Well, today it wasn't a manual, but close enough. I got myself another USB disk or thumb drive. One thing nice about Mandrake is that once you plug it in, it does the rest and puts a shortcut on the desktop. Once you're done, right click on it, choose Unmount, the icon disappers and you can take it out. I have a thumb drive which works fine. So, I expected the new one to work without a hitch but of course, it didn't. dmesg at the console said something about the partitions not aligned, out whack or something. I did manage to manually mount it without much hassle. Not much once but annoyingly enough when repeated several times a day.
I ran Mandrake Control Center but it didn't see the drive. Well, it was listed on the List of Hardware (Harddrake) but when I ran the config tool it kept on trying to configure the hard disk. I finally took a look at the box to find out where it said "Linux Compatible". The box assured me that, so I read on. And there it was, it said
If using Linux 2.4 kernel and above use 'fdisk' and 'format'.
Yup, clear as day. So I ran Mandrake Control Center again and used the repartition tool. It immediately offered to remove all existing partition because it can't read them and I accepted. I set it to auto mount (supermount) and allowed the user to mount it (Advanced options). Formatted it with FAT32 (still need to share data with Windows-using-people plus you never what computer I might get stuck using at any time in the future). Plugged in my laptop (Mandrake 10) and 'removable disk' appeard on the desktop.
Lesson of the day: RTFM. Even if it is only the box.