For a computer, nearly anything that doesn't have a winmodem is probably reasonable. But you will probably do better to stay away from laptops since they often bring minor (or even major) annoyances with proprietary hardware standards that aren't fully supported. Most likely, the computer you're using to post this question would be adequate. Downloading Knoppix
is a pretty good way to check.
As for books, the RUTE book linked in my signature as "RTFM" blows me away with how good it is. Some of the stuff in the first couple of sections may be skippable if you already have a solid background. The rest, you can pick and choose what you want to tackle, and you can go through the book and learn by doing. If you learn, say, half of it, you will be a guru by most peoples' standards.