I didn't know it this should go here or in newbie so I flipped for it, sorry if I was wrong.

What I have - I have 4 WinXP-Pro machines (1 for each person plus one additional) the additional XP machine is used strictly as a nas/print server having an old laserjet 5 attached. All the machines are setup in a workgroup using a 24 port switch, and a separate wireless router attaches the cable modem to the network. Then there is an xbox with XBMC installed that currently handles media to the tv from the nas (the XBMC has universal plug and play turned off) so that I have to map the playable folders manually. {The mapping of the folders is the only way I currently use to keep the kids out of folders with inappropriate media.} I am fortunate in that they haven't figured out the mapping Yet and I have no extremely explicit media so this is Currently sufficient.

I have a full time night job (not a computer tech) plus I am an aspiring author (free-time to dig through huge stacks of mans is limited at times). I do build all my own hardware but that really doesn't mean much. I have used Freespire, Slack, and Redhat, and I like them but I have never set up a Linux network or even had to use samba (other than that which in pre-configured in XBMC).

There are several changes I want to make.
-I want to add a Linux or BSD server with raid0 storage running among other things, Amanda & inner office mail ( that will work with t-bird), and secure file storage.
-I need to move at least 3 of the existing machines to dual boot with Linux & 1 with (BSD or Linux) using the majority of the drive and Win using a small portion of the drive (just enough for the programs I can't get on Linux / BSD).
-I want to get away from the workgroup arrangement but I would like to keep the static IP scheme.
All machines (booted into either os must work on the network and share the nas and printer.)
-I also would like to eventually add LinuxMCE but I would like to have better control over what can be accessed from what satellites, Than the system using the xbox gives. Also I would not want to use the router or firewall in LinuxMCE as that I like the router I have and the wall in it. Also I would want to setup the MCE on static addresses.
-I have been told that server/client networks are domain type networks and require a dns server. Would that be a “private” dns for just my network or would that have to be public. All the setup instructions I have found seem to be for publicly accessible dns's, I don't want that I just want to change things inside not confuse things with the internet outside.
-The unfortunate fact is that at some time in the future I will probably have to add at least one vista machine to the network. I would like to be able to do that without having a mental breakdown as well.
-along those lines where can I read about laptops that are reasonably priced that come with *nix installed and wireless networking working (if I had to add vista it would probably be a laptop)
-One other thing there will in the near future be an Apple laptop that gets put on the network from time to time.

-PS The reason for the nas being on XP is that it is intended as unsecured storage for media only, and with my current configuration it's the easiest way to share the printer. I don't want to have to log in with the xbox to play movies and I want everybody to be able to use the printer. The nas is subject to change but only if I can get these things to work with the same results.

The one good thing is I wont have to have all this figured out till about mid February, when I recover from Christmas enough to build the server.

{also posted in BSD}

Thank you in advance