I believe my game rig has finally breathed it's last, at least in it's current configuration. 2 days after replacing the 5400 rpm hard drive with a 7200 rpm hard drive, it started giving me stop errors referring to the hard drive. I replaced the new (used) drive with the known good one and tried to use it to no avail. Oh well.
One side effect of this is that I'm now actually putting my money where my mouth is: "Linux can be a good desktop operating system on less hardware than Windows" is something that I've said for a while. I'm finding out that it's partially true.
I have a relatively current laptop that the Mrs. wasn't using anymore that I had scavenged the hard drive out of so I could have some portable storage for tools that I use frequently. I managed to find a 6.4gb hard drive at work to replace the one that I'm using as part of my toolbox. I just wanted to get something going so both the Mrs. and I can have a machine to work with when we want to, as opposed to both of us being too polite to ask the other "can I check my email?".
First observation: 128mb ram is hard to deal with when you're running a ton of services and a windowing system on top of it. Task switching in Gnome is painful. XFCE is much lighter than either Gnome or KDE, but it's still kind of tight. Swapping on this 4200 rpm drive *sucks*. I haven't tried disabling the mail/web/ssh/samba servers yet, but I'd really like those to run on this box eventually (as a dedicated server), so I installed them. Perhaps as a future test.
Second observation: There are many things that are going to be too difficult for the average user to deal with. I had a weird (but documented) kernel bug show up on this system that would just slag the processor on boot. Passing a switch to the bootloader fixed this problem.
Third observation: There are many things that are done better in Windows for desktop workstations than they are on Linux. Printing is a huge thing that's *much* easier on Windows than Linux. The hardware compatibility and available drivers lists are also much longer.
All said, now that I've hammered everything out, I like it. I've used a Linux desktop before, but I seem to gain new insight every time I do it. In the past, I've also had a fairly robust machine to use as well, with plenty of RAM and processor to spare. I have plenty of processor now, but being RAM limited, I see some things that I hadn't before. It's always fun to learn something, to borrow an idea from Voltaire. :)