Sony bundle Pixela Imaging suite with all their software. Whilst it is ok(ish) for VCD and WebMail, it is exceptionally poor for anything else. Try Pinnacle as you suggest or try ULeads' Video Studio 8 (Free trial available from www.ulead.com). I would suggest firwire as a pre-requisite for whatever you choose.
COMPAQ something or other with 500Gb Boot Disk, 1Tb external Firewire Disk, 4Gb Memory and a super duper sound card, 19" TFT Monitor etc etc etc
Sony TRV33e : Sony TRV310e : Canon XM2
Sony Vegas Studio editions to v11
Remember, there is always more to learn than there is to teach.