I have been using computers for over 30 years and have personally owned at least one computer during most of that time. As a consequence I've gotten pretty particular about having machines that serve me well, and so I'm accustomed to doing lots of tweaking -- some of it pretty major. It has been very helpful for me to read on the Internet about how other people have solved computer problems like mine, so I am going to try to return the favor.

I am most familiar with Unix or similar operating systems; they are very steady over time and allow me quite complete control over what my machine is doing. Market reality being what it is, though, I have almost always owned Intel-chip machines which came to me with (DOS or) Windows, and so I've learned to make do. So I will primarily deal here with

SETTING UP A DUAL-BOOT (WINDOWS / LINUX) COMPUTER

I'm setting everying out in one big document so that Google will find this document for people jumping in at any stage of the process.

I hardly an expert in this area, but if you would like to ask me about something you see in this article, mail me at math.niu.edu. The page you are reading is http://www.math.niu.edu/~rusin/nonwork/dualboot.html.

My intention here is to keep very detailed records of what I have done during installation so that I can (a) do it agian when I need to, and (b) answer questions of people who encounter the very same problems I do. I've put this into a general context so you can take it as a (long) 1-page guide to setting up a dual-boot system, but you will almost surely encounter situations different from mine, in which case you need to look online for "Linux How-Tos" and other very complete documents.

I will also take this opportunity to ask for help. If you read through this document and see something I've listed as something I don't understand (there's lots of that!) let me know. I can add your input for everyone's benefit.

NOTE: In what follows I will refer to "linux" or even "unix" when I believe the comments cover a range of OS distributions, but in practice what I have used mostly is Mandrake Linux (ver 9.2, 10.0, and 10.1); I have also used RedHat (5.1, 7.3) and Knoppix (3.3) and have looked at some others. Likewise "Windows" primarily means Windows XP (with Service Pack 2), both Home and Professional editions; I have Win2K and Win98 on some machines here, and have also worked with Win3.1 and several versions of DOS (3.1 through 6.0 I think).

Outline of steps and considerations

In order to get a good working computer, I go through the following steps. (But who am I kidding? You're not going to read all this -- just scan this document looking for a match to whatever problem you're having, and start reading there!)

  1. Why bother making a dualboot machine?
  2. Get a computer (duh!)
  3. Assemble resources
  4. Pre-OS Installation
  5. Install Windows (or DOS)
  6. Install Linux
  7. Setting up Linux
  8. Setting up Windows
  9. Keeping current

That should do it! Now for the details:

What will you do with a computer?

If you can't answer this question, you shouldn't read any further! But apparently you use a computer at least to read web pages... If that's ALL you want to do, then I can't recommend that you keep reading because, let's face it, this is more than one day's work to set up a dual-boot machine. If all you want to do with a computer is surf the 'net or listen to music, then I would recommend you treat the computer as a consumer item: buy the cheapest one that does exactly what you want it to do, and don't mess with it.

Why should you bother with Linux?

If you've worked fairly extensively with computers, you should get to know some of the things which are common in the Unix world -- things I can't seem to live without.

Unix has been around for decades and the core features have remained unchanged. The mentality is the opposite of the Windows mentality: Unix consists of a large number of small, efficient, stable commands which can be strung together in a huge variety of ways to accomplish efficient tasks on files and file systems, on other programs, and on hardware. Think of it as a set of tools in a professional's bag. It's not really a consumer item; "plug and play" products are not the sort of thing Unix was designed for (although Unix makes an excellent setting for the designers and programmers who produce these things).

For my part I greatly miss a few things when I have to work on a Windows machine. I need "grep" to perform many types of file comparisons, searching for text strings and so on. I use "strings" to ferret out text from within binary files; "ps" to check all the processes running on the system and "top" to find out how they are using resources; many variants on "ls" and "find" tell me about all the files on my system; "dd" is a natural way to copy things like floppies or CDs as if they were files; I can't live without the flexibility of the editor "emacs" or the speed of the editor "vi"; and, especially for low-level probing of the computer like we're about to do, it's imperative to have partition editors like "(c)fdisk" and reporting services like "lsmod". It's also true that the systems programmers are drawn to things like unix, so it's probably more common to see unix utilities (for free!) than windows ones for tasks like resizing a Windows partition.

