The reason KVM didn't work is the VT extensions were switched off in the bios. I have no idea why everything seems to default to that. It turns out the laptop _does_ have a bios screen, there's just no mention of it during boot, you have to mash function keys and hope for the best. (I found a web page insisting it was F1, but that didn't work. Mashing lots did.)
The openwall livecd stops and prompts you for configuration. The one non-negotiable part is setting a root password. If you leave it blank, you won't be able to login. It rejects passwords (such as "root") as too weak, and literally won't let you set them, even when doing so as root. The old trick to remove the "x" from /etc/passwd
Yes, they've modified the C code to make the thing less usable, and it is a live CD. Really! (I'm booting
it under KVM because I want to play with containers. All its network connections are masequeraded. The OpenVZ site says this is the only supported LiveCD, there was a knoppix one but it's no longer maintained. I don't know why.)
Pretty average Tuesday, really.