Most distros at least give you the option to manually partition your drive. I know Red Hat has 'Disk Druid'. Many just allow you to use fdisk.
1.5 X memory is plenty for swap, unless you really short on memory (less than, say, 32MB) then go 2X.
Partitioning schemes should be handled based on your experience. New users usually do best with one, big assed partition. I keep a separate /home partition, so I can re-install the system without losing my personal files. Looks like this:
I've been pretty happy with this configuration for the past few years. I wouldn't suggest messing with splitting up the other directories unless you have a specific reason to. The original purpose of doing so is to mount *different disks* to these directories, giving either additional storage, or redundancy.ie, mounting an NFS share to a backup directory would give you a convenient backup solution.
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