So, today has been a day of hardware. Some good, some bad.
First, the good. Take one Via EPIA-M motherboard, add a helping of LinuxBIOS and Etherboot and let simmer for a few hours on a low heat. Then add a sprinkling of Phil Hands' d-i preseeding for the final garnish. Tweak to suit your tastes and lo and behold. A neat little motherboard that does proper serial console, boots d-i over the network via tftp and does a completely automated Debian install.
Of course, it's not quite that easy. LinuxBIOS requires a few out of tree patches that are still under discussion. The latest version of Etherboot (5.4.1) doesn't seem to work (lots of rubbish on the serial console and no boot), but the version that does (5.2.6) requires a backport of the latest via-rhine driver to avoid leaving the network card in a state that Linux isn't happy with. And Phil's documentation could do with some updating (which I should really email him about). Oh, and add to that the fact that numerous things seem to assume that there is a PC BIOS and that it will support standard interrupts. Yeah, like that's going to happen.
Still, I seem to have almost got there and it's quite funky to watch it all happen automatically. Kudos to the d-i team for the ease with which you can preseed.
Flush with success I moved on to the next challenge; scanning some forms before posting them off. Nice and easy, normally. If it weren't for the fact that the machine with the SCSI card for the scanner just happens to be the one I stole for the above, and that the new case it's in doesn't allow any PCI cards. Bah. So, find a spare machine, get it into a state where I can actually drive the scanner, scan away. Took far too long. I really need to get it hooked up to my main machine, but there isn't enough desk space to have it close enough for the cables I've got. Perhaps I should crack and buy a USB scanner. I don't really need high quality, just something as an alternative to photocopying.
After that trial I've moved on to upgrading my PVR box; I got a new 320GB HD today to replace the 40GB that I'd been using - it was getting to annoying to have to either watch or syphon off various series that I'm recording. While I had the box open I decided to upgrade the motherboard to something that might support wake-on-lan, so this turned into a bigger job than it should have been. :( I'm currently waiting for the data to copy across before trying to stick it back together. Bah. Don't suppose anyone has an S370 P-III better than 667MHz and no better than 1GHz they want to part with cheaply? I'm currently running a Celeron 800MHz (which I think is a slight step up from the previous PIII-667), but a little more oompfh would help with streaming over the network. I'd just upgrade to something modern, but I suspect the extra cost of silent cooling would be a killer.