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Posted by Nathan Zook on November 17 2009 9:51pm[Delete] [Edit]

If you get a warning about not being able to create test tables, this indicates a permissions problem. First ensure that the user mysql will run as has the ability to write to the data directories. Note also that SELinux and AppArmor can cause permissions problems, even if the file permissions would allow access. This is a particular issue if you are wanting to run a server in a sandbox. Check the documentation for how to configure these security systems to permit mysql to access the directories in question.

Posted by Larry Irwin on February 8 2011 5:51pm[Delete] [Edit]

When you install a generic binary on a base Debian Lenny install, there is a leftover configuration /etc/mysql/my.cnf file that makes the script mysql_install_db fail.
Removing the folder and it contents solves the problem.