Awesome, thanks! I have a question about security in Linux/Unix. Is free antivirus software good enough or should I wait and go buy something stronger before I start browsing the web? I mostly watch the news online and PBS programs.
I wouldn't worry about it; until Linux becomes more widespread on the desktop (if it ever does...), 99% of virus writers aren't going to bother targeting it. Most distros have clamav in their repositories, if you're the paranoid type go ahead and install it. AFAIK Avast and AVG have Linux versions as well, but I have never tried them.
Most Linux distros also take a fairly minimalistic approach to network services, enabling only those services which are absolutely essential and those that you have explicitly requested. This reduces the number of potential attack vectors considerably. Just use a firewall (either an external one, or a software one from your distro's repository) and keep your browser up to date, and you should be fine.
Splitting linux system in / /boot /home /etc /var is some weird Linux geek tradition that makes it PITA for regular users without any gains whatsoever. Don't make things complicated - / as ext4, and swap closer to outer side of the disk, unless on SDD, in which case it doesn't matter.
The /boot thing is a holdover from the days when old BIOSes frequently had trouble accessing all of the sectors on larger hard drives. Put /boot at the start of the disk, and let the Linux kernel deal with LBA after it boots. It may also have some advantages when dealing with software RAID arrays, but newer versions of GRUB can handle that even if /boot isn't given special treatment.
Plus Linux makes it impossible to see how much space you have on each of the partitions, "du -h" is fugly, and disk space tools work only on plain hierarchy, so just don't do it! And backing up is also easier with "cp -R ~/* /mnt/sdcard" or something, or tarballing everything.
While I agree with your "don't bother with all the separate partitions" advice, I'm a little puzzled by this comment. The df command tells me exactly how much space is in use (and free) on every one of my mounted partitions, including ones I've imported from other file servers (NFS and/or Windows).
The years just pass like trains. I wave, but they don't slow down.
-- Steven Wilson