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Linux Virtual vs Dual Boot

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Hi Guys,

I am about to start a Unit on Operating Systems at my Uni, and for this we are using Linux Fedora 8.
I have always been a bit curious about Linux, so this will be a nice way to ease in for me.

I just have a couple of questions especially after talking to my neighbour who is usually the man that does all of our IT Stuff (from before I started getting into the area myself).

Firstly these are my system specs:

HP Pavillion DV8310TX
Windows XP MCE Version 2002 SP 2
Intel Dual Core T2400 @ 1.83Ghz
2GB Ram
NVidia Go 7600
OS (C:) 97.2GB NTFS
HP_Recovery (E:) 13.4GB FAT32
(I am assuming that these are all partitions of the same HD... how do I tell?)
I also have a 1TB external HD to back things up on.

Firstly, While using Linux initially, would it be easier to try it Virtually? Is Virtual Box the best kind of software to do this? Or would long term it be easier to do it as a Dual boot system? Is it easy enough to remove if I decide I no longer want it? Is there any tutorials on using it? If using the virtual machine to run linux, do I need to partition HDs?

If I do dual boot, is it better to partition previous to the installation? My neighbour said I should put everything I want onto the D: Drive and sacrifice the C: Drive... but this doesnt seem right? Can i not do it the other way (since it is already there?). If i was to partition the D: Drive, i understand I will need 3 clear partitions, /root, /boot and swap... and swap should be twice the amount of ram (so 4gb?) but how much space will the others need? Given that my D: Drive is 111GB it seems a little excessive for linux... Is there a way to make say 50gb of it still available to windows?
I also use my laptop to view stuff from my Xbox 360, am I to understand that it will no longer be able to find media if it is in a drive that is formatted for Linux (this isnt that much of an issue, just a query). Also, if I use something like partition magic, will I lose all information on the partition? I have been looking over: http://www.overclock...boot_fedora_xp/ and wondering if it is really that simple?

I think that is all I can think of question wise for now... I am sure there will be more! Haha... Sorry to bombard you all! And thanks in advance for the help!
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It would be easier to test either with a Virtual machine or with a Live CD. I like VirtualBox and the virtual machine's disk is just a file on the host machine so that you don't need to repartition the disk or anything, but you do need enough disk space. It is also easy to remove it. I personally like the Virtual machine since you can then use both at once. I work I have a Linux box with a Virtual Windoze machine. At home, I used to have a dual boot machine and it was a pain because switching always took time and you could not be in the middle of something. I would have a virtual machine at home, but I need a faster machine with more memory, so instead I have a second machine which is normally turned off.

If you have enough space available on the C partition, I would use something like gparted to shrink the size of the partition.

If you partition the disk, you should also have a /home partition for your data. You really don't want it on the root partition and the boot partition should be 100 Mb or less. Depending on what you load, 4-6Gb for the root filesystem is good. Swap can be less than 2 times the memory (that is an old number to use when there was a lot less memory).

The amount of space that you need depends on what you do and what you load.

Windoze does not understand the Linux partitions, but Linux can access some of the Windoze partition. I believe that some can read and write NTFS now (still living in the past), but you can also use packages like Samba to share the disks through remote access.

If you repartition the disk using tools like partition magic or gparted, all the data *should* be there, but you should have a backup, just in case.

I personally don't care for RedHat (for many reasons), but most Linux Distros are easy to dual boot using Grub. I have seen RedHat not know various devices, whereas other Distros know what the devices are. A friend loaded RedHat on a laptop a couple of years ago and it could not access the CDROM, video or network, which made it kind of hard to upgrade the drivers. The CDROM is especially funny since it was loaded from it, but I have seen that myself. He then loaded Mandrake (pre Mandriva) and everything loaded and worked right out of the box.
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