"this thing did not come with a CD so it looks like I gotta buy an external drive and make a system rescue cd so I can get back to factory defaults if I screw it up. Slight delay in getting Linux installed."
you can (or you should) make a rescue usb (over 4 gb) .
no need for an external drive...
my wife has got one of those... running
the win7 thing with virtualbox... running a different linux flavour .... cam works... haven't tryed wifi...
My son received a Samsung with processor N450 for his birthday. I comes with Seven installed, and I had the same thought : but no way I would by an external cd/dvd reader/burner ! Well, I went to a Windows chan to ask for advise, and there, most of the people were Linux dual-booters.
They advised me to do the backup with Clonezilla. I installed the live Clonezilla on the usb key, and did a full dump through ssh to my Desktop computer.
I'm not an expert, that was the first time I was using it, so I read carefully what was on the screen, and figured out that I'd better do a full hard drive image, and not partition by partition. Then the full dump was allright, with several files and directories in a directory named "win7-xxx-long-name-xxx.img".
In the meanwhile, I destroyed Windows boot playing too hard with EasyBCD. /o\
No problem, my son can live without Windows Seven. He only uses Linux distros to play a few games and write a few mails to his Grand-father, the author of the gift. ^^
But if the author of the gift sees one day the machine without win7 !
I restored the full w7 with Clonezilla. I had to restart several times (there is an option to go back to the beginning in Clonezilla) because I didn't a howto I could understand right away under my eyes. In fact, I had to create a directory named "partimag" just under the /home of the distro where I have the dump, then copy (or move, but I preferred to do a full cp -R there) the dump to this directory, and then Clonezilla did the job. (I had to select the partitions to restore, that was easy)
When finished, all was restored, w7 booted again, but not the distros. I just had to install Grub on the mbr and then all was fine.