I have a work laptop that has XP Pro SP 2 on it. Windows these days is’t bad. It very rarely freezes. My main problem is actually with Netbeans Nestor which I use for Rails development and is OS/Free and locks up at least twice a day, which I think is a problem with Java VM’s walking off the end of the pier. I stick with it because the only other choice is a poor Textmate clone called ‘E’, which, like Textmate, is a word processor pretending to be a proper development tool, but very Mac. Netbeans is miles ahead and runs on any platform with a Java VM.
Windows is’t that bad to develop on if you have plenty of memory and Cygwin and the Gnu tools installed. Free does’t mean good, necessarily. All I care about is whether things get in my way or not. That said, all our servers run Ubuntu or Redhat. So yeah, if I had a choice I’d run Ubuntu with the sexy 3d desktop, but I’m pretty effective with windows/cygwin/Gnu DOS window.
Apple, to me, are a bit like BMW – you drive one and say, yeah, nice car. But do you really want to pay the 20% premium?
Also, you have to do everything the Apple Way – with windows and Ubuntu there are lots of free/os bits you can add in to make it easier – if you want to. I’ve got my Windows machine looking very Apple-like with tools like Snarl popping up when I run autotest and so on. But I can choose what I want – Apple don’t decide for me. That, I like.
I’ve never played with free BSD – but worked a lot with Solaris 1, which was basically BSD, so I recon I’d get on well with it.
There’s a site that does reconditioned Thinkpads with Ubuntu preloaded. A similar spec to a tasty Macbook is about half the price. That’s where I’ll be looking if I need to buy a machine of my own.