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And if you scan the forums a bit, you'll see a lot of people have Mdk9 with WinXP so I'm assuming it DOES work (although one thing, once set up, you'll be able to read your NTFS partitions but not write to them).
The modem is the same my friend has and it works (so he says anyway)
Me I'm on cablemodem and dual booting win98 so... *shrug*
The fun part about linux is that its (relatively) easy to get ISOs for free or at very little cost...so go ahead and try one, if it doesn't work well enough, try the other.
Mandrake (or redhat for that matter) doesn't install on an NTFS partition, you have to make another partition for it. The install (I think...check the forums or the sites for the distros) resize the WinXP partition....
Once installed, they can link and view the other partition (winXP).
I would STRONGLY suggest actually going to either the home page of Mandrake or RedHat and reading the documentation before going further.
You will need Partition Magic most likely, or when it gets stable Mandrake 9.1, which can resize the NTFS partition.
NTFS is used only by Windows, so for Linux we have to resize it to make space. Linux can then read what is on the Windows area of your disk, but not write to it. Conversely, Windows cannot read or write to the Linux area.
What that means is that if you want to share files between them, you need to setup a FAT32 partition. FAT32 is an old and very simple format, so both Windows and Linux can read and write to this.
I've got the same US Robotics modem and was wondering if you were able to get it to work under Mandrake? I've been having a hard time with mine. When I try and connect using kppp I get a msg saying "Modem Ready." and then a few seconds later another msg saying "The modem does not respond." Did you encounter anything like this? Looking any kind of help.