If you hang around me for any length of time I will rub off some gleanings that have helped me to PC paradise. Of course I don't do old PCs, but if you do, more power to ya!
I'm always talking about backup and the USB drive is key. If your PC can boot from a USB device then here is the thing. You are a wide open XP or Vista user and you want to use Linux on the side. You can get an 8 or 16 gig jump drive and put Linux on it or on one of those USB book style portable drives (250-500 gig). Who'd know but you when and if you booted up Linux on it's own external hard drive. I still have problems with the OS and the personal data on the same drive. The OS is not suppose to crash or get overly corrupted but it does, especially in the case of MS, far too many malware and virus attacks. I wish all PCs came with 20-40 gig drives just for the OS, it can even be solid-state. Then a separate big hard drive for your personal data.
In the Linux realm there is always a better, newer Linux. Either a revision, upgrade or a different Linux distribution you want to try. This is why booting from CDs and jump drives are so cool. If your data is on the same partition of the same drive as your OS, copy it elsewhere or say goodby. This is if something goes wrong or you want to change OS's and have to delete and/or reformat. Data on separate partition or hard drive is safer for you. Of course if your data is on the USB drive, you can plug into any computer to access it, cool huh!
Another cool thing is the pen pad. It is too bad that Wacom is the only pad that has Linux drivers (third party) for it. Some other pen pads are cheaper. The thing about the pen pad is getting use to holding the pen when schooled in mouse mashing. It takes a while to become accustomed to the pen. The pen also has quirks and must be tweaked for your comfort. And if you decide to use only the pen, you might have to adjust it for the kind of use. The pen as a mouse is one thing, as a drawing tool is another. As a mouse, pen pressure gets in the way or you might not want pen pressure to be so sensitive even in drawing mode. The only thing missing with pen pads is the training manual. This guy Dusty Ghost is the man. This tutorial will give you pen pad exercises.
I bet your laptop bag will get heavy, haha! Let's see, laptop, extra battery, AC adapter, E-net cable, USB mouse, USB pen tablet, USB drive, some jump drives, CD's, DVD's, mouse pad, digital cam, cell phone, decoder ring, utility belt and face mask. Yep, you're ready!!
Let's see, ya got the ideas, the tools, you're spending time to dabble and doodle, you've even made some test prints to see what it'll look like. The number one obstacle for any artist, IS IT WORTH THE HASSLE TO TRY TO MAKE A LIVING AT THIS??????
I could fill a phone book with the phrase "it would be a good hobby" or "cool if you are retired", as many times I've heard it. Being an artist must have a long "earning curve". Of course you can be a professional commercial artist using your tools and talents in the context of employment, but I am not talking about that. To use your resources and talents to perfect your art or produce your masterpiece often requires a level of pain and suffering most don't understand. Why? Because they think you should be normal, doing what the rest of us are doing, etc. The saying "an artist must suffer" is kind of a metaphor for the internal and sustained effort required to materialise your art. Instead of concentrating your efforts on an employers project, you are wearing all the hats to do your own. I know I am not much on the business end and more apt to do the art part. We must face Vader (the business end), then our training will be complete, then will we be a Jedi.
One thing for sure, if you put your art skills and talents on the back burner, be sure to fiddle, dabble and doodle. It is like slow cooking, a lot of great things can happen over time. I have revisited old ideas with new technology a couple of times. Things that were laborious in the past are kids stuff today because of computers. I also learned a lot of things in other areas that I can apply to my craft. Don't just say "someday I will devote time for this. Yoda said, "just do, there is no try!"