Hey, potatoes are big business in Idaho. Do you like french fries? Do ya? Hate for you to show up at a burger joint and no french fries? And don't get me started on tater tots!
Mac Pro (Early 2009)
Processor: 2 x 2.26 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
Memory: 32 GB 1066 MHz DDR3
Graphics: Dual NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512 MB
Hard Drives: 4 1TB Disk drives.
Keyboard: Microsoft Natural 4000 with mouse
I have 4 monitors on this machine. 1 32inch, and 3 24inch.
* Balance a checkbook
* Read a recipe and cook a meal
* How to write coherently.
* How to read a blueprint (something I've found very useful)
* Basic woodworking.
* Basic engine mechanics.
* Basic plumbing
* Basic electrical (change a light switch)
Problem is there is too much to know for any one person to learn it all. I've never been asked to encrypt a file in my life (programmer for 15 years), because no single company that I have worked for has cared that much about securing files being sent out. (the ones that did, just sent password protected zip files). Typically the things that need to be secure are behind firewalls, or the encryption is handled for you by other systems you are using.
Now, how do you find a good developer? Those are hard to define intangibles.
Being a quick study is one. I don't know how to do that today, but give me a day and I'll tell you all about it. I have enough of the background to learn the detail quickly and retain them. So, if the developer in question doesn't know the particular information you consider critical, ask them where they will go to figure it out.
Writing good code. That is really hard, but basically they can write code that they can easily understand and modify over time with minimal errors. That is the heart of the craft.
Don't worry about job skill, you will bore the crap out of them with that.
Focus on exploration, discovery, and fun.
I'd suggest you look at Scratch from MIT. NoStarch Press has a nice comic book style book on Scratch that worked for my kids.
From what I've seen, not if it doesn't run Excel and Outlook. Doesn't matter if you have an open office alternative, if it doesn't say Excel, Word, and Outlook you aren't getting anyway. Yes, those applications are still that entrenched.
I've used Linux for longer than that...I can't think you are doing much with it. I've crashed linux plenty of times, just like I've crashed Windows plenty of times. All comes down to hardware. If you have bad hardware (like ram), the system will crash. If you have good hardware, it will stay up.
To that point, I've been running WinXP and Win7 for years now, on good hardware, and not a single BSOD.
And my linux systems don't crash when running on good hardware either.
All RAID levels protect against loss of data due to failure of individual drive(s), port(s), or data cable(s).
RAID 0 is not RAID.
RAID is not backup.
It also isn't a backup if the data isn't offsite...which is beyond the scope of any individual hard drive.
Better link for you: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/5/18/
I would concentrate more on language breadth (learn a lot of them).
If you already have a grasp on C languages, try some non-C languages that do things very differently.
Namely, functional and dynamic languages. You've already covered procedural and OO (Java).
Outside of languages, more than likely you haven't learned OO concepts very well yet. Not your fault, colleges are notorious for teaching bad OO practices (I've only been proven wrong on this once). Design Patterns are another good topic to investigate.
The key to Microsoft's fortunes are in the Business Market, not the Consumer Market. Businesses buy Office, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server, and Server products. Businesses pay for support agreements and the like. There just isn't as much money for them in the consumer market. So Microsoft doesn't put as much energy there.
Apple loves the consumer market.
Linux loves the business market.
Therefore: Linux is their biggest competitor.