Compaq M300 requires hdd to boot?

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I have a compaq m300 (ca. 2000), with a docking station, and the hard
drive just died.  I only use it for browsing the web, so I was hoping
to just run a live CD linux variant.  Unfortunately, I seem to be
unable to get it to boot from the CD unless there is a working hard
drive in the bay.  With the broken hard drive in place, it fails after
the Compaq splash screen with a "bad drive parameters" error.  With the
hard drive out, it fails with "1782 - Disk Controller Failure".  But if
I place a working drive into the system, it boots from the CD just
fine.  Has anyone else tried using a driveless M300 for booting Knoppix
or the like?  Is there a secret key I can press to skip the hard drive

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