Hi, I'm a newbie and plan to buy new Inspiron 1545 and run a couple of Distros.
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Interesting that you want to load Ubuntu and a KDE distro. My thoughts are as follows:
1. Be sure you have sufficient memory (RAM) in your selected computer. More memory = faster processing. Memory does not have quite as big an impact on Linux speed as it does on Windows, but more memory does make the system faster. This is especially true if your PC will be a server (web server, file server, etc.)
2. Be sure you have sufficient disk space. You will want at least 10 GB to install Linux and probably more. It's always easier to install on a large HD than it is to upgrade to a larger disk later.
3. Since Ubuntu can load and run KDE software (I use it to play most of the KDE Games packages) you don't really need KDE unless you are more familiar with KDE. If you don't have an existing preference you would probably do as well with the default install, though you can install and change to KDE after you complete the normal installation. If you don't uninstall a window manager you can switch between window managers (Kde, Gnome, Etc.) when you log onto the desktop (before entering your password.)
I used KDE and did not want to change until I accidentally installed Gnome instead of KDE on a new installation. I liked the new look so much that I replaced KDE with Gnome on my older machine.
Good luck with your computer selection. Beware that you may have problems if you try to use a wireless or bluetooth adapter on your PC. Linux drivers do not exist for all yet, and it is difficult to locate and install a propietary driver. I have a built-in bluetooth adapter on my Linux laptop but can't find a driver that works with it.
You should consider running Virtual Machines. It would be fully supported by the system and you'd not have to worry about borking the windows install. You can run both at the same time. They are simple to step and you don't have to play with getting wireless working as VM's nat to the host system's nic.
(I don't know what's going on--this had paragraphing when I wrote it.)
I have a 1545 that I'm very happy with; I'm typing on it right now.
I got it about a year ago, and it's updated itself to the current Ubuntu. That means it has successfully survived three version updates, plus all the interim updates.
Frankly, I'd like to put Slackware on it, because of Slackware's elegant simplicity and ease of configuration, but the factory wireless works perfectly and I've fought the wireless driver wars before and would rather not fight them again.
Rather than putting another distro on it, consider just installing KDE to the factory system; it's in the repos. Then you can switch back and forth as you wish. Plus your KDE apps will run under Gnome or even under Blackbox or XFCE.
I added KDE to mine and can run all my favorite K-apps, particularly Konqueror, Ksnapshot, Kate, and KolourPaint, without fighting with the dual boot thing.
I do most of my day-to-day computing under Fluxbox and both Gnome and KDE apps run just fine under any desktop environment or window manager because all the required libraries are in place.
I also replaced gnome-network-manager with wicd and am glad I did. I still have gnome-network-manager on my netbook and find wicd far more versatile and reliable under window managers other than Gnome. On the netbook, if I reboot, I have to start Gnome, let network-manager connect, shut down Gnome, then start Fluxbox. Network-manager will maintain the connection, but fails at initiating it. (You should know the netbook is at Ubuntu 8.04 and has refused to update versions automatically over the net; it does all I want, so I'm not messing with it.)
The last time I looked, Dell was still selling the 1545s with Ubuntu 8.xx. I would recommend that, when you get the machine, you burn two copies of the recovery DVD (no such thing as too many backups), then let the machine do all the updating it needs to do before you do any of your own configuring.