I decided to take the plunge with Ubuntu on my old laptop that had Windows XP Pro installed. First I pulled down the Desktop CD of Ubuntu 6.06 ISO and burned it to a CD. Ubuntu fits on one CD-Rom disk, nice. Then after setting the BIOS settings to boot off the CD-Rom/DVD drive I inserted the CD with the Ubuntu 6.06 ISO.
After booting from the Ubuntu CD, you can test drive it to see if you want to install it on your hard disk. If so, there is a handy install icon. Select the icon, answer a few standard questions for language, timezone, userID, and password and it will install.
Then, I inserted my Linksys WPC11 wireless NIC and Ubuntu recognized it lickety split. I added my WEP settings info via the Administrator|Network tool and I was browsing.
I have to say that this was the most trouble-free install of any linux distribution I have seen. Then, with the help of the Urban Puddle blog, I was able to get Ruby, Rails, and MySql installed.
See my messing with Interactive Ruby (IRB) below on my new Ubuntu install.
Also of note was that Ubuntu was able to browse to my Windows server shares as Server Message Block (SMB) shares. I did not even have to mess with SAMBA. Sweet!!!