I have ordered a new Dell vostro 1520. Expected delivery - 7th Oct 2009. (This up-coming wednesday)
Their customization idea is good, and I spent a lot of time to pick a configuration that would work well on linux. I also chose an n-series one, which means it has freedos, and no other preinstalled OS. I don't have to pay for any preinstalled w*dows that I am never going to touch anyway. Linux... oh! here I come to install you with open arms. ( I am also thinking about bsd. When there are good options, one must use them. It is foolish to not even look at / try the other options ever simply because one is good enough.)
My key requirement was hardware with full specs openly released so that perfect opensource (free) linux drivers could be written.
Graphics card: So I chose the Intel 4500mhd graphics card instead of an ATI or NVIDIA. This is good enough for me. Why it can run compiz, and render all those simulators like torcs and flightgear very well. I think it could render most linux 3D games quite very well. What if it cannot run the bleeding edge w**dows games - I am never going to run them or the w**dows OS even.)
Wireless lan card: The default option was a 'dell wireless' card (which I suspect uses the dreaded-linux-incompatible closed-specs (that's what I heard, I may be wrong) broadcom chips). So I chose an Intel 5100 a/g/n wireless card which was actually cheaper by a few hundred rupees.
I heard Intel releases all its specs and Intel hardware usually have fully working open source linux drivers. Including their graphics cards. So this is good news for me and helps in choosing among options.
It also has an LED backlight for the screen, good for ecology (power saving and battery runtime). It is a 15.4 inch screen. The resolution is 1280x800. I guess I can live with it. I need a tall screen for viewing code and manuals and pages. But I can manage with this resolution I think. 1280x800 is actually a widescreen (16:10 ratio) not a 'tallscreen'.
But on the other hand a widescreen may actually have the advantage that you can put your code on one half and docs on the other.
What distro of linux:
Well this is a another huge time consuming question. At first, my choice was linux from scratch (LFS). But after realizing that I also had to complete my PhD, I settled for something in between. Gentoo.
I can still compile everything from code. Not that much time needs to be spent compared to LFS.
I can still customize everything to a great depth and extent. So for now, gentoo it is. I am in the process of looking through the webpages about gentoo right now.
Why all this effort:
A personal computer is another whole new place, another dimension where I can live. So I need to get it just right to my taste. I should not cripple my freedom and creativity, which is why I love things like free(dom) software and GNU stuff.