I have now officially switched my laptop to Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) from Windows XP.
The laptop is a Dell Inspiron 9400. I got it about two and a half years ago and I might have upgraded it sooner except that the new ones all come with Vista and I heard so much bad stuff about Vista that I held back. I figured the way to get past Vista was to switch to Linux and rather than deal with a new machine and a new o/s at the same time I also figured I could do it right away at my own pace.
I got a new disk: a 2.5" SATA drive that fits into the hard disk slot in the laptop, so I can keep the Windows disk for when I need it. I have been slowly walking stuff over to the new disk. I need this machine as my development environment so everything had to be verified before I could switch. I do this stuff carefully.
Anyway, I got to the point where I could run a build on my current project under Linux. This is Eclipse plus Ant building an ear file for deployment on JBoss and Glassfish. Everything works. But, even more interesting: it works much faster.
Doing a full build under windows takes 11 minutes and 40 seconds. Doing the same thing under Linux takes 44 seconds. Yes, 11 minutes shorter. Okay, I had a think about that and I find if I turn off Norton's virus monitoring for the relevant directories it drops to around 5 minutes. But we are still way too slow. My colleagues are using Windows XP on quad core desktops, newer and faster than my laptop. Their build times are two minutes. I'm still ahead.
Some of the difference can be accounted for by the new and much cleaner disk, it is possibly a faster disk too, not sure. Otherwise the hardware is identical. I'm not sure though, that seems a lot of time to account for with just the disk.
I have heard about Windows 7, and I've heard it is better than Vista. But right now I'm pretty happy with what I have. I've got a faster machine and I did not have to buy a new one.