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As for the difficultiy of compiling, it's not tough. To fully update my system all I do is this:
# emerge -u system
# emerge -u world
Ivana (my wife) runs Fedora, and I can tell you that our rigs are very similar but mine is at least 40% faster!
Is anybody using fedora on a production server, if so why is it better than redhat 9.0?
Using it on several production servers. I wouldn't call it -better- than RH9, it's just the latest version with support. You can get patches for RH9 from fedoralegacy.org if you want. Given there is little difference under the hood between RH9 and FC1, you may as well choose the latest.
If you want to use Linux while not becoming a Linux Guru then I would recommend a consumer-oriented flavor. I wouldn't however recommend anything from Redhat, simply because they prefer the Gnome desktop interface and provide only basic support for the KDE interface. Both desktop interfaces are good - but you may find KDE more suitable (most do) and Redhat won't make it easy for you to run KDE.
Two years ago I wouldn't DREAM of saying this, but I now heartily recommend Lindows - now called Linspire - [linspire.com...] as the desktop of choice for new Linux converts. Linspire sands the sharp edges off Linux so you don't bleed too much while you're screaming along on the bleeding edge :)
Lastly, if you're just interested in running Apache on your own machine, then you can do so with any flavor of Windows. One package that comes to mind is the free download available from [nusphere.com...] - if memory serves it's available at Products -> Downloads. You may have to register first. Once there, select their Free Technology Platform. It will install Mysql, Apache and PHP on your Windows box. From there you can write and test PHP applications or just test your html.
Another alternative that I would recommend is to buy a low-end Linux mid-tower PC that would run 24/7 in your office. This would be the most attractive route because if your web server is Linux, you won't risk borking your production web site ("sheesh, it works fine on windows apache but blows up my linux web site") Just attach it to the network. If you're comfortable with SSH, you don't even have to hook up a keyboard/video/monitor to it. If you don't know what SSH, well, you can buy a cheap KVM switch and switch between your Linux and Windows box as needed.
When you want a fully working apache you can always buy a disk with Red Hat, Apache and a full boatload of software included.
Meantime, to fool with Linux a little for practice you can download, burn a disk and boot right from disk without having to install at all
I haven't installed yet because I have to buy and switch to a new computer altogether, but I bought Red Hat with Apache and all for about $40. And a PHP/Linux/Apache book I paid about half that for has a disk with an older version of Linux and Apache included.