Hi..... And welcome
From what you say in your post I'll make this as simple and as painless as i can
For setting up a server you currently have two main options. There are others but we wont go into those here or now.
1. Use a virtual machine to do your development work on (for use on a Windows machine).
2. Set up a dedicated machine to use as a server (dedicated Linux server).
By far the easiest and most popular is option 1, use a virtual machine (VM). This is a file you can download and unzip and then run using VM Player. The player runs the file which is basically a Linux operating system and is fully loaded with all the pre-requisites to get you started. All of the groundwork has been done setting it up and you don't need to be a programming guru to get it working.
Option 2, I would only recommend if your familiar with such operating systems and know how to download and install software on them. There are guides on how to do that, but if you've never done that kind of thing before option 1 is the better way forward.... At least for now.
I'll just explain in a little more detail the difference between the two and why the windows version may not be so bad as some may suggest.
Firstly if your setting up a server that your going to open up to the public and market as somewhere to come and play then the windows VM is definitely not the best option, most of the PC's resources are being used to run Windows not the actual server so it won't take a very big active population to start to impact performance. Where as a "Native" Linux installation is able to dedicate all the machines resources to run the server. It gets a little more complicated than that but that'll do for now.
But..... And it's a pretty big But!!!
If your learning code or developing content etc, then the VM is the way forward as it'll be just you on the server and you'll be mostly using it as a tool rather than somewhere to play so performance is not so much of an issue. You'll find it's what most people use to develop on (including me) as it's far easier to install, you can have different ones set up on the same machine for different projects and if you do some thing wrong (and you will believe me), you can just delete it and re install rather than having to rebuild the whole machine.
So let's assume your going to use the VM to learn on (you can always set up a dedicated box later, once your happy working with the system), what do i need?
A Windows PC. Pretty much any modern 64bit machine will be fine. But as always with a PC, bigger is better!
The VM Image
There is a good guide to setting it up HERE.
There are some good guides here for stuff to do but I would recommend reading through the stickied guides HERE.
Have a go at setting it up and if you run into any difficulties just PM me here or reply in this thread.
I highly recommend joining our IRC chat channel,
it's quiet sometimes but I'm usually around , if not always at the keyboard, but the chat is persistent so just ask your question and me or someone will answer when we get back.
Once you get set up, we can talk more if you like. And I definitely don't need paying
Just enjoy the process and once again, welcome