heads up - http://linuxfestnorthwest.org/ is happening in April up in Bellingham in case you're interested. I've given some talks at previous ones on things like python, java and android. It's actually a great litle grassroots style weekend conference and makes for a nice road trip to scenic Whatcom county.
Used to be back in the day you cut your linux teeth by buying a desktop, dual booting ( or VM'ing later on) windows and working out all the kinks to get a lean mean linux machine setup. If you really wanted a challenge you bought something like a sony laptop ( totally proprietary hardware) and spent eons of time building custom kernels with the correct modules to get everything to work right. It was a very enlightening experience to say the least. Ah, to be young with lots of free time on my hands again :)
Anyways, since I don't have the time anymore and Linux is way more mainstream now I highly recommend buying laptops from https://www.system76.com/. I've been extremely please with my super duper all decked out box from them which runs an OS which can actually take full advantage of all that juice!