Is Knoppi best version for novice? First build and a true beginner!
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Distribution: Arch Linux 2007.05 "Duke" (Kernel 2.6.21)
Okay - go with Knoppix for your first install. Gentoo is a completely different beast and is a bit difficult to get right on you first time through, let alone your first linux install. The order for installing the OS's should be Windows first and then Linux. Understand though, that this will make the Linux's bootloader the primary one. This isn't a bad thing, but it adds a layer of complication, albeit a necessary level of complication. You will find that your windows games don't work on linux out of the box (and depending on what games - they don't work at all). For this reason I will suggest that you dual boot linux and windows. There are many guides to doing so, and you can easily adapt any Linux distro to those guides. I hope this answers your questions!
Question: Should I go w/ Knoppi or Gentoo for first time,
I'm curious why it's these two you're interested in. I'd recommend against Gentoo, since it's a bit more complicated to get running than most distros. If you just want something easy to get started with there's lots of better choices.
Knoppix is designed to be used aa a Live CD, which means you can boot into off the cd, without installing it to your hard drive. This is good initially for testing out linux, but I don't think knoppix is the best option if you want to install it on the hard drive, though you certainly can use it if you want and is probably the better choice of these two options.
In case you haven't already seen these, there's a couple sites that are good for getting information about linxu distributions. If you go to this site you can take a survey that can give you some suggestions of good distributions for you. You can also get a lot of good information at distrowatch.
Your second question was a little unclear. You don't partition windows or linux, you partition a hard drive to have a place to install them both. Partioning is just dividing your hard drive into different parts to be used seperately. If you mean installing xpromisex is right to say it's better install windows first, then linux.
SCO Unix and Linux have nothing to do with each other (in fact SCO is viewed very negatively by the Linux community for reasons I'd rather not go into for fear of derailing the thread). But Linux is very compatible with modern hardware and I've used it on nForce4 based boards with no problems, so I imagine you'll be just fine. You can check verious hardware compatibility lists if you want to, though, or just do a little googling.
I would recommend at least trying the Knoppix LiveCD at first. This doesn't necessarily mean INSTALL it, but TRY it.
First, it will give you a taste of Linux in case you've never really been exposed to it.
Secondly, it will give you a good test of your hardware's compatibility with Linux. Knoppix is well known for automatically detecting and configuring hardware. If you find something that Knoppix can't digest automatically for you, just be warned that most (all?) other distros will probably have problems with that hardware as well. You can also use Knoppix to list your hardware and the modules it loaded so if you try some other distro and your hardware is not detected/configured, you can fallback to the knowledge Knoppix gives you (what the hardware actually is, what modules you need to support it, etc.)
Thirdly, you want to have a Knoppix LiveCD on hand at all times. You might be running some other distro and accidently make some drastic mistake where it won't even boot for you. Knoppix to the rescue to find/fix your problem. So you want to know your way around Knoppix no matter what distro you eventually choose. Other LiveCD's can be used to fix a broken system as well (Kanotix, Slax, Ubuntu, etc.), but Knoppix is well supported, widely known and used by the Linux community, and is probably the best bet for a new user for rescue purposes.
I agree with haertig's advice. Knoppix is, bar none, one of the greatest rescue tools available. <candid_admission_of_stupidity>Saved my ass more than once.</candid_admission_of_stupidity> But for installing, maybe something else might suit you better. The last thing in the world this forum needs is yet another "which distro" thread.
I agree that Gentoo and Slack are great distros, but are more for those who already have a mastery of Linux. Definitely not a good choice for your first exposure. We don't want you to run screaming from the building!