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A unified analytical framework for evaluating the performance of maximal ratio combining (MRC) and orthogonal space-time block coding (OSTBC) over generalized fading channels is presented. The basic motivation for developing such a framework pertains to analyzing the distribution of a sum of squared random variables (RVs) belonging to different families of fading distributions. Following a novel analytical approach stemming from the definition of a common moment generating function (MGF) model for these families of distributions, the probability density function (PDF) and the cumulative distribution function (CDF) of a general sum of squared RVs are expressed by simple infinite Gamma series expansions. Based on these expressions, the capacity and error probability of MRC/OSTBC over generalized fading channels is thoroughly studied. The developed theory is used to evaluate the performance of OSTBC for a mixed Nakagami-m/Rice fading model and novel analytical results are presented. The accuracy of the derived expressions is validated by extensive Monte Carlo simulations.