Parts Preferences: No preference as long as they are name-brand with emphasis on reliability. I would like to run GNU/Linux as well as Windows 7; I'm still finding mixed results of ATi driver quality relative to nVidia.
SLI or Crossfire: No
Monitor Resolution: >=1680x1050
I am attempting to setup a box so I get back into developing software. The projects I have in mind aren't terribly demanding right now, but I would like the flexibility to take on larger, more resource-demanding projects. In addition, I would like to run virtualized OSes for testing purposes.
A card that can handle two (possibly three) monitors, two 20-22" widescreen, is required. I may be doing some graphics programming but it will be simple things, so priority on a powerful graphics card is low.
I don't think I would need the benefits of Xeon or Opteron. Time isn't exactly equal to money as this is only a serious hobby. If anything, I would like to stay at the 80-20 rule: 80% as powerful as the best components, leaving 20% room for future upgrades. I would like to start out at 6 to 8GB of RAM.
I don't know much about the components out there these days. Every review or guide is seems slanted towards gaming than compiling code or running vmware.
a case is up to you, and I'd suggest a low-end NVidia graphics card like a 240GT ($80) or 250 GTS ($90) because NVidia just plays much better with Linux. Both should handle dual monitors just fine. You don't need high power, but either card's 1 GB version should be able to run 2 screens just fine. If you plan to do DirectX 11 programming, get the new GTS 450 that is coming out tomorrow at $129, otherwise the 250 is just as good, and $60 cheaper.