Frankly, one can avoid installing a form of unix, and still reap some of the benefits -- there are packages (e.g. "MKS toolkit") of programs which run under (DOS or) Windows which carry out the same tasks as some of these programs. But then one still has the disadvantages of Windows floating around -- the opacity of the parent OS, the lack (until WnNT) of suitable permissions on the file structures, the possibility of viruses, etc. I find it to be very much a nuisance to have to continually keep my Windows machines free of viruses and spyware and rootkits and so on, especially on machines used by other people. By contrast, linux is delightfully (99%) free of all that nonsense.

As you can see, the advantages of Unix tend to be at the operating-system level; I have said nothing about office-like tasks (word-processing and so on), nor about multimedia tasks (games, movies, music). Really there are many fine tools for these things which run under Unix, but I would imagine the person who just wants to play games or manipulate spreadsheets is not going to be impressed with Linux or any other Unix-like operating system.

Why should you put up with Windows?

Unix gurus have been conditioned to sneer at Windows because of decades of hyperbole coming from Redmond which were not matched by products of sufficient quality. I would say that evem Windows 2000 was much less stable and much more awkward to use than the versions of unix which were available by 1975.

In fairness to MicroSoft, though, I have to say that with Windows XP they have finally produced a product which is fairly dependable and useable. It doesn't crash all _that_ often, and it allows some useful customization (and a lot of useless customization), and in the main it is willing to cooperate with non-Windows software or hardware.

Even for those who do not particularly care for the product or its parent corporation, there are reasons to have Windows handy. First, it has pushed itself into a position of dominance in the computer field, which means that if you need to lend your machine to someone, or borrow a piece of hardware, or copy some software, you have a much better chance of being able to "interface" correctly if you can, at least occasionally, run Windows. Second, this dominance means that whenever new things are available in the commercial computer world, they are likely to be produced first and foremost for a windows market. It is very common to find products which the manufacturer has tested against windows but not for any other OS. Even if you don't have any such device in mind now, you're going to be using that computer for a few years, and so you ought to be planning ahead: when that killer product is available next year, you can still use it even if it means shutting down your linux box and rebooting to windows. Finally --- and here I'm addressing both the "Linux only!" and the "Windows only!" crowds -- I very much appreciate having multiple operating systems on my machines. It is frequently true that some piece of hardware seems to be not working, or there is a software glitch in the OS, or a disk crash has made my system unusable; on those occasions it is very helpful to be able to boot to the other OS and see whether things look different there. For example, I was able to determine there was nothing wrong with my sound hardware, even though it sounded terrible under windows, by booting to linux and listening to the same CD where the sound was fine. That clarifies that the sound problem was software related in this case. In a different case, I found in this way that my microphone was indeed physically dead.

Why not just get a Mac? (Or a Sun workstation?)

That's a very good question. In case you haven't heard, the Mac's OS X (operating system) is built on a form of Unix, and all the usual Unix benefits thus accrue. There are still the compatiblity-with-the-world issues I raised earlier. There's also the issue of cost -- Macs always cost more that Intel PCs that look comparable. If you're a teenager, that probably clinches the argument. If you're a busy professional who can charge a lot per hour, you might want to think about just buying a Mac, since even a few hundred dollars price difference is less than the cost of your time to do what I do in this document. (I only justify the time spent because it's both a hobby and a learning experience for me.) I have used a Mac with OS X and have been very pleased overall.

I have also used Sun workstations with SunOS and Solaris for many years and they have worked splendidly. But in reality this is because we have had a top-notch systems guru here who makes all the problems disappear. I have considered getting a surplus Sun to experiment with, but I should stress that since nothing I have learned about Intel hardware will like carry over, this would be hard for me as soon as something goes wrong. YMMV but tread carefully.

