I have an old (must be 6 or 7 years old by now) Dell laptop. Originally came loaded with Vista Home, probably the worst OS since Windows Millennium Edition. After putting up with Vista getting progressively slower and slower, daily updates, intrusive "security" programs etc over the course of about 3 years, I gave Ubuntu a go. I now have it set to dual boot (although I haven't booted it into Vista for about 2 years now) and I have to say, I love Ubuntu. It just works. I can do all the normal web type stuff, I can download movies and watch them, watch DVDs, listen to music, I run OpenCPN, have a full suite of office applications, great free games and pretty much anything else you can think of doing. For example the other day I had 4 virtual desktops running, email, Firefox with 8 different tabs open, downloaded a torrent *and* doing some course planning in OpenCPN, all at the same time on a machine with 1GB RAM, a very early dual core processor and 20GB hard disk. Absolutely no way you can do that with Windows. I also have Wine, which is a Windows emulator that allows me to run any Windows software. Haven't paid a cent for any software and I have not found anything I wanted to do with the computer that there isn't an application already written for.
Anyway, you can actually run Ubuntu on your current computer without having to install it or otherwise do anything with your Windows installation, there are both "runtime" editions that you can fire up off a USB stick, you can install it under Windows (which is how I first tried it out), or you can start playing around with partitions on the HDD and do it properly (which is what I ended up doing as it's faster without having the Windows part messing things up).
There are still the occasional blips of course, Flash can be a little hit and miss (although the latest update seems to have sorted that), but generally problems are fixed quickly, and because it's open source there is a huge resource of developers out there finding problems and fixing them, and even if they aren't, there are always solutions that you can try because you have full access to everything, even the source code for the operating system itself.
1974 C&C27 MkII
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