After some careful consideration, I have decided that I should perhaps at least have an installation of Linux somewhere so that I can actually use it... as more frequently I am taking support calls from people who need support on Linux and I cannot provide it simply because I have only ever used Windows operating systems.
My main question is the following:
Should I run it in a Virtual PC scenario within my existing XP/Vista setup, or should I add another partition to my hard drive and actually use the System Commander program I have laying about somewhere?
If taking the virtual PC approach, is the MS version suitable or should I go for something else?
On your machine you can use virtual with no problem. VirtualPC works great, but I prefer VirtualBox.
If you decide to use qemu (but i'm not sure about speed of qemu in windows), you can install OS to hdd and run it sometimes directly and sometimes virtualized. But running same system at once directly and virtualized isn't great idea, especially if you use filesystem without file locking.
Other options include dual booting by either installing windoze and linux on the same drive or using one drive for each OS.
If you have more than one PC you could use one for windoze and one for linux.
Virtual Machines such as QEMU, VMWare, VirtualPC, etc will obviously allow you to run both operating systems at the same time on the same machine but they do use a lot of RAM and are sometimes slow. They are a great tool don't get me wrong but they have some issues.
Other more technical options include virtualization with Xen or similiar software but those tend to be very technical.
I agree with linux_0 here. If you're going to be doing this for work (you're answering support calls), you're probably going to want to be running the OS you're supporting on the bare metal. Virtualization is all well and good, but you're not going to see how Linux operates with your actual hardware, and believe me, there's a few devils in those details when you're running Linux.
Get work to spring for another machine to run it on - it's a very small cost in the grand scheme of things.