After floundering around with Virtual PC, a friendly suggestion steered me toward VMware Player and a virtual appliance of Ubuntu 8.04. Installing it is a snap, and it's free. It's the perfect way to get acquainted with Linux.
Since I treated you all to the painful recitation of my labors trying to install Hardy Heron on Virtual PC, I might as well update you on how that is proceeding. Although I finally achieved a measure of success out of sheer stubbornness, after a week, I took great pleasure in removing all traces of Virtual PC from my machine. Ubuntu on VPC was slow, the audio was terrible, and the Firefox 3 beta was prone to freezing and crashing for no apparent reason. I may be stubborn, but I'm not masochistic.Our veteran Linux tip writer, Vincent Danen, kindly suggested the free VMware Player and a virtual appliance. I quickly installed the Player and then went browsing for the appliance. The number of choices was bewildering, so I ended up getting the Ubuntu 8.04 build from VMPlanet. Well, as they say somewhere no doubt -- butter my buns! (I like that phrase -- it has assonance and consonance. I told you I was an English major.) It works like a charm, of course, with absolutely no work required for me. The only thing I've had to do so far is "downgrade" to Firefox 2, so that I could install the Rhapsody plugin, which does not work with the pesky Firefox beta. I haven't had time to do much yet, but I can already tell that Gimp is a very slick graphic editor, just from doing a quick crop of a photo.