I was a 1-L last year and bought a new PowerBook for that purpose. Even though it's now "obsolete" I sure don't regret the purchase. I'm not exactly a switcher, as I've always had a PC desktop and a Mac portable, but going back to school prompted me to ditch my desktop and consolidate on the one machine. My next (Intel) Mac will probably get Vista installed too, but it'll be just for fun
Hah! Maybe it'll be different since your school recommends Dell (mine's platform-agnostic) but in my section the year began with about 20% of the class behind glowing apples
Once my VPN software was installed I had zero contact with the IT folks. Good luck btw!