I'm doing the same. I'm a Windows 7 user, but want to learn Linux & Python in preparation of the Pi.
I've got an ancient Pentium III laptop (about 12/13 years old) which I've dragged out of a cupboard, with 64 Mb of RAM and 10 Gb hard disk. I've upgraded the RAM to 512 Mb (its maximum) and managed to install Fedora 14 with the Gnome desktop on it. But it's pretty slow (the processor registers at 500 Mhtz), and it stutters when playing youtube or other online videos. I've installed VLC on it, and that plays downloaded stuff OK.
I guess that with a 500 Mhertz processor and 512 Mb of RAM it's roughly equivalent to a Pi in power. Does that mean that the Pi will also struggle to play videos? And is there anything I can do to speed up my ancient laptop?
Thanks in advance for any advice.
It has a separate processor to deal with video offloading work from the main processor
Have you thought about looking at these tutorials?
they show you how to install a virtual machine on your Windows computer so you can mess around with Debian/Fedora on your PC without messing it up!