I finally got debian installed twice in one day.
Once on a P133 box with 32MB RAM after smoothwall failed to take (some USB problem), and then again on a HP C110/777/9000 with PA Risc processor at 110MHz and 512MB RAM.
I find the main problem with the debian website (apart from the broken links which are probably a result of the debian server compromise) is that there are lots of "related-information" links between pages that have overlap. Its hard to tell if a link about "boot disks" in a section about installation will link to more talk about boot disks or the actual boot disk images.
It turns out the HPPA installation instructions are really quite simple:
1) Stick the HPPA box on a network where the gateway also has DHCP and BOOTP
2) from the debian woody distribution in the hppa-disks section grab the "lif*" file and cause tftp and dhcp to serve this as the boot image
3) boot the HPPA without a keyboard and a null modem cable to the serial console, set at 9600,8N1
4) Interrupt the boot process and type:
and that was it
Cheers to Bruce Perens and the gang for making it possible.
My previous failures were using sarge and I think my troubles were down to driver modules being available in udebs but not any standard
Whats with udebs, anyway?