Well after Fedora getting very short shrift here I reinstalled Pear 7 (rather than the current Pear 8) on the now vacant HDD. I'd forgotten how far back several versions of the software I wanted to use went on this OS, later updates being saved for more recent releases, and what was bearably old a year ago suddenly felt very creaky this week.
So after investigating what was available I discovered, not surprisingly, that Ubuntu has some of the best update support of all the various Linux distros. I guess it's down to having the biggest user base, being semi-commercial, and presumably also developers working up their software for this platform first. I particular, it seems DigiKam 3.5 (latest version) is Ubuntu 13.10 compatible. Now I'm not really all that fussed about using the latest and greatest versions normally, but because the camera is only a few months old support for its RAW files is missing in all the older versions. Some raw converters show a deep magenta cast across the image while others simply report the file type as incompatible.
OK, download the latest version of Ubuntu, burn DVD, pop it in & off we go. Check the 'download updates' and 'use codecs' tickboxes, allow to install alongside pear & give it an 80Gb partition, name the machine, give it a user ID, password etc etc. no trouble. Then up pops a box asking for email addresses, Ubuntu 1 IDs, and passwords.
There's an option to put an email address in if you don't have an account, which I do, and follow other instructions. The install continued for a while before the installer reported a fatal error and stopped.
Try a couple more times, once with it crashing promptly, another where it went part way & crashed. Annoying.
OK thinks I, lets try it without the additional downloads and codecs, 'just in case'. So I left these boxes and worked my way through to the Ubuntu 1 registration page. At this point I noticed a little radio button that offered the chance to 'register later'. Hit this and bingo, install went in fine. I have a strong suspicion that the installer can't cope with Ubuntu 1 registration, and that caused the fatal errors and crashes.
So, having proved to my satisfaction that the newly installed OS worked OK (but a bit slow!)I've gone back & reinstalled again with the additional software and codecs, just to prove it.There's just a couple of minutes left of the installation to complete, but all seems well, and I may well confirm completion shortly.
As for Ubuntu itself, the Unity toolbar seemed really clumsy, in the same way Gnome 3 is clumsy and constraining, and in the same way W8 can be clumsy (though without W8's style & grace - the tiles are really slick). The search function is there as it is in OSX, to find and launch applications, but this seems a dumb way to work, not knowing where your apps, files etc are. Also the commercial quick links are anathema to a typical Linux user. If this becomes a favoured OS because of the image processing software then I can see customisation and dock software not too far into the future.
Considering both Pear Linux and LinuxLiteOS are built on Ubuntu, it obviously has huge potential. I can also see why a previous generation of Ubuntu users were up in arms about Unity, and why Ubuntu has spawned a dozen alternatively-skinned versions. Both pear and LLOS are so quick and tidy, if only they had better app support for what I want they'd be my go-to OSs.
Right, install completed. There was an error restoring some previously installed applications (!) which is curious considering it was a vanilla install, but hey ho.
Booting now. The bootload has a hideous magenta background that makes it look like the monitor has failed, although the background looks more like a blood-orange. We're in, it seems to work and there's some basic setting up to try. It failed the DVD test, which is not surprising, since it's 'free' software without paid licenses, although the video player did start when selected in response to a DVD being mounted and offer some menu options through scrambled interface.
Off to cook dinner, then back later to play & test.