While everyone and his dog have been busting a gut to blame Vista for everything from poor sales to ruining their lives (they may have a point), there are three extremely viable alternatives: XP, Mac OS X and Linux. Furthermore Ubuntu, arguably the most popular/publicised of the Linux varieties, is now up to v7.10.
Nicknamed 'Gutsy Gibson', v7.10 is the latest in Canonical's clever system of bi-annual updates and - like all Ubuntu releases - is free.
Major additions in Gibson include:
*Hardware management improvements with improved plug-and-play configuration for printers, as well as automatic firmware installation for Broadcom cards
*Improved support for display systems - For laptop users, full support external VGA (projector) support is available out-of-the-box with easy reconfiguration when hardware is switched. For power users this release includes the ability to manage multiple monitors
*Windows compatibility - Users with a dual partition can read from and and write to files that are on located in a Windows partition (including NTFS)
*Enhanced user interface - Simple 3D screen effects and graphics to enhance the user experience
*Desktop search - gives users the ability to search their entire desktop, whether for files, folders, chat logs or photos. This capability includes the deskbar applet, a central location on users' desktops for all local and web search operations
*Firefox plugins - automatic installation of popular Firefox plugins validated by Ubuntu.
As someone who was initially impressed, then frustrated, then infuriated by Microsoft Vista I crossed over to Ubuntu for some time and have to admit it is a rock solid, lightening quick platform which just works out of the box. Everything you need to get up and running is installed already and you really can tell it comes from a labour of love.
That said, many key functions require use of the Gnome Terminal - a Unix shell which leads to a lot of code typing, even for simple things (for example) and as such while this level of customisability remains heaven for advanced users it can be hell for everyone else. If Ubuntu (and Linux in general) is going to compete with Apple and Microsoft in the long term this needs to go.
Still, one step at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day...