Linux n00b wanting to setup a laptop for dual-boot between SuSE 9.3 and WinXP or Vista

ok, so i have decided to make a concerted effort to make the switch to Linux as a full-time OS.  I have a SuSE 9.3 pro distro, an IBM R51 with a 40GB drive, 256MB RAM, and am installing from DVD.  After doing some research, i decided to install Linux first and use GRUB as the loader.  So, i started the install, and customized my partitions as so:
3 x Primary partitions
/boot = 32MB FAT32
/ = 7.5GB Reiser
/usr = 7.5GB Reiser
1 x 10.5GB Extended partition with the following Logicals
/var = 3GB Reiser
/tmp = 2GB Reiser
/home = 5.5GB Reiser
swap = 512MB

i then selected a fairly moderate set of packages that basically included KDE and Gnome (want to try both out), and some net analysis tools, (ethereal, bing, etc).  I had the system autocheck dependencies and proceeded to try to install.  It got about 10% (est) into the install and then announced that 'Installation of package grub-0.95-16.i586 failed'.  I figured i might have some leftover partition wackiness on the drive, so i booted with a BartPE cd i keep with some utils on it, ran an FDISK /MBR to completely nuke partitions on the system, and reattempted the install, same as above.  I got the same result.  I know i could reattempt using LiLO, but that seems like a bandaid rather than a real solution.

So, after all that, i'm left wondering a few things:
1.  If i'm going to dual-boot, i was assuming that i needed some amount of space at the beginning of the drive to allow Win-whatever to do it's thing, install-wise.  Am i incorrect in this thinking?
2. Is there something really spacey about my partitioning schema that's causing this?
3. Should i be doing something different?

BTW - i have setup a dual-boot system with RH 6 and Win2kpro before, but that was back when i was a real engineer and before i drank the management kool-aid.  I know these questions are probably otherwise trivial to you all, but since i've been out of the game for a while (almost 6 years since i did any real engineering), it's really plexing me.

Thanks in advance for any assistance with this issue, and feel free to blast any of my thoughts and confgurations as well.

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/boot = 32MB FAT32

No Way !!!

/boot definitely needs a Linux filesystemm on it (ext3, Reiser, ....)

so that's why your GRUB (wants to reside in boot, namely his second stage boot loader and config) does fail.

Also Linux kernel is going into /boot, so . . .  ; ))) everything else looks fine on first glance

Another one:

1. Installation of Windows
2. Installation of Linux

is the correct order I have learned ; ))

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xberry is right linux is on ext2 or ext3 file system, and install windows before the linux.

anyway here is some reference for how to install dual boot on window with linux so that you can have clear picture.
Windows removes any 3rd party boot loaders unasked, the linux installers usually ask what you want done, so that is the reason you should install the m$ stuff before linux as stated above. Personlly I think it is better for you to get a 2nd HD, if possible also get a 2nd drive caddy for your notebook from IBM so it is easy to change, and install linux on one HD and XP on the other, this will save you from booting problems and boot managers getting overwritten whenever you update your windows... HD's aren't very expensive.

There is a newer version of SuSE you should be able to download from the novell site. Newer versions usually have better hardware support...
Fdisk/MBR doesn't nuke the partition table... it rewrites the MBR, M$ fashion and nukes whatever Linux bootloader is present.

I suggest (probably re-stating old comments; sorry!) that you wipe the drive (zero-fill or just blot out the partition table) and then install windows on a partition that is about half the HD. Leave the rest unpartitioned. Then, when you're satisfied with your windows system, install Linux (SUSE 9.3 might me dated, but depending on the hardware it might also be quite OK) and let it install GRUB. That should be all... Has worked a number of times for me without any headaches (until you have to re-install windows, of course...). For Linux partitioning I usually let the install program do the job. Seems to work OK.
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