I run Windows and Linux.
I use Linux for servers; the usual Apache and MySQL, Subversion, a shopping-cart, an image-processing library.
I use Windows for everything else.
To get the high reliability of Linux, you’ve got to use the command-line interface. Which for me is a royal pain. I don’t like having to pore through a half-dozen websites to get the answer if I can’t find it on one of my half-dozen cheat sheets.
Tried Debian last summer. Tried both Gnome and KDE GUIs. Couldn’t get used to KDE’s weird organization, and Gnome was considerably less reliable than Windows. Couple of times a day I’d be doing things in Gnome, opening files, installing software, editing stuff, and all of a sudden... =POOF=. No more Gnome. Screen goes black. Hit a few keys to get to the command line. Linux still there, but Gnome collapsed.
Re-launch Gnome, great. There it is. Only problem: my whole session, everything I was doing, is gone.
Sure, no BSOD. Sure, the underlying Linux OS didn’t crash, and was still operating. Sure, Apache didn’t skip a beat.
But the GUI part of it dumped everything I was doing into intersteller space. That’s a pain. That doesn’t happen with Windows 7, and it didn’t happen with Windows XP.
GUIs are hard. They have to be able to handle an incredible range of different missions, different user habits, different configurations, different combinations of apps. Lots of asynchronous events. Lots of variables.
Windows is a more solid GUI. Linux is a more solid OS, maybe, but only if you’re doing a limited number of relatively simple things.
Wow, that’s not been my experience at all. I’ve been using PCLinuxOS, with KDE GUI. On any given day, I’ll have Firefox open to FR (of course) and my webmail, several “Word” documents open for editing (LibreOffice), perhaps a spreadsheet also, and an mp3 music program going in the background. Never one crash in almost two years. What kind of and how much stuff did you have open to make the GUI crash?
OK so far? These are all very good and stable Linux live distros that you can play with without touching your current setup at all. I listed them in order of personal preference, however YMMV. Mepis Linux is the one I prefer most, and is the one I am using right now as a matter of fact. I also installed an earlier version on a friends older laptop about two years ago and she has yet to experience any sort of crash or problems. Granted, she is still a fairly new user and not really proficient with the 'Doze OS either, but other than a few games that are not available for Linux she is still up and running.
Personally, other than a couple or more specific programs that I just HAVE to have that are simply not available in Linux, pretty much everything else I want to do has an equivalent that has worked out well thus far, with no crashes or viruses over several years now. In fact right now I am downloading the latest episodes of two tv series for later offline viewing, converting an m4v to an mp4 video file to burn to a dvd, watching FoxNews in a Mozilla Firefox browser while I post/FReep in a separate Opera browser, and backing up some critical files to an external USB drive as I type this.
Very stable, very happy with this distro. Others prefer other distros of course, and there are literally hundreds of versions out there to play with. Stick with the live distros only for now to play with to see if you like one. For the really brave, there are also the BSD and Sun Unix options, or even OS/2 if you wish.
Of course, you could always go 'retro' and fall back on win XP, 2k, ME, NT, or 98. They are still out there and work quite well on older equipment.