hello again! i'm new to Linux, and to be honest to partitions as well, since i've sort of let Win2k and WinXP do their own thing during setup. but since there's so many Linux distros around, i'd like to try a few of them out, which means i should probably have a separate partition for each OS, right?
i've looked at a bunch of distributions, and i think i'll install a few on the laptop - Ubuntu, Mandriva, Gentoo, and maybe Slackware - and keep them "bone stock" until i get a handle on things. i'm also fed up enough with WinXP on the desktop box that once the laptop is set up and running smoothly with Linux, i'll put a few distros on there as well (same as laptop, plus Fedora and FreeBSD). ok, a lot of OSes, i admit, and i might not install all of them at once, but i'd like to at least prepare the hard drives ahead of time so that i can install the others in the coming weeks / months.
to that end - i have no idea how to best set up the partitions. on the laptop, i only have one drive, so OSes and data are all going to be on the same physical drive, which raises a bunch of questions:
1 - is there a limit to the number of partitions and MBR entries that a hard drive will take? i'm only running Linux, and no more MSWindows of any kind (if that makes a difference).
2 - how many partitions would i need to set up for each OS, and how big should they be? are there any partitions that can safely be shared by the multiple OSes, like the swap space? i assume that my data partition (drive in the case of the desktop PC), full of documents and tunes and whatnot, is shared and recognized by whichever OS is running at the time.
3 - if i want to make OS upgrades easy in the future so that i minimize the amount of other stuff i need to backup, are there special partitioning tricks that i should do up front?
4 - the laptop has a built-in card reader, and my desktop has a 1.44M floppy drive (!!!) - and of course both have USB ports. is there any way of leveraging those to make booting or picking an OS during boot easier? if they'll cause more trouble than it's worth, that's cool, but they're available if it helps.
i'm mostly a newbie on these things, but that's cuz i never bothered to do any of that in the MSWin realm. i should be able to get myself up to speed soon enough, though!