This may be a bit of a long one, since I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for so I'll be giving as much info as I can to help. Also I'm basically new to Linux.
So, my plan is to either take the family PC which is soon to be no longer used and make it into a server to learn. If I'm lucky I'll get an old PC from my dad's work. I'm still not sure which Linux distro to put on it (family PC specs at the bottom) and I also don't have full reign to do whatever I want with the PC yet.
So I'll be testing in a VM. The problem is, I want it to work the same way as it would when the real thing is set up. The set up will be the server will sit wired to the network, possibly headless, not sure how to do a headless install. It's not going to take the place of the router or anything like that.
The point will be to have the server as my Linux box, so I can SSH or FTP or remote desktop into it and use it from my laptop while at home, school or wherever, so I can program on it, learn about running a server and maybe test web stuff or stream media to my TV through a device.
So now that I've explained the set up and what I think it'll be for, keeping in mind I know nothing about Linux still, how can I simulate this on a VM on the laptop I would be accessing this future server from? Basically I would want to connect to this VM the same way I would be connecting to this future server.
Now I know this is a lot to ask but I'm really hoping to get the same quality help I've gotten from Stack Overflow on programming issues. It's basically a bunch of questions that should span multiple questions but I'm hoping to figure it out at once. If I haven't been clear on something let me know and I'll attempt to clarify.
Family PC Specs:
The family PC is a Pentium 4 @ 2 GHz with 768MB of RAM and an integrated card. I'll definitely be replacing the hard drive since it's just old and smaller drives are cheap. Maybe the RAM too to 2GB since it costs the same as the hard drive I'm looking at.