Awhile back I signed up for the "Employee Purchase Program" at work, which means you can buy a 3-year old PC that they're getting rid of for $50. It's a lottery, so once you sign up, they throw your name in a hat, and if they pull it, you get one.
Well, last week my name was drawn.
I get headaches just looking at "Start" buttons, so immediately after plugging everything in I downloaded supposedly the most user-friendly linux build -- Ubuntu -- burned a CD and booted up. After a little trouble with ATA1 errors (I had to pull the jumper off the hard drive), it booted up just fine. Install was easy, updating software was easy, adding a bunch of games and cool apps was easy. Didn't come with tcsh or nedit, but nothing a "sudo apt-get" couldn't fix. Otherwise very smooth.
My assessment: eh.
Not because of Ubuntu, mind you. Ubuntu appears to be a fairly clean and easy to use version of linux -- if you have a PC lying around, I highly recommend giving Ubuntu a shot. My problem is with linux itself -- it seems almost like a new dog that with a little training will do a bunch of cool little tricks. But in the end, that's all you've got -- a dog that does tricks. Where are MS Office, Quicktime, AppleScript, iTunes, iPhoto, Photoshop? They're replaced by clunkier versions that yes, are free (very cool), but feel like they're duct-taped together (bad). What else do I use a computer for? Turns out, not much.
So in the end I have a computer that my girls can use to play on pbskids.org, and I don't have to worry about them getting a virus or messing up the OS.
I guess that's worth $50.