Geek-out coming, so put on your pocket protectors.
Though my home network is a Windows network through and through, there's one Linux box in the basement. It runs Samba so I can edit text files on it from EditPlus3 on my Windows box, but otherwise, I access it through SSH using PuTTY. Its sole purpose is for doing coding and testing on a particular project about which I can say no more due to NDA-like restrictions. But all it ever runs is that project (and the associated compiler and version-management stuff), and MySQL.
And it's a real clunker, a Pentium II processor with (I think) 128M of RAM. It was sitting in retirement somewhere, having been replaced, when I suddenly found out (about five years ago) that I would need a Linux box for this project, and had to dig it out, dust it off, and install Fedora Core 3 on it. Things were dicey because back then I had only dialup, and getting an internal modem to work with Linux was very tricky back then (most modems were Winmodems with most of the smarts in software). It's a testament to the efficiency of Linux that it can still run on this ancient system. However, the compiler and test system I run on it sometimes bogs it down, and waiting for compiles and for the updated versions to load can be agonizing. Even CVS is painfully slow as it figures out what needs updating (and that's not all network traffic, since it didn't speed up when we got the T1).
A few weeks ago Woot had a woot-off that included, at one point, an eMachines EL1331G Desktop, refurbished and preloaded with Windows 7, for about $200. This has an Athlon 2850e at 1.8GHz, 2G memory, a 360G hard drive, and a lot of features that don't matter for this application (like a GEForce video card, lots of media slots, a DVD-RW drive, etc.). It would be fine to run Windows, Firefox, Office, and Money, but I wouldn't normally want to use it for games, SecondLife, or processor-intensive stuff. But as a replacement for a Pentium II system, it's hundreds of times more powerful.
Last night I did the obligatory range of emergency disks and Windows updates, and downloaded the latest version of Fedora (which is Fedora 12). I also gave a try at installing Fedora Core 3, figuring if I could get it to work, moving over all my stuff would be a cinch -- no question about compatability, just copy things over. But the FC3 install disks couldn't figure out what disk controller drivers to install. I could fight with that, but I think I'll try Fedora 12 instead. Probably the compatability issues for MySQL and the stuff I need for my project will be non-existent.
My intent is to try to do a dual-boot, with the Linux boot the default, just so I have the option to use it for Windows 7 experiments. After all, it only gets used for the Linux development system about 6-8 hours a week, so there's plenty of time to use it for other purposes. What other purposes? No idea. But better to keep my options open.
Tonight I'll burn the Fedora 12 ISO onto a disc and then try the install from it. I've never used Fedora 12, I don't even know if it has a multibooter in the install, but I assume so. Anyway, Linux and Unix are similar enough that I can get by when I need to.