I passionately loathe Windows for its notorious unreliability and cannot wait for the moment it, and the pc design it produced will be wiped out into oblivion. The Windows-based PC is to computing what the 1960's-style gas guzzler was to automobile - big, heavy, loaded with bells and whistles, and monumentally inefficient - a true brain-child of monopoly capitalism, just as the textbooks described it. The system I would like to see will have the PDA design - operating system being permanently stored in memory - so it is less crash-prone and it does not take forever to boot the computer - and requiring only a small share of computer resources. Not to mention the fact that it will also reduce the potential for planned obsolescence.
Having said that - I would love to see a suitable replacement, but I'm not sure if Linux is the right alternative. True, it is supposed to be considerably more reliable than Windows, but it seems equally bulky and does not do away with the idiotic PC design that requires to load it to memory before it can be operational. In addition to hardware recognition problems you mention, it has a rather limited choice of professional (as opposed to Microsoft-spawn crap) applications, such as statistical packages or graphics. I am also not sure if it can communicate with a PDA.
I would thus be interested in your experience using Linux - I tried to convince JHU computing warlocks to install it on my machine, but they would not touch it with a 10-foot pole.