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As far as I know, the 80 megs is probably what is the minimum amount, root /, is the beginning of the file heiraerchy, pardon if I didn't spell that right its early, anyways, all the files and directories are under root /, Mandrake is most likely isntalling to their specifications, leaving 3 gigs for / for app's and such, they are making the /home dir the largest probably due to the fact all users files and such would go there and nowhere else, unless root gave them access. Anyways, that is my theory, well, I guess though it all depends on how you install your distro of choice. You know you can always customize it and make your own partitions their own size that you would prefer.
I dont believe that there is a standard for all the distro's to adhere to, but most suppliers will set up the install to be able to run on the lowest form of hardware, ie 486, 16megs of RAM and a 2 gig harddrive (for example!).
This means that Mandake will setup partitions which will be suitable for a low spec machine, then if you have a better comp, good for you!
And yes it is up to each distro as to how they atomatically set up partitions.
There is a slight standard in partitions in that /home could be used for many diferent disto's to use. That is what I do with SUSE and Mandrake.
How u divide your hard disk into separate partitions is up to u. The simplest is two partitions one for swap and rest for the system /,/home/usr ...
What the "Learn Linux in 24h" mean is that by give the root directory 80 MB there risk of having a breakdown on that partition is reduced. All other partitions are them mounted upon the root, building the filesystem tree. Usually the install programs make two or three partitions like for u. That way u can backup the user space more easilly.