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Cutting straight to the point, here's my scenario. I have three hard drives, and with one of them I want to make pure linux. The drive is 120gb, and I want maybe 4 or 5 separate partitions for several distributions (slackware 9.1, debian (woody), RH9, and ubuntu). Where I get confused is, that I've noticed slackware asks if you want to install to / or directly to the mbr. Which would be the better option so I can have them all configured so they will each appear as they should in my boot manager? Also can I use lilo for all of these? I noticed that ubuntu wanted me to use grub, and didn't notice a choice to use lilo.
At some stage soon I may also want to add fbsd to this list. it uses a completely different boot loader from memory, and would I be able to add this to lilo, or would i have to add the others to the fbsd bootloader?
As to the networking, well I'm about to get adsl and I've never been able to get linux connected to the internet on my dialup modem, not even through vmware with NAT, or been able to configure it for host only networking. To connect this box to my parents, do i just need a crossover cable to connect them? (both have onboard ethernet). also they're running XP home, is there generally any issues connecting both? I'll simply be using a normal adsl modem, or would it be advisable to get a router?
I think that's it for now, so if anyone could offer advice it would be most appreciated.
over the last few years grub has become the bootloader of choice, and i'd recommend you went with the flow, especially for what you want to do. Grub might look a little unweidly but in reality it's configuration makes a lot more sense. you would probably want to keep a single /boot partition for ALL distro's you use, /dev/hda1 for example. this singlae partition (which i'd make bigger than average, 200mb for example) will then be able to hold all kernels for all distros as long as they are suitably named. this partition then also holds one single grub.conf file which the mbr based grub uses to boot. this is really flexible and doing this under lilo would really suck, as using lilo when you commit a change you need to run the lilo command under a given distro, whilst all kernel images are accessible on the current filesystem, and making changes on the fly is nigh on impossible. compare this to grubs high flexbility (at the slight slight cost of readability) and superior rescue environments, and it's a simple decision really. grub can boot bsd no problem too, it is probably preferable to chainload into the bsd bootloader via grub (i.e. install bsd's bootloader in it's partition not the MBR) but it'll be simple either way.
Also if you are installing a number of distro's i'd VERY strongly recommend using LVM instead of static partitions. this way you only need to create a single lvm partition for each distro (or even one single lvm for all distro's together) rather than having a really messy base partition table that would make maniplating partitions very cumbersome and difficult, if possible at all.
for networking, it's always posible to get things going without a router, but it's not fun all the time. using a real adsl route provides each node on the network with a totally bog standard ethernet connection with dhcp, dns etc... it's just so so simple it's unreal, and so preferable to almost anythign else really. you certainly could use a crossover cable to XP with them doing ICS, but.. bleurgh, get a router!