Hardware considerations

I can make some recommendations about hardware which can save you a lot of agony, if you have the option to choose your hardware. Hardware discussions:

In this section I will be discussing mostly the hardware itself, in case you have the option to choose what to buy. The actual installation problems will be discussed separately for windows and linux, below.

Keyboard -- I have had no problems of any kind. Some are advertised as "works with Windows" or something but that doesn't mean Linux can't also use it. In fact as far as I can see the "Windows" keyboards just have an extra Alt-like key with a windows logo on it, which can be used for some keyboard shortcuts in Windows. It is possible to make use of that key in Linux too. Linux allows (through software) a switch to international keyboards e.g. " loadkeys fr ", and one can adjust key repeat rates, individual key mappings, etc.

Monitor -- No problems at all with Linux and Windows. I have always had a standard VGA plug and monitor; there are now DVI plugs too so be careful to match your plugs! Generally speaking there are more variations in video cards than monitors, though flat-screen monitors on laptops are a little more limited in that you can't increase the resolution very much. (1024x768 is typical, and works fine.)

Mouse -- no problems with either OS. I do recommend an optical mouse as those little track balls easily gum up. I also recommend a mouse with a mouse wheel since both Windows and Linux allow you to use that, typically to scroll in a long window. USB or PS2 -- makes no difference as long as it plugs in. (Personally I dislike touchpads on a laptop because it's so easy to touch them by accident and move the mouse pointer to some unexpected place, e.g. to the wrong place in a document you are typing; check to see whether the BIOS has a feature to disable it.)

Floppy disks -- no problems with either OS but do keep in mind that these mechanical devices are not all that reliable; indeed they are not always included in new computers. They are handy, though, especially for an alternative way to boot in case something is very wrong with the hard disk (or you are booting from a CD and need to store some configuration files). So I encourage you to have one Just In Case.

Power -- I don't know much about this issue except to say that as far as I know both Linux and Windows can be configured to deal with UPS's and laptop batteries -- that is, once can make settings for power preservation, hibernation status, etc. A UPS is recommended for desktops running critical processes; I don't use one. I know there is a lot of linux stuff for "APIC" or is that "APCI" -- sorry, I don't follow that.

Speakers and Mikes -- I am not an audiophile so I won't attempt to tell you what you "need". For me, the small speakers that come with a desktop PC, or built in to a laptop, are fine, and I don't see anything about the hardware that needs to be different for Windows or Linux use. I will point out that it is very handy to have a separate "line-in" jack so that you can convert your old audio tapes (or even LPs) or radio broadcasts to electronic files, and it is handy to have an earplug jack to be able to listen in privacy. The real sound issues have to do with the underlying sound card, to which we will come later.

CPU This is easy: the faster the better! But I think many people do what I do: they use older machines to experiment, or they figure that an older machine would crawl under Windows but do just fine under the relatively sleek forms of linux. Let me say I am running Mandrake 10.1 (released late 2004) on a machine with a 450MHz Pentium 4 (produced early 1999) and it runs just fine for what I want it to do; I'm sure a CPU half that speed would also be OK. Performance is less good running Windows XP, which uses a lot of graphics processing compared to the linux (which I often run from the command line). If performance speed is an issue for you, you will want no only a faster CPU but also faster disks (HD and CD/DVD both), faster internet connection, and a more powerful graphics card; nowadays I think it is these issues, and the speed of the data bus in the computer, which are the limiting ones for high-data-rate computing, e.g. video capture.

If you are buying new, let me suggest that this is not a good place to economize. My pattern is to hold on to machines for five years or so before buying something new; in the mean time I will update almost every component. But it's really not worth the trouble to replace a CPU because really the whole motherboard is tuned to match the CPU's performance. So look ahead to what you will need for the future. As of this writing I wouldn't buy a CPU slower than 2GHz, and even that I would probably only consider for a laptop -- 2.8GHz seems to be a basic CPU at Best Buy today.

