Ubuntu Linux is a mix of the conservative stable Debian Linux and the latest software. Ubuntu is the Linux you choose when you want Debian updated with the latest hardware drivers. The latest software is often unstable and may make your computer difficult to use. Sometimes the best approach is to use the latest version of Ubuntu to get the new hardware drivers but then switch off other new features for stability.
Fedora competes with Ubuntu for a similar market. Both are updated every six months. Their updates arrive three months apart. For three months, Ubuntu is the most up to date then Fedora is the most up to date for three months. After installation, both will immediately connect online and download the latest updates.
Installation has to work up to the point where you can connect to a network for the update. After the connection you can get the latest available versions of everything. If the installation fails to work up to the network connection, you may have to switch to the another version of Linux. For most installations, either Ubuntu works or both Ubuntu and Fedora fail. Occasionally Ubuntu fails and Fedora works.
On rare occasions I have also resorted to CentOS and Debian unstable because Ubuntu and Fedora have a new driver that does not work. I also used CentOS for compatibility with hosted Web sites based on CentOS. Now I use the Ubuntu alternate download to get a wider range of configuration options.
Ubuntu has an LTS version with LTS standing for Long Term Support. Ubuntu 10.4 and 11.4, the April releases, are LTS versions. The October releases of Ubuntu, 10.10 and the future 11.10, are not LTS. There appears to be no difference in stability. Ubuntu 10 is more stable than Ubuntu 9. Will Ubuntu 11 be better?
Ubuntu 11.4 beta 2 is more stable than Ubuntu 10 if you switch off the new Unity interface. The two big changes between Ubuntu 11 and 10 are Firefox 4 and the new Unity interface replacing Gnome version 2. Firefox 4 appears to be more stable than Firefox 3.5. Unity is less stable than Gnome. If you switch off Unity, Ubuntu 11.4 is the most stable Ubuntu so far and should be better when out of beta.
Gnome has two levels, with effects and without effects. I switch off the effects because some of the effects interfere visually and some chew up processing time. I prefer the cleaner faster interface without effects. Effects are aimed more at people who want to use their computer for entertainment or to show off in front of friends. People brought up on Apple computers will want effects on. I have not found any stability problems from using effects. There are reports of problems with some graphics chips and some of the problems are bypassed by switching off effects.
Unity was originally tried on a special netbook edition of Ubuntu and made better use of the short wide screens on current netbooks. The cost is a lot of junk processing and annoying pop-in effects. You might need the pop-in effects on a netbook with a small screen. On a medium size netbook with a 10" screen, the pop-in effects are annoying time wasters. I did not find a way to switch Unity features off individually. Switching from Unity back to Gnome is quicker and easier.
The effects in Gnome and Unity require the most complicated features of the latest graphics chips. If your computer has a new graphics chip and Linux has a problem with the chip, try Gnome with effects off. Gnome should then use only the less complicated features of the graphics chip. If you still have problems, you may have to access Linux using the 1950s style Linux/Unix/DOS command box and manually download graphics drivers. I prefer to give up before resorting to the command line and switch to a different distribution of Linux.
The next instability in Linux will be the switch from disks with 512 byte sectors to disks with 4096 byte sectors. Linux is already ahead of Windows in this area. Mac OSX should be the same as Linux because OSX is Unix with shiny wallpaper glued on the front. Anything new in Linux should be quickly available in Unix then Apple can copy all the free work from the open source community and sell it to Apple customers. you should only hit the 4096 byte sector problem when using disks larger than 2 GigaBytes.
Most chips are stable. SATA is becoming faster but is not changing the way SATA communicates. USB is becoming faster and USB 3 does use a different socket but the basic protocol is not changing and the chips should look the same to the operating system.
Graphics and wireless network chips are evolving rapidly. Graphics chips are always changing. Wireless network chips are implementing changes for the 802.11n protocol then should settle down for a while.
Touch screens are increasing in popularity but tablets had touch screens back last century and the chip to operating system interface should stay the same.
My three most stable computers use Ubuntu. One is a server with a very simple and old set of chips selected for compatibility with Linux. The next is a desktop workstation with hardware at least one year old and Ubuntu 10.10 with a lot of updates. The desktop workstation was unstable throughout Ubuntu 10.4 and for the first few months of 10.10. Linux finally caught up with all the hardware in the desktop workstation after a year.
The third reliable computer is a netbook using Ubuntu 11.4 beta 2 with Unity and Gnome effects switched off. Initially the wireless chip would not work at 802.11n speeds and now, after many updates, works reliably at 802.11n speed. There were other problems and now they are gone.
Firefox 3.5 was unstable and 11.4 installs the more stable Firefox 4. The netbook has Firefox 4 installed with fewer add-on modules because some of the modules created problems in Firefox 3.5. The result is Firefox not crashing or locking up.
LibreOffice replaces OpenOffice in Ubuntu 11.4. LibreOffice appears to be OpenOffice with some features missing. I have not used LibreOffice because my first need is text and code processing using Bluefish followed by word processing using Abiword then content editing using Firefox. My medium speed netbook works perfectly with Abiword but slows down when hit with the either of the giant OpenOffice/LibreOffice applications.
Try Unity. You can easily switch between Unity and Gnome at login.
Ubuntu 11.4 will be the best Ubuntu or Linux distribution if you use Gnome and your computer does not use the Nvidia chip that appears to be the last remaining chip related problem in Ubuntu 11.4 beta 2.