When attempting to install Debian Linux 2.0 Hamm (m68k build) on a machine with a m68k (Motorola 68000) processor, I get a Kernel image must be specified error. Why must a kernel be specified to boot from CD? During this age there were also i386 processors and Linux images build for i386 processors, but they don't require a kernel to be specified. I was able to install Debian Linux 2.0 (i386 build of the OS) on an i386 machine, and it doesn't prompt me for a kernel at boot time. Why is the Motorola 68000 series any different?

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    Beside the fact, that I do not know of any linux that can boot without a kernel, it might be good if you ass a tiny bit of information. What distribution (Linux 2.0 doesn't tell anything), what machine (there are quite a lot using a 68k) and most important, what boot loader/manager, as it seams you problem is originated in the way this specific distribution did set defaults for the boot loader.
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 30, 2018 at 22:33
  • @Raffzahn Thanks, I totally forgot to include Debian in my description. Debian 2.0 which is Hamm. Hopefully my added description helps. Mar 30, 2018 at 22:45
  • Mind to also add the Machine you're using?
    – Raffzahn
    Mar 30, 2018 at 22:48
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    MS-DOS works on pretty much any i386 computer because all of them are PC compatible (and the ones that aren't are rare enough to not matter here). But you can't boot MacOS on an Atari ST or an Amiga because those computers are not compatible with each other despite using the same processor. When you are asked which kernel to load what you're really being asked is to identify the particular type of 68000 computer you're using.
    – Ken Gober
    Mar 31, 2018 at 14:04
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    Given that Linux is a kernel, something is wrong in the question wording. Currently, question title sounds like "Why does Route 66 require an engine for a General Motors ride ?", which is nonsensical. Also in question text, "there were also (...) Linux images build for i386 processors, but they don't require a kernel.". Well, they do include a kernel just like a General Motors car includes, well, a motor. Apr 1, 2018 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


Simple answer: Because there is no default kernel defined within the loader.

More in depth answer:

Debian's m68k port is available for at least a dozen different machine (and CPU) architectures. This ranges from Apple, Amiga and Atari to embedded systems and rare workstations.

Linux is a monolithic machine specific system. Unlike the PC, these 68k machines feature a wide variety of hardware structures. In fact, already within just the Apple machines variations are rather huge. It would be a huge effort to build "one" that fits all kernels (if that's possible at all). At the same time, the number of developers working on the m68k port is rather small.

Looks like there are more important areas to work on than luxury functions eliminating a simple single line input occurring only once during installation.

BTW, using a newer distribution might be more apropriate. I think I remember Debian supported 68k until at least 4.0

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    That's really a property of the loader on the install media, not the kernel or the machine. If I want to hand boot the PC-heritage system I'm typing this on, I also have to explicitly specify the kernel I want to use, even though there's only one available on the drive. Apr 2, 2018 at 3:07
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    Sorry, can't resist: "...and rare workstations" but, presumably, not a Rair workstation
    – TripeHound
    Feb 12, 2019 at 14:52
  • @TripeHound ROTFL that's a great one :))
    – Raffzahn
    Feb 12, 2019 at 16:20

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