RAM This is also easy: the more the better. But for now you can do just fine with 128Mb; if that's what you've got, though, I think you should consider an upgrade to 256 or even 512 Mb. My rationale is that a lot of what we do with PCs these days seems to involve quantities of data comparable to what's on a CD (e.g. watch a movie, or back up a file system to CD, or move music to an iPod). Well, a CD holds about 700 million bytes (which is what you have when you have 668Mb of RAM ...) and a DVD is about 4 Gb. So you give your OS (and your hard drive) a break when you have hundreds of Mb of RAM free. Of course the OS itself will take up a bunch of RAM to run jobs like keeping an eye on your USB ports or whatever, so a couple hundred Mb of RAM is really a good starting point here.

If you've got an old machine, keep in mind that older (and therefore slower and less-dense) memory grows cheaper as it grows outdated. You can probably pick up more memory cheap on ebay. You're limited by the number of RAM slots on your mother board, and by the maximum capacity of each one. For an old system that may mean you can max out for say fifty bucks; if you're really going to use this computer, skip one meal out and buy RAM instead.

If you're buying a new machine, keep this expansion game in mind. It can make a big difference two years from now whether you bought a 512Mb machine which is already maxed out, or a 512Mb machine which can be upgraded to 2Gb. Don't say I didn't warn you!

If you are buying more memory, you'll need to make sure you have the right number of pins and the right bus speed to match your machine. Some of the vendors of memory sticks have online calculators that give you these kinds of data. There are in addition differences in quality, but I can't say too much about these, except, as I will discuss below, it's not a bad idea to test old RAM as you undertake a project like this; memory does fail sometimes, and it can make a total mess of your project. Oh, and if you are installing more memory sticks, make sure you seat them fully in their slots; it's a snug fit. Your BIOS should check and report on the RAM as soon as you turn on your machine.

Hard drives

Again, more is better. Actually, people who want to set up dual boot systems have been greatly aided by changes in the market. With so many people storing music and photos and so on there is a great demand for large disks. If you are buying a new machine you may easily end up with 100 gigabytes or more of disk space; in a few years we'll speak of terabytes. Meanwhile, the operating systems themselve are not growing so fast. A whole OS can fit on one CD (0.7Gb) before installation; even when you throw in all your favorite purchased software, you can still have an OS which fits comfortably in a 5Gb disk.

Now, you need to plan this carefully, especially if you are using an older machine with less disk space. Realistically you do need to reserve about 5Gb for each OS which you will use heavily, not because the OS is big but because software packages are. And that amount of space just covers utilitarian products -- antivirus, browsers, etc. Games can take up hundreds or thousands of Mb each. Then there's the media: digital cameras take half-megabyte photos all the time, so your photo album can be a gigabyte. People buy iPods with dozens of gigs of memory, so if you want to store as much music as them, you'll need the hard disk space to match. If you want to use your computer as a Tivo-like PVR, you'll need something like one gigabyte per hour.

So you will need to figure out your own space needs. Here I will only be concerned with the OS; if you have a disk smaller than 10Gig you're going to have some trouble installing a dual boot system, while if you have 20 or 30 gig or more, you're in fine shape until you want to start saving those other huge files from the applications.

Fortunately hard disks are cheap, and it's very easy to have two to four inside a desktop PC. (Laptops are trickier; I think you'd need an external drive if you've only got 5-10 Gig or less.) Again, pick up something on ebay. I won't speak to quality but in terms of plugging things in, all modern hard disks are pretty interchangeable.

You don't NEED to have two disks for two OS's, however -- at least none of the OS's of which I speak here.

Optical drives You will find it more or less essential to have a CD-ROM drive. I have never installed linux on a machine that didn't have one.

The ability to write to a CD is also very handy, especially if your hard disk space is tight and you need to offload infrequently used files. It's also very convenient to be able to move lots of data from one machine to another, if you get in the habit of working with other PC users a lot.

