jbeale wrote:I think you are the very sort of person the Pi was designed for! Be aware there is still a bit of a wait if you order now, due to volume of initial demand. As far as "becoming familiar with the board level components" there are actually just two, very highly integrated chips on the R-Pi board that do almost everthing: the SoC (system-on-chip) with CPU and GPU and many interfaces (with a SDRAM stacked on top), and a USB/Ethernet chip that does the rest. Nearly everything else on the board is power supply components and the various connectors.
In the alternative, you can get a Linux distribution on a "Live CD" or DVD which you can use to boot into Linux without having to install it on a laptop or desktop. You can also make or get a bootable Linux USB stick, as long as your system can boot from USB.
Well this is my first stab at looking into this product so I will continue to develop a little more knowledge by browsing the forum. At least if I do this then I might be able to use R-Pi when I get it, rather then let it sit in the box until I learn some of the basic commands.