Ever since Microsoft released their VC/C++ 2003 compiler command line tools free (as in beer) I've been using it for my coding at home. I've built a number of ibraries with it on the Win32 system including g3d-cpp and the SDL. What follows is a quick HOWTO.
First, catch your hare. You will need the command line compiler itself. You will then need the SDKS that enable coding on Win32: The Platform SDK and the Direct X SDK. You could also get the .NET Framework while you were are at it, but I haven't used with any of the graphics libraries that I build.
Secondly, you will need the tools that you are going to build the libraries with Python (if you don't already have it) - any recent version will do and Scons via this link 0.96.1 . Scons is "a better make" - it's based on a classic perl build call Cons and builds just about anything on any platform with any tool. The developers have paid great attention to maintaining "build correctess: it pre-computes all the dependencies before building and rebuilds only exactly what needs to be build. In addition the build scripts it uses are signinficantly easier to use than make and it supports parallel building out of the box. It's gradually becoming the build tool of choice for a lot of projects."
Unzip the scons zip into an arbitary directory - we will call it %SCONS%. Scons doesn't support the vc toolkit "out of the box" just yet, but I've written an Scons tool script to support it which you need to copy to your %SCONS%\scons-0.96.1\engine\SCons\tool directory in the fresh Scons you just unzipped. Go to %SCONS%\scons-0.96.1 and type "python setup.py install" and it will all be installed. You should be all set for vc toolkit development with SCons.