Some data, and of course most movies, come on DVDs, so a DVD reader is pretty useful. I would not call it essential unless watching movies is a major goal for you. Even less critical is a DVD burner. Really, a DVD holds only about six times what a CD does, so this is not a major change in technology. Wait until they have a gizmo that holds more than 10 or 20 G of data permanently and then buy that one. (There are conflicting DVD standards anyway -- DVD-R, DVD+R, etc. -- so I say don't go out of your way on this one.)

As far as I know neither of these OS's has any trouble these days with supporting these optical drives.

PCI slots/PCMCIA ports If you are buying a new PC, ask about PCI slots; the machine should have a few vacant ones. These are convenient places to install new hardware, and in the future you may find something you want to install there. Both OSs can generally find hardware attached there, although they don't always quite know what to DO with that hardware.

If you have an old machine with no vacant PCI slots, don't sweat it if it already have the peripherals you really want (typical desirable PCI components include USB and firewire hubs, modems, and network cards.)

I have only seen PCMCIA ports on laptops, but they are very useful in that situation. A desktop PC can be opened a couple of years after you buy it so you can toss in some new or upgraded hardware; a laptop does not have any such spare space. Fortunately the PCMCIA slots allow one or two additional devices to be added that plug straight in to the motherboard bus. So they can transfer lots of data quickly, and they sit firmly in the laptop too, making them almost as good as going inside the machine to install hardware. If you're getting a laptop, make sure you have one or two slots for these. I have not had any trouble getting either OS to recognize a PCMCIA card when inserted.

I believe you can get inexpensive PCMCIA readers for a desktop unit. This could be handy if you buy a PCMCIA device for your laptop and then want to use it on a desktop.

The actual devices you insert into your PCMCIA slot may vary in quality and may vary in their ability to work with your OS. For example, I used such a card to give me more USB ports on my laptop, and another such a card to be able to use the local wireless network. The first card was recognized easily by both OSs but was poor hardware -- it was unable to supply a high enough voltage to allow USB data to flow at the higher USB2.0 rate (of which it was supposedly capable). This is a common problem with these devices and has nothing to do with the OS. (I solved that problem by buying a PCMCIA USB2.0 card from Apricorn -- only two USB slots, and an unwanted dongle, but it works at high speed.) The second card was physically fine, that is, it was able to communicate with the wireless network, but could only speak with Windows -- Windows drivers were supplied with the device but not Linux drivers. (This is sadly common.) I solved that problem by replacing this PCMCIA card with a mini-PCI card made by the manufacturer of the laptop (Toshiba); it fit perfectly and Linux recognized it immediately.

Cables and stuff It never hurts to have lots of connecting cables. They're cheap and useful. I bought a bunch from OutletPC (http://store.yahoo.com/outletpc/). Get yourself one or two USB extension cables so you don't have to have the PC itself in your way if you don't want it. Get a type-A to type-B adapter too (rectangular plug to small square plug) since people sell devices that need them and then try to sell an over-priced cable separately ("Thank you" Office Max). Likewise get an extender for your mouse/keyboard if you have a PS/2 mouse and want to roam a little bit from the PC, and an extra-long phone cord since your phone outlet is sure to be someplace inconvenient. (You can also get a little 2-to-1 splitter so your modem can plug in where the phone was without you having to remove the latter.) You can get a USB hub which will let you attach more USB devices to your too-few ports. These are all passive devices and not OS-dependent. (However, you probably want to make sure any USB devices can handle USB2.0, which is to say whether they can losslessly transmit data at these higher data rates.)

You might want to get video cables to enable you to transfer a video signal to a TV or a computer monitor. This is especially handy if you want to set up a new machine while working with another machine at the same time, but have only one monitor. Note that TVs operate at a lower resolution (something like 800x575 -- it varies by country) than a typical PC so you may not be able to read things as well on a TV screen. It is better if your computer and your TV have an "S-video" jack since there is less data loss with these than with a traditional coax cable. If you have a laptop and expect to travel you might find a TV cable to be handy if you are pressed into service to make a presentation and no projector is available; a big TV will do. Whether these will work with a particular OS is not really the right question: these cables carry an analogue signal from your video card to a display unit, and the only question is whether your OS can coerce the video card to make the right signal from, say, a web page. But that's a question of the capabilities of your video card -- see below.

