Well, I managed to figure out my major Debian problem.
Plug N Play has been turned on this entire time.
At this point I'd like to tip my hat off to Mandrake for being able to deal with that so incredibly smoothly. It's a great company. I recommend giving them money and supporting their software. I know I'm a bit of an anti-consumerist but this is a company that's been in the red ever since its inception and they make a good quality product that I'd rather not see go down in flames... I'm unemployed ATM so I'm not going to be contributing anytime wholly soon... but as soon as I get a decent amount of money I'm probably going to order myself a boxed version... or maybe I'll just wait until 9.1 comes out of beta first... but still... big plans on this side to support them.
So I go over to my friend's to pick up a P75 backend machine with which I can throw Debian on and use as a router. I haven't yet sat down and hacked around with IPtables yet so it's not up and running... plus I apparently am going to have a headache or two with my ISA 3-com Etherlink III card that I'm going to use for my internal connection.
So I get the install up and running, I upgrade to the 2.4 kernel (2.4.18-bf2.4 I believe) and when I reboot I suddenly have trouble with recognizing the Etherlink card. Thankfully, I have 2 NICs in this system so I just throw it onto my realtek card and modprobe that one... problem solved... no problems whatsoever. So now I've got a running backend debian box that does... well... nothing... but soon I'm gonna get that NIC running and then figure out IPtables and all shall be good.
Feeling fairly comfortable about my Debian skills thus far, I decide to see if I could overhaul my Drake system and throw Debian on there...
So I go through it all and still no network. I set up ifconfig all great and everything... but it just refuses to activate itself. ifconfig
So I reboot, hop into BIOS and look around... Waaaait a minute... my Pnp status was on!
Well, now, isn't this quaint? I kill it, reinstall debian, an lo and behold... it works perfectly.
Don't even need to load the drivers. Everything happens automagically all of a sudden.
So next order of business, upgrade all the stuff I need to (kernel, XFree86, Gnome, etc.). So I install gnome 2.2
BIG problems now. For some fucked up reason, Gnome 2.2 just refused to work... I got some weird window problem that just left me to wonder.... wtf?
So I'm supposing I'd really like to hop back over to Gnome 2.0 but had no clue where to find it.
After a lot of ramshackle-business with Gnome I finally give up and reinstall Drake... Which, as usual, works smoothly... Eventually I'm gonna get this debian install to work, goddamnit!