I've received a lengthy comment on my earlier post. Given that it goes into a great deal of depth on the topic (longer than my post, by the looks of it!), I've decided to reply with a separate post.
Firstly, thank you anonymous individual for taking the time out to make a well reasoned and insightful comment. Having read over my post again, I realize that my tone was occasionally a bit harsh. I was (understandably, I reckon) more than a little annoyed at the state of affairs. Still, I think I made it clear even then that I wasn't anti Linux; if anything, I expressed my eagerness to embrace Linux.
Perhaps I went too far in making such an all encompassing statement - that Linux wasn't 'read for the desktop'. While looking into my particular problem, I did overlook the fact that I was in the minority - most people have no problems installing Ubuntu, and the installation process is reputed to be much better than that of Windows, probably in part due to the fact that it can be installed from a Live CD. And yes, I am aware that Windows has problems with driver support as well. The thing that irked me about my experience with Ubuntu was that it didn't fail gracefully, it just left me in the lurch. And the problem is apparently a glitch with the installer. I've had issues with Windows where drivers weren't available, but it was able to run with basic VGA drivers; I'm not sure why this didn't happen with the Ubuntu installer.
I am well aware that Linux is getting better all the time with regard to these sorts of problems, and with regard to general usability. And yes, driver issues are the biggest stumbling blocks, but even here things are improving. This is one of the reasons I felt it was time to start using it. This is also why, if I don't find a way to resolve my current problem, I'll get the next release of Ubuntu and give that a try - the driver issues will hopefully be resolved by then.
Once again, I agree my comment was unjustified with regard to the actual usage of a Linux desktop, seeing as how I have very little experience with a modern distro! I am aware that most basic things can be done with a Linux distro straight out of the box, with minimal effort. And the new package managers are meant to be a piece of cake to use. A person with some technical skill shouldn't have many problems. I have no doubt that once I get Linux installed I'll still have issues that need to be resolved, but I should be able to find solutions online, as you mention. I suspect you're right when you say that someone, somewhere has already experienced whatever problems that might crop up...
I think the major contentious point is in terms of advanced usability. You mention that to do things besides basic web-browsing and email will require some effort. The reason being that it takes time to get used to the Linux way of doing things. Quite often, though, from what I've read I get the impression that sometimes getting things done can be complicated - as in more complicated than the Windows way. If Linux is to be ready for the desktop, these things need to be made easier. Now I acknowledge that I could be wrong, seeing as how my practical knowledge on this matter is limited, but that's the general impression I get. Perhaps once I get used to Linux, things won't seem quite as complicated. And quite often the reason things are harder is because Linux always faces an uphill battle when it comes to getting support from developers and manufacturers, which results in complicated workarounds to get things done.
But I do believe that for the average user, these problems are an issue when compared to Windows. Most software used by the average Joe is designed to work with Windows and is not likely to cause problems. With Linux, however, it may be a bit more complicated for the average person - being used to Windows, and having to deal with problems that they might not have to deal with normally (the reasons for these problems are irrelevant to most people; I understand that it might not really be the 'fault' of Linux that things don't always work - i.e. lack of driver support from manufacturers). Basically, Windows' ubiquity is a hindrance to Linux being 'ready for the desktop'. It can involve jumping through hoops to get proprietary file formats and software to work with Linux, if it's possible at all. Most people expect these things to 'just work'.
It's an interesting point you make about advanced Windows users being wary of going in to Linux - like jumping into the deep end! I think there's some truth to that statement. It's hard to get used to a new way of doing things, following instructions and stumbling around, but I guess it's a good way to learn. And yeah, it is easy to just give up without trying, especially for relatively advanced users, and I agree that it is a feeble excuse. And while I did come close to using that kind of excuse, you'll note that I haven't given up.
Anyway, in short I agree with most of what was said in your comment... Linux is getting better and will continue to do so, and the type of problem that I encountered is an exception. Most Linux problems can be resolved with a little effort. Much of what can be done on Windows can be done on Linux. But it does take time to get used to the Linux way of things. The only thing I'm not sure of is that it's as usable for the average Joe as it is for those who are more technically inclined. For my part, I will (as I originally stated) be trying again, and look forward to having a dual boot system set up in the near future.