The 2100 boots nicely off of the external CD and the RedHat installer understands the screen, mouse and keyboard, so starting up was easy.
As I suspected that this unallocated space was used for the BIOS suspend function I did not want to eliminate it and I certainly had space to spare. However, PartitionMagic 6.0 would not create new partitions without reclaiming this space. I used PartitionMagic only to re-size the Windows partition down to 7G, which it did without difficulty.
I booted from the RedHat CD and selected Custom Installation. I then used fdisk (from the RedHat install) to create Linux /boot, swap, / (root), and /home partitions. I created a separate partition for /home so I could potentially re-install without losing data. I considered a separate partition for /usr/local as well, but ultimately decided against. In retrospect, I probably should have split the Windows partition for the same reason, but didn't. After writing the new partition table with fdisk, I went back and used Disk Druid (also from the install CD) to assign mount points to the Linux partitions. The final disk setup was as follows:
Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System /dev/hda1 * 35 926 7164990 b Win95 FAT32 /dev/hda2 * 927 929 24097+ 83 Linux /dev/hda3 930 995 530145 82 Linux swap /dev/hda4 996 2432 11542702+ f Win95 Ext'd (LBA) /dev/hda5 996 1505 4096543+ 83 Linux /dev/hda6 1506 2432 7446096 83 Linux
The system installed and booted perfectly: X windows and audio worked without further configuration.
updatedbcron job, which seemed to start up, exercise the disk, and run down the battery at inopportune times.
I tend to get about 2.5 hours of development type work from the 34wh battery, which is acceptable.
The fn-suspend function works very nicely for both Linux and Windows and saves many reboots (which are fast enough but tend to drain battery).
All and all, I am very pleased with this machine and with RH7.1.
Disclaimer: This is intended as a narrative of my experience loading Linux on an Inspiron 2100 laptop. It is not intended as advice or recommendations. Your results may vary.