Here is a guest post from Jeremy Cook.
Jeremy Cook is a Mechanical Engineer, avid tinkerer, and part time Linux user. You can find him on Twitter at JeremySCook https://twitter.com/JeremySCook or at his DIY camera-related blog: DIYTripods.com http://diytripods.com/
This article details Jeremy's move from Windows to Ubuntu.
At some point in 2011, I decided to download Ubuntu and try it out on my Lenovo T60 running off of the disk without installing. After becoming either bored or frustrated with it, I decided to go back to running Windows XP. The disks then sat in my desk drawer for several months until my aging notebook's HDD decided to crash.
Normally, Windows XP would have been reinstalled on this computer, but for some reason it just wasn't working. I'm a Mechanical Engineer, so I'm not totally technologically inept, but the reason it wouldn't install wasn't apparent to me. After considering buying a new computer, using the Ubuntu disk seemed like a long shot, but I had nothing to loose.
To my surprise, Ubuntu installed on my HDD without any problem whatsoever. I had backed up most of my important files with Dropbox, which has a Linux client, so restoring everything was just a matter of installing the program and signing in. Although not every program is listed, the Ubuntu Software Center makes programs on it extremely easy to install.
I doubt I could currently use Linux as my primary OS at work, simply because of software issues. However, for someone that mostly surfs the Internet, writes, and does some light programming and drafting at home, it worked quite well. Chrome and Firefox are available natively on Ubuntu, and LibreOffice (which I'm now using under Windows) is a very sufficient replacement for MS Office. GIMP is great for photo editing, and the feature that lets you play with multiple workspaces is an incredible tool for blogging. I didn't really understand multiple worspaces at first, but oned you're accustomed to it, it's quite nice.
As for the Tinkering, I programmed an Arduino with it, and also something called a PyMCU (http://www.circuitsforfun.com/). The latter was after learning the basics of the built-in Python programming language. I even learned some scripting, which is incredibly powerful, although maybe not the most user-friendly feature. Finally, the AutoCAD-clone Draftsight is available on Ubuntu (my review http://www.jcopro.net/2012/01/28/a-review-of-draftsight-for-ubuntu-linux/) natively, so that took care of my need for a 2D drafting program for home use.
One thing that I did feel was lacking was a professional-level video editing package. Openshot works OK, and was likely crippled by my aging machine. I do a lot of time-lapse videos (see my youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/jscook55), and after 200 or so frames, the editor would crash. I upgraded to a much newer computer with Windows 8, and promptly obtained a copy of PowerDirector.
My video editing capability is much better now, but I definitely miss things about Linux. The multiple workspaces are, of course, awesome, and I enjoyed some of the built-in programming functionality. Also, the general lack of bloatware is very nice.
If you have a PC that's reaching the end of its usable life, I'd encourage you to give Ubuntu a try. It kept my notebook going for a year and a half as my primary PC, and I still use it to check email, and surf the web when my other notebook isn't handy.