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I plan to buy a hobbyist machine which can install various Windows and Linux.

Currently there is the HP $319 machine with an AMD processor, and some $479 and $579 HP or Dell models with Quad core or Core 2 Duo.

And there is even a $599 Mac Mini with Boot Camp.

Are they all pretty good machines to experiment with different OS? Can Mac Mini with Boot Camp set up many Windows installations?

I plan to have

  1. XP
  2. Vista
  3. Win 7
  4. Win 7 64-bit
  5. Ubuntu

on this machine to play with. Mac OS X is optional as I already have a $999 Macbook.

Update:

another thinking is that maybe this had better be at least a dual core or core 2 duo machine, then I can see how the OS work with dual core machines, since most other PC I will be using are going to be dual core / core 2 duo / quad core / i7.

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that's way more than a dual-boot that your asking for :) re-tagged it to multiple boot –  rzlines Oct 22 '09 at 20:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'd recommend using virtual machines to run these under a host OS, this way you can easily set snapshots so you can mess around with the system and if you hose it, revert to a previous configuration. In terms of learning how things work, without the risk of wasting hours setting things up, it's a lot easier to play.

If that's the route you go down, I'd install the barest minimum needed to run VirtualBox with the largest disks, most RAM and fastest processor you can get.

Maybe something like Xubuntu would be a suitable host OS. VirtualBox will install 99% of OSs, from things like Windows 3.1 to Windows 7, and from any Linux to ReactOS to AmigaOS.

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I'd get a pc, that way you can upgrade/interchange the parts more freely.

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that's a neat idea. for now i hope to just get this machine (say the $319 one) and not touch it for good. some of the $479 are the slim models which can't be too expandable. –  動靜能量 Oct 22 '09 at 20:14
1  
Yeah, honestly, keep your eyes out for the specification pages on preconfigured desktops. If it were me, I'd buy the parts and build it myself. You can easily put together a cheap test-bed machine for under 400 on newegg.com. You'll get to learn the internals of the machine that way, too! –  adam Oct 22 '09 at 20:18
    
that's true. I am tempted to go that route sometimes. although I think back in the 1996 era, I had a PC and upgrading it was such a nightmare, dealing the the IDE / EIDE / SCSI options... a brand of card works and another brand doesn't work. Not to mention the "MPEG" card and the video card compatibility. –  動靜能量 Oct 22 '09 at 20:23
    
I don't think its that bad now-a-days –  rzlines Oct 22 '09 at 20:39

Obviously you want this machine to be your test-bed, so I'd suggest that you get a second hand PC or a second hand parts that way you could even play around with the hardware configuration and get exactly what you want for any specific application or operating system.. also a good way to economize.

If you get a good bargain you could probably purchase extra spares too in the same budget that you planned, just be careful not to get duped.

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