I regularly speak to folks who tell me they wish someone would give them an MSDN subscription so they could play with all the cool new technology. I sincerely hope every single person with this desire gets their wish - if not from an individual (as happened to me), from their company. An MSDN subscription is a cool thing.
Until then, I recommend folks do what I did: get the trial versions!
You can build yourself a handy little enterprise on a workstation that has 1G RAM and some hard drive space. It won't be fast, but you can learn cool things nonetheless. Here's how:
1) Download and install Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise - it's completely free (as in beer). With this snappy software you can create virtual machines on your workstation and install any operating system you desire. Use Virtual Server to do just that - build a virtual machine before proceeding.
2) Download the 180-day trial version of Windows Server 2003. Install this as the operating system on your new virtual machine.
3) Download the 180-day trial version of SQL Server 2005. Install this on your new VM.
4) Download the 180-day trial version of Visual Studio 2005. Install this on your new VM.
There you have it - a development virtual workstation that will allow you to learn and grow and try cool new things, for the next six months, at least!
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