As it happens, I switched an 80-year old relative from Windows XP to Ubuntu last weekend. This
was done at short notice because the power supply in her XP PC was failing, and I happened to
have an old laptop spare that was running Xubuntu.
My relative is doing fine with Ubuntu, and there's really very little to learn as the main
applications (Firefox and Thunderbird) are identical - she's not a power user at all, simply
needing a few basic apps.
The differences between Windows and Xubuntu really don't matter to this person, as long as
everything works. I could have done the same thing with KDE or GNOME, I'm sure, but I already
had Xubuntu installed and XFCE works OK in 192 MB RAM. I did spend a bit of time making the
XFCE setup look like Windows, with a Start menu at the bottom, but that's not exactly
The huge benefit is that now I can remotely administer the machine using either SSH or VNC
(over SSH, using the excellent x11vnc, ), and quickly fix any problems as they occur. This
was very hard to keep working on Windows for some problem. Also, all the Ubuntu applications
get security-updated automatically (thanks to "aptitude install unattended-upgrades"), rather
than the apps remaining insecure until my next visit.
On the proprietary driver point - as it happens this laptop doesn't need any proprietary
drivers, but if there was a need for this due to WiFi or graphics, it would be a deal-blocker
if only open source drivers were available. I'm a pragmatist like Mark Shuttleworth on this -
if a PC is 'only' 99% open source due to proprietary drivers, it still creates more demand for
Linux-supported hardware, and in the long run the proprietary drivers can more likely be
dumped as a result, compared to leaving the PC on XP where everything is closed sources.