Up to this point, I've also been dabbling in Linux off and on. I took Linux seriously the first time with the Slackware 3.1 release, the second time with Red Hat 5.1, and the third time with Mandrake 8.2.
I loved Mandrake 8.2. On my PPro hardware, it saw every bit of hardware, and it rocked.
Sadly, computers moved forward, Linux moved forward, but my PC LAN stayed much the same four roughly a decade. Win95 OSR2, Warp 4, BeOS 5 Pro, Mandrake 8.2, and a few other stranger (but still dated) OSes snuck in here and there.
I've played with some LiveCDs now and then. Puppy rocks, I like DSL, and I've even done a little playing around with Ubuntu, Xubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, SLAX, Debian, and a bunch of others, but I've not really taken them too seriously.
This is changing.
A month ago, I picked up a $179 box from Tiger Direct for my wife to play The Sims 2. It's an unbranded COMPAQ SR5010NX being sold as a "Famous Brand Refurbished Intel Desktop Computer - Intel Celeron D 360 3.46GHz, 512MB DDR2, 160GB SATA II, DL DVD±RW/RAM with Lightscribe, 10/100 LAN, Modem, NO O/S". I dropped in a copy of Win2k Pro, found all of the drivers, and presto! An instant box for her game. I will eventually drop a new power supply and a real video card into it, but for the time being her issue with slowness and instability appears to be solved. w00t!
I also, during the course of configuring it for her use, got a chance to see how some of the LiveCDs I've been playing with on my older boxes (and on my work laptop) would fair on that box.
Puppy and Ubuntu *both* get top marks. Puppy saw all of the hardware (video, sound, network card, etc.), and all I had to do was use the network wizard once to kickstart DHCP. End result -- working distro. Ubuntu (and its siblings Xubuntu and Kubuntu) required even less effort; all I had to do was drop the disk in and boot.
Hmmm. I noticed that this new box of hers ALSO played the older Windows games I liked quite well (old stuff like NFS3, classic UT, Tribes 1, etc.), and the mommyboard had a nice PCI-E X16 slot for video and could also apparently be upgraded CPU-wise to a certain extent, so perhaps this was a cheapo way for me to get a new gaming box??
I was sold. I bought another. $199 this time (sale was over). And I don't regret that decision one bit.
I've dropped Win2k Pro and Ubuntu 7.10 on it thusfar, with Grub playing boot manager, and for now it's happy. Even with the crappy on-board video, TA Spring 76b1 (and the slightly older 75b2 which I'm loathe to delete) runs acceptably fast. What a wonderful time waster! And Ubuntu 7.10 dropped right in. DOSEMU runs most of the stuff I've thrown at it so far, and I've already grown to appreciate both TORCS (a free auto racing game with a variety of cars and tracks and a lot of potential) and Tux Racer. The latter is a LOT more fun on a faster machine. Yes, I'm easily amused, but there's something about hurtling through the air at 150kph with a shiny ice surface below that gets my blood flowing.
My first impressions of the Ubuntu LiveCD version were back in the 5.x days, and it really didn't do it for me back then. I'm not sure what it is, though, but I'm really liking 7.10 on my hard drive. Could it be an OS/2 replacement? I'm not sure yet, since I've only been exploring it for a week or so. But I've not hit any roadblocks yet. We shall see. Film at 11!