I have a laptop running Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium on an Intel Core i5 processor. The laptop has 4 GB RAM and a 640 GB hard drive. I would like to install Ubuntu in a dual-boot configuration such that there is a partition for data that is accessible regardless of whether I boot into Windows or Ubuntu. Besides the Windows, Ubuntu, and shared data partitions, any recommendations of other partitions that would optimize performance would be appreciated. I've searched the forum and cannot find any posts that have this (or somewhat similar) partition scheme. Any help would be appreciated.
Also, I know you can run Ubuntu from a DVD or a USB stick, but can you install from a USB stick rather than a DVD?