I would probably not have included this section except to say that I also bought a PC-to-PC USB cable which can be used to transfer data directly between PCs using the USB ports. You need the $20 gizmo; a simple cable wouldn't work even if the genders are correct. This is very useful when setting up a new machine if another machine already has all the files you really want -- especially if one of them lacks a CD drive or at least a CD burner. The device works fine under XP but I have not yet found software for it under linux -- so there, my first concrete example of why a dual-boot machine is handy even for a unix fan.

modems Modems are very frustrating little devices. Once upon a time they were moderately complex subsystems of a computer, but they successfully negotiated, on their own, a translation of the beeps and boops of the phone line to the 0s and 1s of the computer. Over time, data transmissions stabilized (56Kbs has been the maximum speed for years now) while CPUs got faster, and someone at Microsoft got the idea to borrow the main CPU's processing power for modem functions. The result is that modems themselves got smaller and simpler and cheaper, but they require more and more assistance from the operating system.

The result is that there is now a wide variety of modems, each of which require separate handling. I can't really explain quite why the situation is as bad as it is, but it is bad. I upgraded one machine from Win2000 to WinXP and a modem which Win2K could use was simply opaque to WinXP.

Even worse, this transition has made it very tricky to use modems under linux. The manufacturers of these devices can see the advantage to working closely with Redmond to ensure that their product can compete in the dominant market. But they frequently spend zero effort to produce comparable drivers for linux, and in fact often give a cold shoulder to requests for data from programmers who want to do the coding themselves.

If you have the opportunity to choose a modem, check online first and see whether anyone has succeeded in producing a linux driver for the ones you are considering. You might also want to look a little more closely when a driver exists: will you personally be able to carry out the steps called for? (" tar -zxf driver.tar.zip; make; make install ...")

I have been through this process a few times now and succeeded most of the times but at some point one has to be willing to concede that the effort is not worth the rewards; if you need to use a modem, and you've got a modem that you can't install, then consider spending $50 for an additional modem that DOES come with a linux driver. Such modems are available as PCI cards, PCMCIA cards, and external boxes.

The modems which I have made work are the AMR modems in two Toshiba Satellite laptops, an old ISA slot modem, and an HSF (Conexant) modem whose free driver limits me to 14.4Kbs (i.e. one-quarter speed); the driver I gave up on is a Rockwell/Conexant PCI card. [Note to self: get the actual identifying data into here].

wireless cards These are tricky for both Windows and Linux. Both are supported, in principle. I have installed only one successfully, and can recommend that you do what I did: take this as an opportunity to spend a few extra bucks to get a top-rated device or one which is explicitly supported by the manufacturer of your computer. Check online, too, for news about which cards work.

USB ports and devices

USB devices are very common, and many of them work well with both Windows and Linux. Many also work poorly, again possibly for one or both of these OSs. This is a good occasion to be thankful that you (will) have more than one operating system at your disposal. In the case of Windows it has happened on many occasions to me that a particular sequence of plugging in this and activating that and so on was necessary to get good results.

A word about USB standards: first there was USB 1.0; it's pretty much gone but if you have USB1.0 ports you may find that you can't do much with them. Much more common is USB1.1 ("full speed") which was the port du jour from about 2000 to 2003. Nowadays more common is USB2.0 ("high speed"), which operates an order of magnitude faster for data transmission, so clearly this is what you want if you're transferring lots of data. THe USB1.1 and USB2.0 devices can talk to each other, but at the lower speed.

