I run a partition of Linux/Ubuntu, and of Windows XP at home. Depending of how I'm feeling, I'd use one or the other. More than anything, if I feel "lazy" I go for the latter. :P But in fact, little advanced computer skills are required to use a typical modern graphical Linux install, especially Ubuntu.
In any case, I don't know for Windows Vista, but as far as WinXP is concerned, it is totally replaceable in a work context (edit: erm, what am I saying?). The multimedia support is the only point against Ubuntu, as far as I'm concerned. I can't play Flash stuff (but the developer's blog states that a plugin of 9.0 for Linux 64-bit is being developed), and have lots of inconsistent trouble with multimedia streams... I suspect that it is the predominance of non-free formats in the digital world, more than some sort of negligence. I am using mplayer as my browser multimedia plugin, and officially, Ubuntu supports gstreamer. It's not that I haven't tried gstreamer, but it just wouldn't run half the things I try to play on it (with all possible non-bad plugin sets installed).
(Edit: for the Vista bit, what I mean is that there's nothing fancy to the WinXP interface that can't already be found in Linux/Ubuntu... To replace Mac OS X's interface is still unnatainable, by all means, and Vista is apparently going to be gorgeous by today's WinXP standards, so I don't know. But if you need a computer that "works" and does the now-standard user interface stuff, then Linux/Ubuntu with Gnome is good-enough.)
So what do I always recommend to people whose Windows just broke? Install Linux, for christsake!
The interviewer on Friday was saying how people had a romantic view of Linux in its battle versus MS. In fact, unless you program .NET stuff, it is a far more serious working environment if you're in IT, and it basically does what you need in a work context, which includes sharing with Windows computers, and printers installed on Windows workstations. OpenOffice comes standard with any standard Ubuntu install, and it does all you need in terms of reading/saving Microsoft Office's file formats.
(I think that they put the focus on making general business stuff work well, like office productivity and networking, before attacking the more home user stuff like multimedia.)
The instant benefit of having Linux is that you protect yourself from users' ignorance. The suspicious sites they surf or wormed e-mails they open can't infect their computer environment (and I suppose that viral attacks won't do anything unless you are root, sudo'ed root, or take advantage of some poorly designed program running with root-like rights). For instance, our webserver at CTF got owned by a trojan that was installed through a poorly designed content manager (it deleted all "index.*" files recursively _O_).
I understand that some people are afraid of even switching to a Mac b/c they don't know where their buttons are placed... The GNOME/Ubuntu interface anyways can't possibly fool anyone (and there are no Mac-only idiosyncrasies, like the Apple Button, or the click-the-window-to-access-its-menus), unless you mean people can be fooled if their menu is by default at the top rather than bottom. XD
In any case, Ubuntu 6.06 is coming out on June 2nd - I'm already running the Beta at home, and new modules and updated versions are added every day as the release date approaches. Very interesting how my sets of icons change every two days.
The best thing for trying out Ubuntu is the Live CD (one can have it shipped free of charge, free of shipping charges). That means the possibility to read the whole operating system from the CD, and work exclusively on the RAM, w/o writing anything whatsoever on the hard disks, unless you want to (good way to recover a Windows install). It's the best solution Linux advocates evolved to demo their baby to unconvinced users. The Live CD can now be persisted, so that's maybe the future of computing, where freely available workstations can be readily found, and people booting from their CDs or USB drives. But then, I think that hardware tends to belong to private people, rather than the public via the govt. Ultra-portability might be a long long way from now...
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