So, here's a little linux introduction
I'll start with four words, optionally six: Get a live CD (or ten). I'll explain shortly, but i have to mention hardware first:
GeorgeK is right that Mac is an excellent alternative if you really want new hardware. Technically speaking, it's OSX is BSD based, but that particular OS is quite similar to linux in a whole lot of ways. You will get the same security level on a Mac out-of-the-box and you will not have any configuring hassle. You will be able to do all you can do on windows plus all you can do on linux, plus all you can do on mac.
So, to return i'll say that your problems are not hardware problems. They are software problems, and/or behavioural problems. You can solve them by installing software on your PC, or configuring what you have already, or changing behaviour - don't take the behaviour part offensively, it's only to say that you probably don't need to get new equipment.
So, to stay on track (and repeat myself in the process): Get a few linux live CDs
Plural is intentional, as you're now entering the free world. The choice is yours to try out all that you like and make your mind up as to what serves your taste and preferences the best.
Good ones you should try are, say, these (i hope links are OK here - numbers are for later reference, nothing else):
1) Knoppix [knopper.net] (of course)
2) SimplyMEPIS [mepis.org]
3) SLAX [slax.linux-live.org]
4) SUSE Live-Eval [suse.com]
5) Ubuntu [ubuntulinux.org]
6) Gnoppix [gnoppix.org]
You'll find a few more here: [distrowatch.com...]
- or here: [google.com...]
The trick with these CD's is:
Put them in your CD drive, restart your PC and run Linux instantly. Without installing anything and without even touching the windows system that's currently there.
All of them, except (4) will also make it possible to install linux on your system quite easily. Either alongside windows or by deleting windows, that is up to you but do try a few before you install.
- i added 4 as it's somewhat different to the others (one of the three mainstream distros, redhat and mandrake being the other two) and it's got excellent hardware detection and a really user-friendly graphical configure tool called Yast.
Simply put, the live CDs do the hardware detection as your PC boots up (they will even autodetect internet connections in most cases - specifically next-to-all broadband - so you're instantly online) and that takes care of most of the hassle otherwise inolved in the install process.
Perhaps you noted that (1) and (6) have very similar names. The obvious difference is that (6) has the GNOME window manager (so has (5)) and (1) has the KDE window manager (more on that shortly - Knoppix in fact has several window managers, including Gnome).
Number 3, SLAX, is slackware based, number 4 is a separate flavour (SUSE), the rest are Debian based (afaik). All that is techspeak and you shouldn't really care about it. They're all good and can do the job (whateveritis) just nicely - also, they all have nice (different) graphical interfaces, and they're quite user-friendly.
All of the above can be downloaded as .iso files and burned on a CD. It's incredibly easy to do, and with a recent CD-burner the burning process should take at most five minutes - meaning that the time from you start the burn till you are running linux will be less than 10 minutes.
That said, a CD holds more than 600Mb, so a download takes a long time, even with broadband. All of them (and several dozens others) can be delivered to your door for a small price though.
So, what was that window manager thingy, again
On Windows and Mac you have a nice graphical point-and-click interface. This interface is so much a part of your system that... well, for all practical purposes it is your system (at least to most people). And it can be customized too, with nice backgrounds, colors, font sizes etc etc.
On linux it's a little different. Simply put, you don't have a a nice graphical point-and-click interface - in stead you have several of them to choose from (and all of them can of course be customized too, with nice backgrounds, colors, font sizes etc etc.) No, you don't need to reboot first, no, not even if you have to install them first, and yes you can run more than one of them at the same time (whyever one would want to do that beats me, btw.) Some of the distros i mentioned above, notably knoppix, has a few different ones preinstalled.
Oh, and then you don't really have a desktop... as such. You should have at least four of them with a standard configuration, but that's not really the important point (although some would argue otherwise).
You have themes. Yes, just like on windows, but then again - not quite like in windows. Think "more powerful" - first, you have a lot more themes to choose from, second, it's not just colors and backgrounds - it's the way the whole user interface behaves.
So, there's something to get used to in terms of variety. Which begs the question:
Why try all those distros when any one can do all you need and then some?
Of course you don't have to. The choice is yours. The thing i'm trying to say is that after you try a few of them you will note that they are very similar in spite of their differences. You will learn (the easy way) that it's really a question of taste, and not a hard choice.
Also, some of them will be better suited to your particular hardware than others "out-of-the-box". There are differences in the software they include per default and how it is set up, but there's not a single thing that you can do with one of them that you will not be able to do with another, eventually (and mostly, easily). It could very well boil down to such insignificant matters as if you prefer a green frog (or a big K, or a red hat, or a footprint, or whatever) as your "start button".
Most likely, though, one of them will have you up and running with all your hardware detected faster than the others, and/or have the (types of) software that you personally find most valuable be better integrated overall.
So, what didn't i mention?
Well, to name two, Mandrake or Redhat. These are big solid mainstream (and somewhat "commercial") distros, just like SUSE (only the latter is not as "hyped" / "well known", but fully on par in all respects).
Or, to name two others, Linspire or Xandros. You don't need those unless you really want to run a lot of windows sotware on linux (for whatever reason).
All linuxes have a windows emulating program called Wine, which will allow you to do just that. The above two have both done a very good job of integrating that deep into the user interface to make it as easy as possible to use. Not that they're bad distros or anything (afaik), it's just not really necessary.
Why? Because, if you really want to run windows, you should do just that, ie. run windows. It is perfectly possible, and no problem at all to run both windows and linux on the same PC. When you boot you just choose which one you want to use.
Also, as noted, wine will let you run most windows programs on linux, although, naturally, it does not run windows programs as well as windows does (which is both bad and good).
... oh, i forgot...security
Actually i didn't forget, but i forgot to write why i didn't mention it a lot.
First, you can do much worse harm to/with a linux system than you can to/with a PC. It is more powerful, so if you do the wrong things you do the wrong things. Including the case that others do the wrong thing on your box. Still, there's a few things that linux don't really have, like, say system crashes, virii, malware and so on.
Second, it's quite easy to keep on the right track. There are simple things to do that are also quite powerful, like, say: