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.
Uh oh! Here’s something big coming in from Microsoft! It wants to reboot me. It’s been loading something in the background for some minutes now, maybe for a half hour or so.
Utilizer I’d like to pursue your suggestions but will have to do so tomorrow. I’ve got to close up a bunch of things here before allowing the reboot of Win 7, and I’ve got to go to sleep as well (I’m on East Coast time).
I’ll get back to you. Thanks, both, for your comments and suggestions.