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Another question about Debian on laptops: Dell Inspiron 15R?



I've found the recent discussions very helpful.  My previous job used to insist on Dell machines and I had good experiences of installing Debian on Dell Latitude E6500 machines but then I had to buy myself a machine and got a Toshiba having misread some information on the web suggesting that Toshiba were linux friendly.  Neither Squeeze nor Wheezy have worked nicely with the machine at all though I can't find any hardware errors so, as it's ageing a bit now too so I can justify reinstalling Windoze on it and passing it to someone, I want to replace it but this time I want something that will play well with Debian.  I want reliability, quite a lot of storage (1Tb), I'm fine with a 15/16 inch screen but I'd like quite a bit of CPU power and RAM as I do a bit of statistical work (in R: mostly wonderful!) but also because I find myself forced to keep a VirtualBox VM open most of the time for the Windoze dependencies I haven't been able to shed (Orifice as compatibility is hopeless in both OO and LO and I can't force colleagues to shift!), InDesign (too many templates that I haven't time or skill to replicate in Scribus) and SPSS and AMOS).  [I'm sure I'm not the only person on this list cursing this sort of enforced dependency!]

So the questions:
1) does anyone have any experience of installing Wheezy on the Inspiron 15R?  If so, am I right to assume it'll work OK?  
2) would you recommend 32 or 64 bit Wheezy (I don't usually hit the memory limits of R in 32 bit so I've stayed on 32 bit so far but I'll want to install 64bit Windoze 8.1 in a VM so perhaps it has to be 64 bit?)
3) How fast does it feel, in particular ...
4) ... has anyone got 64 bit Windoze 8.1 installed in a VirtualBox VM and does it run OK?  Fast enough in memory/disc/CPU hogs like orifice, SPSS & InDesign?
5) If I use the Dell to create a system backup (of the Windoze 8.1 recovery partition presumably) will I be able to restore this into a VM? (I'm very reluctant to pay twice for Windoze but Dell, at least in the UK, don't sell the Inspiron other than with Windoze.)

Many thanks in anticipation of advice/experiences,

Chris

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