAL=console
GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD_LINUX=text

and then run update-grub (in Debian) to install the configuration where the bootloader can find it.

I'm not sure how you're going to do this if you haven't completed an installation yet. There should be a real text mode option somewhere on the install CD but I don't remember where it is.

UPDATE: Press F8 at the ISOLINUX prompt of the Debian install CD and you'll get the necessary help. It says to use install vga=normal fb=false at the boot: prompt. That should do it.

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