Some USB devices only plug in to get power. I've seen lamps and fans and radios and computer speakers that work this way. If you want to run these things, you'll need to be plugged in because they can wear down your laptop battery pretty fast. (But then, why don't you just buy a regular fan that plugs into the wall?) Anyway these devices don't require an operating system at all, but they do eat up USB connectors, of which you have only a few, right? You might look into buying an additional PCI card which offers another four or so USB ports.

Some USB devices are fairly simple such as mice and jumpdrives or flash drives or whatever you call them. They don't require much interaction from the OS, but obviously they do require some. This means they will only work with versions of Windows newer than Win98 (I think this includes NT, CE, ME, 2K, and XP), and only with versions of Linux with a newish kernel (I think this means later than 2.4; Mandrake 10.1 uses kernel 2.6 and it handles these devices just fine). Note that these devices do require power; if you have a low-power USB port -- and that's a hardware question, not an OS one -- then an _optical_ mouse might not work, or the flash drive might not operate at high speed.

More complicated devices require at least a driver, which (depending on the manufacturer) might mean Windows only -- or I should say "only possibly Windows" since the drivers often don't work. This includes USB webcams, scanners, and sound cards, each of which I have tried to install and at best partially succeeded -- and that's with Windows. But for now let me just stress tha the USB ports themselves are understood by the newer versions of both OSs. (In their analyses of their systems they will refer to things like UHCI drivers etc. -- that's the part of the OS that deals with USB ports).

By the way, if you have the money, you might want to get a flash drive which holds more than about 700Mb so that you can, in a pinch, transport the contents of a whole CD. That can be especially helpful if you have trouble getting a CD drive to work (In Unix a simple command like dd if=/dev/hdc of=/mnt/removable/myCD.iso will copy the entire disk as an ISO file that can for example be mounted as a device, burned to a CD, etc.) There have only been a few occasions when my 256Mb memory device was not enough, but as prices fall over the years this will be something to think about.

As I note below, I have heard rumors that the USB interface is sort of deliberately crippled in Windows because they want(ed) to push Firewire instead.

Video cards

Network cards

Sound cards

scanners

printers I don't know anything about using printers with linux. I almost never use printers under windows, either, though I can report that I have occasionally plugged one in to my windows machine and installed very large sets of software and then not had any problems sending jobs to the printer. The printers themselves fail pretty frequently though (paper jams etc.)

firewire / IEEE1394 ports I have such a port on my laptop and have looked for a good way to use it. There are a few external drives (hard disk, CD-ROM, DVD burner, etc.) which can take advantage of their high transfer rates, and likewise a number of video cameras. That's about it, and I use none of those. I'm open to suggestion -- I hate to have an unused resource!

I read that Microsoft wanted the firewire port to become a sort of universal attachment for peripherals, the way USB has become. It is said that it is for this reason that they dragged their feet on USB support, which would explain why so many USB devices don't even work with Windows, let along linux.

joysticks and game controllers Never even tried these.

external drives (esp USB, CD, disk) I have had no use for these, although my son did use an external (USB) CD burner when they were new. It worked well with windows but only versions newer than Windows 98, which did not support USB.

New or used?

lin system; namebrand virtues

Desktop, Laptop, or Server?

Windows (re-)installation disk

Linux installation disks

Rescue materials

Sources of information

Update your Bios

Check RAM and Hard Disk(s)

Partition your disk

Which MicroSoft OS --- and why any at all?

Legal or pirated?

Initial Windows checks

Which variant? (Mandrake, RedHat/Fedora, Debian, SuSE, Gentoo, etc.)

Rolling your own

Initial installation (esp. Mandrake 10.1)

Initial settings and housekeeping

Install optional material from installation disks (RPMs)

External packages (Mozilla Firefox, Adobe Acrobat, etc.)

Making the hardware play along

Customization

External packages (Mozilla Firefox, Adobe Acrobat, etc.)

Making the hardware play along

Customization

Updating anti-virus and other materials

Dealing with changes in hardware

Keeping your system tidy and harmonious

This page last modified 2005-03-20