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The computer I was given has 2 Linux OS's installed, each on its own partition with a seperate swap partition. What I want to do is wipe one out, but leave the partition in place so I can build a new system there. Is that possible, and/or would I even need to do such a thing?
Most installers will let you specify the partitions but you need to use the expert mode so you really do not need to do anything. BTW you really only need one swap partition.
Unfortunately, the new system I'm building is straight from the source code, so there's no formal installation involved yet.
You can wipe out the 2nd OS from the first by reformating its partition.
Okay, I tried formatting using the mke2fs command, unsuccessfully. Here is the transcript...

<prompt>: mke2fs /dev/hda3
bash: mke2fs: command not found
<prompt>: man mke2fs
<showed the man document for mke2fs>
<prompt>: whereis mke2fs
mke2fs /sbin/mke2fs /usr/share/man/man8/mke2fs.8.gz

Any idea why this isn't working?
/sbin is not in the current path environment. If you logged in as root via the su command use:
su -
This will use root's environment and not the current user. You can always use the full path too i.e.
/sbin/mke2fs -j /dev/hda3

The -j option creates an ext3 filesystem.
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