So, why should I use Linux rather than Windows, which will run all my software? Expecting everything to work perfectly may be nonsense but I have to assume that your average user is going to follow the least effort path.
The last version I had any trouble with, by way of Windows, was 98 on a Tiny computer I had as a kid, mostly because of esoteric driver requirements. After that, it pretty much just worked. What do you think your average user is likely to do to it that would need them to go whistle for a sysadmin?
I don't know about anyone else, but I still go looking for an expert when I need any of my Windows machines fixed: whereas when any of my Ubuntu machines have issues, I'm comfortable and motivated to look up the answers myself. Partly that's an issue with documentation quality - you're a lot less likely to catch a drive-by download or follow maliciously bad advice on Linux forums - but I also find the workings of Linux much easier to understand.
The most popular desktop operating system on earth returns 2.5 billion hits. So what? Large numbers without basis for comparison are meaningless. I can't think how you'd get that basis here. The only thing you can really say on that basis is that less than 100% of users had no problems.
I didn't pretend that people never needed help with Windows. I said I hadn't had any real problems with it since 98 and asked what he thought the average user needed a sysadmin for in Windows.
I can see how you'd come to the conclusion you seem to have, but I really don't appreciate being made out to be a liar. If you act on a similar assumption in a similar manner in the future then I'm going to ignore anything else you have to say.
What does seem relevant to me is that there's a dramatic difference between an operating system that even programmers get tired of trying to make do what they want and jump ship from and one that you can reasonably expect not run into significant problems with for years. If Windows were equally messed up as Linux I'd expect to run into the problems at around the same rate.
How long does it take you to run into trouble with Linux? I tried it just now, downloaded Mint and threw it in the old DVD drive - 15 minutes. Most of which were spent trying to work out how to change the primary monitor so I could get the taskbar onto the one I wanted. When I did manage to do so the graphics corrupted and the system froze irrecoverably.
You clearly aren't the "computer whiz" in your family, who has to field all the "can you help me? Microsoft isn't working. I think I've been hacked, do you think it's a virus? Why is my computer so slow? Why is fixing it taking so long?" issues.
As for your ubuntu issues - you booted off a liveCD. Good for you. Now, how many liveCDs have you seen of Windows? How widespread are they?
Anyway, the same problems apply in setting up the system regardless of Windows or *nix - you need a power user to get you through the humps. Good luck installing XP as a normal user when you run into the ever-present problem of no appropriate network drivers. Basically you're comparing apples and oranges.
> You clearly aren't the "computer whiz" in your family, who has to field all the "can you help me? Microsoft isn't working. I think I've been hacked, do you think it's a virus? Why is my computer so slow? Why is fixing it taking so long?" issues.
There's a limit of naivety beyond which everyone will need help, yes. I simply believe that you can get away with being more naive with Windows most of the time. I don't have to fix my mother's Windows problems, or my sister's - from time to time I have to fix my father's, but even then not just for setting the thing up.
> As for your ubuntu issues - you booted off a liveCD. Good for you. Now, how many liveCDs have you seen of Windows? How widespread are they?
I think I've seen two or three versions over the years, mostly as repair tools environs. Why?
> Anyway, the same problems apply in setting up the system regardless of Windows or *nix - you need a power user to get you through the humps. Good luck installing XP as a normal user when you run into the ever-present problem of no appropriate network drivers. Basically you're comparing apples and oranges.
Windows Xp network drivers - that's three versions out of date. And really, where are your discs? If you got it ready made they should have sent you the drivers along with their bloatware and if you didn't then they should save sent you the mobo drivers with the mobo.
To be fair, Windows 7 typically still has that network driver problem with new ThinkPads. Fortunately, ThinkPad is a good company, and they make it relatively easy to locate and download the right network driver to put on a thumb drive, if you don't have an install disk handy (happens more commonly than you suggest). This is easy if you know what you're doing, but, of course, next to impossible without some power user knowledge (it also requires access to another computer with a working internet connection and a thumb drive).
And also to be fair, XP is in a valid sense only one version out of date. Vista was a fiasco, and that's not just a meme -- Vista was released way ahead of schedule and still had a ton of known unresolved bugs. It was by far MS's most buggy release, and the whole thing was a disaster. Compared to the relative stability of XP, Vista was a step backwards. And while Windows 7 can rightly be called a newer version of Windows XP (and is better in nearly every way), it would be a stretch to say that Windows 8 is a newer version of Windows 7. Windows 8 is a fork into a different paradigm, and is so different it's not even comparable to Windows 7 along a number of dimensions.
All that said, XP is still pretty damn out of date, even with the latest service pack installed, and if Windows 7 is an option, it's usually a better one. Of course, XP uses less memory, so it may be suitable for particularly old computers. And for people that don't like to pirate software, owning a copy XP is a great reason to stick with XP (if it works well enough, why fork out the money for Windows 7?).
"If Windows were equally messed up as Linux I'd expect to run into the problems at around the same rate."
My personal experience (as someone who has been dual-booting Windows and Ubuntu for nearly a decade and uses both operating systems regularly) is that both have a lot of annoying problems, but Windows has always been way more of a pain in the ass, and I've run into more problems using it. Especially when it comes to driver issues, Windows has problems (it took hours to get a standard WiFi card to work, and once my video driver got corrupted so badly the system wouldn't even let my try to fix it, and restore failed -- I had to reinstall the OS to fix it).