Alex is ruminating on choices for a new development machine, and since he mentioned me in the comments, I thought I might be able to add some fuel to the woodpile, so to speak.
First, the comment about VMWare. It is true that the fastest Windows machine I have ever owned was a VMWare instance of Windows 2000 running on a Linux box. It was hands down the fastest machine I have ever used. It was only a P4 2.8GHz with 2GB of RAM and dual 60GB drives (no RAID). I don’t know all the factors that led to that being the case, as I didn’t do any special configuration fo the Linux box or the VMWare instance. Everything just worked, kind of like a car built on Wednesday.
The second fastest Windows machine I ever owned was a 486DX-50 box with 64MB of RAM running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Not only did the main memory run at CPU speed (the last intel CPU to do that, IIRC), on bootup I created a 32MB RAM drive, copied the windows directory to it, and then booted Windows out of RAM into… RAM. That machine just screamed. Nevermind that the 64MB of RAM at the time set me back something like $3500 alone. I guess I am just a hardware whore.
The choice is Linux, Windows or Mac. For Alex, as I said in my comment, I just don’t think that the polish is there on the Linux Desktop for you to be happy. Nothing against the Linux Desktop, it’s just that I think the savior of the Linux desktop is the command line, and Alex is not a HUGE command line guy like I am. If you were to try Linux, maybe you should build one of these: Ultimate Linux Box 2005. 4 CPUs (could be dual core now, so 8 CPUs), 32GB of RAM, O decibels of noise, I would love one, if any sponsor would like to ship me one.
So, that leaves Windows or Mac.
I can say I am comfortable with either, they both have strengths and weaknesses. Since Apple is in the middle of ‘the big switch’, I would go with a nice beefy desktop, using the new dual core chips, with about 4 GB of RAM, and 4 hard drives in a RAID 0/1 configuration, for safety and speed. With 2 24″ LCDs in a vertical configuration, and a dual DVI video card, you should be well under the price of the Apple Dual G5 with 30″ display, and have more of everything on a technical level, just some loss of good looks. 2005/6 is the year of dual everything, it seems.
And if you don’t install VirusMaker, I mean Outlook, you should be able to only do scheduled virus scans, instead of active scanning. I would also recommend a nice little hardware firewall, because $80 is cheap insurance.