Your computer IS dated, but it will hold up Redhat (Fedora)/Mandrake just fine. My comp (AMD 1.6ghz, 32mb nforce onboard, 512mb ram) runs Fedora Core 3 and SuSE just fine
. Fedora (and Mandrake? Can't remember) has gcc and the like, but also RPM. So, if you want to install programs, you could do it the quick and easy way:
rpm -ihv imaprogram.rpm
or the less quick, but easyish way:
It's all good
Fedora, Mandrake, SuSE, Ubuntu, they'll all look after newbies like you and me (even though I run Gentoo, I have no clue what it is doing, or what I did in the install - RTFM is the way of the future
But, it's all up to you about what distro you want. I like FC3, and Ubuntu, and I'm attempting to get an uncorrupted Slack download. It's all your choice.
And, about the chainloader problem, FC3 (and more distros these days) default (or at least offer) to GRUB as the bootloader. I haven't had any issues with GRUB and Windows XP, 2003, and Longhorn.