The more I read about the product the more I realize that it might be better if I were to purchase some manual on how to use it prior to downloading it. Do you have any suggestions on what book would be best for someone wanting to learn the basics?
well, there's a couple things you could do. for starters, your machine is definitely not up to the task of running Adobe CS4, but if you're going to go the route of getting a new computer just to use this software, then yes you'd want to read up on it a bit
but don't bother dropping the money on a book (unless you really want to) ... all you need to start is planet photoshop (_http://www.planetphotoshop.com/) it's got tutorials (many of them), links to other resources, and a forum...
if you want to go the free route to get started in doing this kind of thing, i would recommend Gimp
(Gnu Image Manipulation Program). it's open-source and has many of the same basic features as Photoshop, including layering, channels, painting tools, editable text layers, etc... it also imports existing .psd (Photoshop) files to the best of its ability, so you could still take a gander at the tutorial files from planet photoshop.
here's where to download: Windows:
_http://www.gimp.org/macintosh/ Unix Systems:
for specific Gimp tutorials, their own site has a lot of good ones: _http://www.gimp.org/tutorials/
hope that helps!