Why multiple iso files for same i386 installation?
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Because there are 6 CD's worth of programs in that particular Debian distribution. If you are installing Debian and have a decently fast internet connection get one of the network install CD's. It will contain just the very basic packages and it'll download the other stuff to install it.
If you use those 6 CD's, naturally you'd want to start with #1.
The install CD contains a setup program for networking. If you spare box has access to your local network and the internet you should be all set with it. Only problems I have ever had were when I had to use a wireless connection.
Installing Linux from a network will be hard for a novice. Also cable is going to be sluggish installing Linux. There are thousands of packages to install.
I suggest another distribution that is more friendlier than Debian. Mandrake 9.2, Redhat 9.0, Fedora Core 2. These distributions versions are stable and you will not have problems compiling programs. I do not suggest Mandrake 10 because it is sloppy when it comes time to compile programs. Some people have problems with Fedora Core 3 so I do not suggest using that version. Debian is great but a Linux novice is going to have a hard time learning that distribution. There is a possiblity you are going to forget using Linux because of Debian.
I highly suggest doing the install via the net. Especially with debian. I would suggest using the testing version. Debian "Sarge" is much better than "Woody". The latest packages are always available that way. Why install via fixed disks and then have to upgrade later?
Is there a good online reference for how to do this without bugging everyone here? Sometimes just getting the right resource helps immensely.
I will be installing Debian on my spare Win XP machine. I do not need to co-partition it since I am creating a dedicated machine to start training myself in Linux/Java thinking. It's time for this old dog to learn some new tricks!!