Here is how IanMcDonald is getting qemu running Linux.

Create a disk image like:

qemu-img create file1.img 5G

which creates an image of 5 Gigabyte.

Start qemu as follows:

qemu -boot d -cdrom /dev/cdrom  -hda hd.img

Install the operating system. And then start qemu as below:

qemu -hda hd.img -boot c

However this created problems getting files in and out so better to create a loopback file system. For more on this see UserModeLinux.

Qemu and networking

Qemu can present a network device to the guest operating system via tuntap.
You should boot it like:

qemu -boot c -hda hd.img -net nic,model=ne2k_pci -net tap,ifname=tap0,script=/path/to/tunconfig

the file tunconfig should contain something like:

/sbin/ifconfig ${1##/*/}

The above command appears to create an NE2K device at address 0xc100, irq 10.

Hardware information

Qemu has a built in console which you can use to get system information.
To access the console, use Ctrl-Alt-2

Some commands that may be useful:

 show pci
 show network