When I was studying for my PhD at the University of Miami, I had Fedora installed on my machine as the primary os and switched to windows 2000 whenever I was forced to. I remember that was about 2002 / 2003 and I was able to get all my work done over there including posting lab notes to students, writing my papers and research reports on tetex and of course writing code. I don’t recall that octave was there, so I had to use windows to run simple experiments on Matlab.
Since I didn’t have a desktop machine, I decided to setup one. We had an old dell optiplex GX260 with an XP license and of course no media, which was bought within a lot of machines and so no hope to actually obtain the original media i.e. the license is just useless. The OS on the machine was totally damaged beyond repair.
I decided to install Ubuntu desktop and I tried both 8.04 and 9.10 (sorry I have hard time keeping track of the animal name). Amazingly, 8.04 flawlessly worked but 9.10 compiz had an issue with the on-board graphics card. I installed google chrome, flash player (which are not part of the ubuntu repository), and currently using gmail chat instead of gtalk. Hopefully I will try to setup pidgin to be able to chat in voice.
I always knew that I don’t need MS windows. My MS Windows is used to run openoffice.org and putty 90% of the time!!! Hopefully I will find a good graphics card compatible with 9.10 on newegg and will upgrade soon.