I was wondering if vista could run on 256 MB of RAM
I highly doubt it. I don't have Vista, so I'm just guessing. Depending on what brand your computer is, you might be able to get a RAM upgrade chip. I got one for a Dell laptop through Dell's website.
there is software out there called vlite. Basically it strips down vista to a basic level. And there has been reports of running vista on 256MB ram. But well be very limited and generally not worth it. You are better off with XP or even 2000 pro. Personally I would like to have at least 512mb on my machines these days, it will be relatively cheap to upgrade, dut that depends on what hardware you have and if it can support more than 256MB.
Personally, I would use at least 4GB and be on 64Bit. By the time I've got the money to upgrade, 64 bit would be more widely used.
Which brings me to an unrelated note, Why the hell do OEMs give out 32 Bit Vista on all computers capable of 32bit? I mean the customer won't be able to tell and its not that expensive compared to 32it. Oh wait! Drivers... Hardware vendors should get off their ass and make some decent drivers for once.