Sorry to be so long in replying but for some reason it took a long while before I began to get emails saying this thread had received new posts. Here's a few points of interest for some of the follow-up posts I've seen.
ESi Juli@ - The present condition of this great, great sound card in Linux is that the Alsa Projects driver in *newer* kernels works great for as far as it goes. I'm presently using a customized 2.6.22 kernel (compiled for extra low latancy for one treat) but IIRC even 3 year old Xandros v3.0 which defaulted to a 2.6.10 kernel had Juli@ working on very first boot. I don't know how old of a 2.6.x kernel will work nor if any stock 2.4.x kernels will work. I just know that any kernel newer than 2.6.10 will work just fine, many out of the box with no recompiling like the Xandros install. Although I deleted Kubuntu after about 2 weeks of tryout (Feisty Fawn IIRC) I think Juli@ worked on 1st boot with it too. Given one has such a kernel one has only to check in the .config (often /boot/config or /boot/config-kernel-name) text file and search for "juli@" or, better, "ice1724" (the name of the sound processor chip common to it and several other semi-pro audio chips and btw considerably superior to Creative for music playback and recording though not quite as bass-boosty thunderous in games w/o a little EQ help). For those not familiar with kernel config files, each driver/module usually has three (3) possible selections 1) OFF 2) ON - driver compiled right into the kernel which has the advantage of support even at command line/console level and no "calls" are required to load the driver, and 3) MODULE - the most flexible, most common, and fastest since the kernel stays small, lean 'n mean, and the driver can be loaded and unloaded on demand.
The downside is that presently recording is crippled in Linux kernels as of 2.6.22 and midi seems to be a case of luck or lots of hard work. However the sound quality and latancy a factor of X 10 less than Vista/XP delivers awesome playback quality and overall experience. ESi still is promising full Linux support for this card but who knows whether that will actually occur. However it is worth noting that ESi did bother to make a driver for 64bit XP which most manufacturers just ignore like a red-headed stepchild so maybe there is some hope here yet for Linux. OTOH ALSA-PROJECTS is doing very well especially since they became the default driver as of the 2.6.x kernel, besting the long entrenched OSS driver rival, and continu to upgrade drivers even for souncards many consider to be obsolete - one of the things I like about linux and hate about windows - the abandonment issue, getting stuck with unsupported hardware/software. Certainly it is easiest to research support before buying hardware when one uses an alternative OpSys, but generally sooner or later support occurs. Hell, Linux has support for old Amiga stuff and continues to upgrade drivers for weird, old PC hardware as you'll see when you peep that kernel config file.
Linux vs/ Windows software -
Yes there are a few programs (NOT generally games since Wine and Cedega allow most games that don't have a native Linux installer like Unreal Tournament, Quake, and many others have, to run just fine with only a slight performance hit most often more than compensated by solid stability and extreme low latancy [think extremely low LAG advantage] if one has either an nVidia or lately, even an ATi, video card since excellent accelerated drivers are freely available for Linux from the respective manufacturers) that even I, a 10+ year Linux user, still prefer to dual boot for. However since becoming near full time Linux user and especially in the last 2 or 3 years, I am now seeing programs available only in Linux (and sometimes Mac since OSX is a Unix-based OpSys too) that are unavailable in any edition of Windows that are either superior to rival software or in some cases absolutely unavailable at any price for the windows platform.
An example of "simply superior" exists in not only one but a couple MP3/Music players with built in organizers such as "Amarok" and "Aqualung". If you've tried Google's "Picasa" to organize, manipulate, tweak, import/export and display your photos, which BTW has a native Linux version, imagine that kind of simple, elegance and power in a music player/organizer. That's what you can expect from AMAROK and AQUALUNG and forums have many users bewailing the fact that a windows version doesn't exist and if we consider the tone of posts in just this thread from windows defenders you can imagine how hard it is for these folks to admit that in a growing number of cases, free software is beginning to exceed commercial software built for Billy and the Boys.
