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Let it make its disklabel, that should be fine. It may confusing at first but this whole terminology dates back to pre-Linux days so it's not surprising things should have "dossy" names. The very fact that you can make only four primary partitions (or three and an extended) is another thing that dates back to those days - now we just have to live with it.
I would make the first primary a swap partition - twice the size of your RAM. So 512MB RAM means a 1024MB partition, 256 RAM = 512MB swap (although it wouldn't hurt to make it three times the amount of RAM if you have only 256MB or less).
The other two primary partitions should be larger if you want to install a distribution in one single partition (7 is fine but narrow - use 10 for most - only a few may need 12 (Fedora, Sabayon).
The Extended should cover all of the remaining space - as I said, it is nothing but a container for logical paritions. You can then make more partitions inside the extended partition. Also an extended partition does not get formatted as it is only a container; the partitions that are on the inside, of course, do need to be formatted.
Thanks for clearing that up. I have 512MB RAM in this system, so I will make it a little of one gig.
Going to make this:
-1 primary swap formatted as linux-swap (from previous posts)
-2 primary 7Gb-ish paritions (I can go ahead and put two linux distros on these, right?)
-1 extended for logical partitions
Do even distros like Xubuntu that are designed for old computers need a 7gb partition? I was thinking about giving them more like a 2gb partition.
Well, they can be smaller if you intend to use only one Desktop (only XFCE or something like FluxBox, not KDE or Gnome). But even with something like XFCE 2GB seems very little. I would suggest at least double that - there will be empty space on the / partition in that case but you need at least 1.5GB free for tmp and var to function. I suggest you use 4 to 5GB, install Ubuntu and check whether it looks OK. If you're fine, you can go one and make more partitions and do more installs. The problem is that if you make your partitions too small now, you end up having trouble later (and, of course, making them too large is a waste of space).
If this is all good I think I am ready to start installing (I am still not really sure how I configure them so I can choose which to boot.) They are all called New Partition #x right now in Gparted. Will this name carry over to other utilities and if so is there any way to change it?
I am going to go ahead and start Ubuntu from the live cd and go through the part of the install that I know how to do. Are there any special things I need to do later in the install? Also, I am still not sure how to do the install for the next Linux distro.
Thanks so much for the help. This forum has and incredibly fast response time and all the answers I have gotten have helped a ton.
Oops - I hope you haven't rebooted already. If they are called "new partition", you have forgotten one crucial step - clicking on "Apply"! The partitions aren't actually written to disk before you do. So if you start your installer and you can't see any partitions, at least you know why.
I will probley never have windows on this computer, but I know that fat32 is readable by almost everything so I figured it would be safe. I think I need to "choose" / in the Ubuntu install. Is that right?
Success! I now have an installed and working Ubuntu. I will try for another OS soon, but not tonight. Could you tell me what I need to do for the second OS or point me to a guide? Thank you so much for your help.