Pre - Installation
These pages are not intended to be a beginners guide to installing Linux. However, because of the amount of information that I am including, I have decided to include a little bit of background information. If you have installed Linux once or twice before, then you will find lots of stuff to skip. We'll talk about things here, but we're not actually doing anything yet.
Before you can even think about installing Linux, you have to consider whether you want to have Windows as well. These notes describe the decisions that I had to make. For me, I had to have a dual boot. There is software that I need to use under Windows, and I don't like the idea of WINE. Office has such an annoying strangle-hold.
Different machines are supplied with different software. I think it is an option to upgrade to professional, but don't quote me on that. With my machine came disks for both XP Prof. and W2K Prof. Before buying the machine, I had the impression, that it could be dual Windows boot. Looking back, it was described as dual load. I think that you can have one or the other, but not both, installed at any point in time. I have not tried to do anything with the W2K CD so I don't really know.
When you install XP, it takes it from a ghost image, you do not have a 'full' copy of XP that you could take to another machine - pretty sure the evil of product activation will scupper that.
XP or W2K must be installed before Linux. This is because you are supplied with recovery disks, and not a proper XP disk. The recovery disk tends to trash everything else on the first partition.
Because of the ghost image recovery disk, it is absolutely vital to consider partitioning before doing any installation. Obviously, you will need to gear this towards your needs. You will need at least two partitions on a dual boot machine; one for Windows, and one for Linux.
In addition to these two partitions, consider having a partition containing shared data, and don't forget that Linux likes to have a partition for swap space.
I decided to split my hard drive up as follows:
|10GB Windows XP (NTFS)
|2 GB Shared Data (VFAT)
|128 MB Linux Swap
|Remaining MB Linux Root (ext3fs)
It's not strictly necessary to have a Linux installation method before putting XP on, but it's probably safest to install the pair together. I am using Debian 3.0. Previously I have used Redhat, but I have heard good things about package management under Debian.
Rather than spend ages downloading anything, I just buy a CD or a DVD from Cheep Linux. Debian 3.0 came on a single DVD which is very convenient.
This is a good place to back out if you decide that you don't need Linux.