I've been playing with Linux for several years, but over the last year or so, its really become a viable alternative to Windows. I had a old Thinkpad R50e with Ubuntu on it, and it worked flawlessly, so this year it was clearly time to switch my main work machine from Windows XP to Linux.
Before I started, I wrote a list of all the software I used regularly in a spreadsheet, and then made sure there were Linux alternatives to them. I'd already moved to Open Office from MS Office and I'd switched from Eudora to Thunderbird a year earlier, so that was the bulk of my day-to-day software taken care of. Gradually I whittled down the list, until I was left with only one piece of software I couldn't replace — my accounting package. In fact there is a viable alternative to that in the Linux world, but I really didn't want to transfer all my data from one package to the other. So then, I'd have to run Windows once a month when I want to do my accounts. Not too bad. My plan was to start out with a dual boot machine and then gradually migrate the windows install to a virtual machine. More on that later.
OK, so now I knew I could do it, I chose a distribution. I've been using Ubuntu for a while on my old Thinkpad, but I tried out a few of the other ones out there, just to make sure. I tried OpenSuse, Linux Mint, and PCLinuxOS. They were all OK, but in the end the OpenSuse was just a bit too difficult to get going on the target Thinkpad R51e — its got some weird hardware, that Linux doesn't like, including the built in wireless card. In the end I went with Linux Mint, which is essentially Ubuntu with a nicer UI. I never did like brown.
I'll detail the setup process in another post later …