Following a debootstrap build of sid on one machine to complete the cross-compilation of mainline u-boot, I managed to get vanilla Debian installed on my Cubietruck
A USB-serial cable is a must for the install and for any subsequent major reconfiguration as the stock Debian installer does not have drivers for the video / audio. Various Cubietruck derivative distributions do - but the Sunxi kernel appears flaky
All was fine for a few days, then I decided to try and configure the Wifi by hand configuring /etc/network/interfaces and wpasupplicant files. I managed to break the network connectivity by doing things in a hurry and typing blind. I'd put it into the appropriate closed metal case so was rather stuck.
A friend carefully took the case apart by easing off the metal cover plates, removed two screws holding the whole thing together and precision
drilled the metal cover plates on one side so that four screws can be undone and the entire inner part of the case can slide out as one while the other metal clover plate remains captive. He will follow this procedure with his two later.
Very pleased with the way it's turned out. The WiFi driver has non-free firmware but I now have a tiny, silent machine, drawing about 3W tops and both interfaces are now working.