I first installed windows but the "lite" version customized to my tastes and without all of the junk. http://kittyandbear.net/john/research/windows-slipstream-install-nlite.txt
Next I downloaded the stable Debian 5 CD ISO image and burned it ( http://www.debian.org/CD/http-ftp/ )
On the IBM r31 Laptop, pressing F1 for BIOS or F12 for Boot Device Menu allowed me to get the cdrom to boot (once I had swapped out the intermittently dying cd rom drive!)
The netinstall CD GUI installer hung in the middle of the installation so I had to do it with the Text installer, which is better anyways for learning purposes and control of the final product.
(Advanced -> Expert Install)
All of the basic choices are easy enough (though I never use LVM's because they're harder to recover from a crash and I don't intend on lots of Linux partitions that I will grow or move around...) in fact, for a home desktop/experimental machine a swap partition = RAM and everything else in a single partition (/) root is fine.
I chose to not even select the "Standard" base installation - this will be as minimal as possible (around 390MB)
Shadow passwords are a default for security (store in clear plain text!?!?)
The biggest problem I had was that GRUB2 put Windows at hd(0,0), and I had to learn and then modify Grub2's config:
hd(0,0) changed to hd(0,1)
Then run the command: update-grub
Booting back in windows add/remove programs to remove Debian Installer Loader. To access Linux files I chose ExtFSD which is a program that can either run temporarily or as a service and force ext3 read and write (which is backwards compatible for ext2).
The old READ & WRITE software I used (a driver that loads into the Windows OS) http://www.fs-driver.org/index.html
BUT by default debian 5 installs 256Byte ext3 inodes, UNFORTUNATELY ext2if only reads 128Byte inode
sudo tune2fs -l /dev/sda2 | grep Inode
the solutions I've read involve either backing up, reformatting with 128 or before installing, using a different install cd to format the partition as a 128 Byte inode, and then running the Debian installer and choosing NOT to format the partition...
Now I just have to go through the agony of re-adding my Linksys wifi pci card to Linux (fwcutter and wpa_supplicant)...
forgot that the /etc/apt/sources.list may have to be updated/added
deb http://http.us.debian.org/debian stable main contrib non-free deb http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US stable/non-US main contrib non-free deb http://security.debian.org stable/updates main contrib non-free