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there are LOTS of differences, and there is NO "better" one, they are just different. Personally i Hate KDE, but then i don't like or use GNOME either anymore. If you are booting to a login manager you should be able to to choose which desktop manager you wish there.
For the rest of your questions please SEARCH the forums, these are very basic questions that have been answered a million times.
both kde and gnome have their good points - but for beginners, i usually recommend kde. they've just released kde3, and they're a bit ahead of gnome's 2.0 release in terms of development and ease. kde's integration is still much better than gnome's at this point too, and that always makes the transition to linux easier.
right. KDE started out being developed the year before GNOME. the thing was that it was not entirely open source at the time. The Free Software Foundation, who have a habit of bringing out totally open source versions of any major program that comes out, made it their mission to make an open source alternative to KDE, and so GNOME came into being.
Now it's a while later and KDE is now totally open source. GNOME now runs most KDE programs and vice versa. Which is best is totally up to you. I prefer Nautilus to Konqueror as a file browser, but as for the GNOME Panel, it makes my mouse go haywire, just some personal hardware issues...
If you plan to use GNOME, give Ximian GNOME a go instead. it is a customised version of GNOME that a lot of people seem to like. Personally i prefer XFce to either GNOME or KDE.
But to answer your question, KDE is better. Obviously all the answers you will get are going to be personal preference, and mine is KDE.
To me, it just looks nicer, is laid out better, and isn't as system hoggish as Gnome. I am opposite Calum, in that I completely dislike Nautilus, and do not prefer it to Konqueror, but I do not prefer Konqueror either. I use gentoo as my file manager.
Yes, you can but I think most of your hardware won't be supported... especially a big hd. But with a separate machine (or machines) for such things (486 or similar for kernel 1.0, pentium for KDE 1.0) it'll be OK.