I got to install Linux on my wife's laptop through a convoluted set of circumstances. The laptop was having symptoms, such as never shutting down on its own, that irritated Tanya. After tinkering around and googling failed to solve the problem, I figured I could at least fix it by reformatting the hard drive and re-installing Windows. To my surprise, the problem continued -- more on that later. I told Tanya that there was nothing else I could do. Windows still ran, with quirks; but I offered Linux if she was desperate for a fix.
Under normal circumstances, she would probably never have agreed to have Linux installed. However, at the time she had a work laptop that she used most of the time, so she happily let me wipe out Windows and install Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). Tanya is highly dependent on Microsoft Office, especially Excel, which she uses constantly at work, and she isn't interested in giving OpenOffice a try. Fortunately, Wine has progressed to the point that it can run Office tolerably well -- it crashes occasionally, but is basically functional. (We also only have Office 2000, which makes it easier.)
The Ubuntu laptop sat mostly unused for months, while Tanya continued using her work computer for almost everything. Then she lost her job, and suddenly she found herself using Linux all the time. There have been some rough spots, but hardly anything major. She does all her work the way she did on Windows; I've just had to make a few tweaks, for example, to get .doc files to open in Wine-Winword.exe.
Ironically, I think I figured out how to fix the error that originally caused us to give up on Windows. XP machines usually have the hard drive partitioned in two, with the second one serving as a backup. I don't know exactly what's kept on the backup, but I was assuming that it wouldn't affect a clean installation. Apparently I was wrong. I haven't tested this on Tanya's computer yet, but I was having a similar persistent error on my Dad's computer, one that made it virtually unusable (by disabling the administrator account). I tried reformatting the backup partition, and now it works fine. The thing is, the Windows reinstall disk that came with Tanya's computer does not automatically wipe out the backup partition! It's already a crock that they don't allow you to reinstall Windows without destroying the rest of your computer -- you have to put it to the "factory-original" condition. But even if you do that, it still might not fix your problem! And people say Linux is unfriendly.