Although "Gimp" isn't quite "Photoshop" yet (and maybe it never will try to copy some of the "features" that few people actually use or that behaves as mere bloat) since I have been using Linux for 10+ years I have seen the differences in each new release of Gimp and such quantum leaping can only result in equalling if not surpassing it ultimately. Many would argue that with version 2.4.4 Gimp (and especially "GimpShop" - google it!) have already taken over the competition when you consider the average to semi-pro user needed features and especially speed and number of possible layers. Similarly, while "ARDOUR" isn't quite "ProTools" yet, it, too has grown at a logarithmic rate and is the equal of other "semi-pro to pro" recording software that is selling for hundreds of dollars and even has some features only found in recording costing *thousands* of dollars and it is free, as in "free beer", no monetary cost AND has the distinct advantage since it is Open Source to be utterly customizable for specific needs in ways not even imagined by it's creators by a programmer capable of anything from a text script to Perl script to full on "C" programming wheras this is expressly illegal (and basically impossible, short of heavy duty reverse engineering w/o the source code as a map). Ultimately the choice between Linux and Windows reflects this, Customizable vs/ Locked In, Open vs/ Proprietary, Freedom vs/ Slavery (or at least "Indentured Servant) Legal vs/ Warez
There is much more Open software than Firefox, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Gimp, etc etc etc that are anywhere from "catching up" to already the default standard worldwide. Besides all you so-called windows guys are already Linux users since almost every cell phone on planet Earth (and numerous other smart appliances) currently run a version of Linux. I suspect if windows Vista were used on cell phones they'd still look like they did in the 70's where one had to carry the batteries in a backpack! LOL! Plus it has only been in the past few years thata specially "hardened" version of windows had sufficient stability and security to pass military standards and even with that it is not used in "mission critical" applications. Unix and it's derivatives,including Linux, is.
Making Swap, and Other Partitions -
Someone asked about this and I've always preferred when installing any OpSys to setup partitions beforehand rather than leaving it to the install media, especially considering that in the past when only commercial software was available to do this and it cost almost as much as an entire OS, (you can imagine the mere pennies alotted for the partiton editting portion of an install disk version) not to mention that Windows can't setup anything other than windows partitions and in fact used to actively seek and destroy competitive partitions, even up to and including early versions of XP, during install and/or 1st boot to desktop.
I have used and loved PQMagic ever since about 1995 when Partition Magic first came out. Even the text-only version was awesome but when I bought v3.0 with that killer GUI where you could just grab and stretch, or grab and reduce, either end of the colored bars that represented your partitions and turned often scary work into actual fun. A few years ago Symantec/Norton bought it out and immediatley dropped some features and have since done very little to keep current and just bloated it out like most commercial software seems to evolve and thus created a bit of a vacuum. Although there actually are a few competitors like Acronis, few people even know the company name let alone that they have bootable CD's with great partitioning tools on them, albeit similarly high priced. Fortunately there is now a free, Open Source alternative that is every bit as powerful, intuitive, and safe.
The Open Source partitioning tool for Linux is called either "GParted" or "QTParted" since the basic tool is "Parted" and "G" is the Gnome based GUI layer and "QT" is the KDE-like graphic interface. Recently "Gparted" has become available, even featured, on several Linux LiveCD's, that is to say bootable w/o requiring any installation. Note - many Live CD's don't even require there to be a hard drive at all, anywhere even near the system
IN the case of GParted, of course what would be the point? Well actually since an entire OpSys is included one could get one's email, play games, determine where Betelgeuse is in the night sky where you live, whatever one would normally use an OpSys for since once "un-zipped" to ram a single CD represents around 2 gigs worth of OpSys plus applications which is a lot when you don't have the bloat that we've all become accustomed to, and occaissionally cursed out, with each so-called new windows version.
Anyway my favorites are "Slax" and "Puppy" Live CD's with Puppy being the fastest by a little and by far the most "newbie friendly" since the very first screen you see on the desktop is a "How To...". Most people can just click on about 4 defaults for those choices work fine in most cases regarding networking and video card/monitor driver selection but it is certainly easier and a bit calmer to just know ahead of time at least your monitor's specs/capabilities especially if you still use a CRT instead of a flat-panel, and again especially if you want the fastest graphics. It'll work regardless with the defaults, just possibly not tweaked out as much as is possible, and in the case of Puppy Linux amazingly fast even on an old classic pentium w/ 32-64 megs of ram laptop even if it's some weird off-brand. Right on the desktop and also in the "menu" you'll see "Gparted" which also has extensive "how to" within it's "Help --- About" menuitem, not the typical, non-helpful crap one usually sees in commercial software. It, like PQMagic, has an utterly simple GUI where you can see and really visualize your hard drive and it's partitions (or lack thereof) and because it is not bloated with a lot of extra added "features' it is just ridiculously easy and confident to use to build, resize, delete, check-for-errors and gather info on partitons including all manner of FAT, NTFS, Reiser, Ext2, Ext3, Xfs, and Linux Swap. If you even have a mere 256Megs of ram, it is unlikely you're going to need more than ~200megs of swap file. Compare that to the *GIGS* required by Windows Vista if it will even boot off of only 256Megs of RAM without giving you time to shower and prepare and eat a 4 course meal befoe it gets to the desktop AND where you can actually click on something and have it run. We all know windows cheats on that by showing the desktop long before you can actually use it, right?
Anyway, fellas, that's certainly enough for now and dammit I was really gonna keep this brief this time! Oh well....