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Try before you buy, download knoppix in windows, and burn it. You can then boot a complete Linux distro, verify that all your hardware is supported, and try it out. It does not do anything to your hard drive and runs 100% off your CD. It is an easy way to verify that all your hardware works (i.e. winmodem, onboard sound, onboard video, etc if you have them)
What your friend is talking about is wine, which is a windows compatibility layer. It is not the easiest to use. Which apps do you think you want to keep? Except for games, there are usually Linux equivalents to Windows apps that run native.
Linux, the kernel is extremely reliable. The difference between distros is basically, user interface, packages, package management, and optimizations. That said, all are very reliable. I don't have recollection of rebooting or restarting Suse ever. Sure, the odd app dies, but you just restart it.
May seem like a lot of work, however, you will leave the world of insecurity, rebooting to install software, rebooting several times/day behind. Virus/trojans/worms/spyware become a thing of the past, and you get to be in charge of your computer again.
stability and reliability are two different things. i've read more than one account of people's gentoo system just sort of "blowing up" one day after a few months of stable use. maybe those cases were the result of user error, but then all the more reason for newbies to avoid it. i also would never recommend to someone new a distro that you take more time compiling than using.
i agree with all the guys, you should go with a user friendly distro such as mandrake or fedora. In cas you still want to give slackware a try, you can download slax which is a live cd distro, is almost the same as knoppix the only difference is that slax is based on slackware, where as knoppix is based on debian.
From all my experience with Suse, the only times I ever rebooted were to start up windows! And that wasn't much....
Honestly, its more a matter of difficulty rather than reliability. You install almost any distro, except linspire, of course, correctly and you're going to have a reliable, stable system on your hands. The difficulty with Linux, and certain distros, of course, is the correct installation=not easy. I suggest Suse for ease of installation. Good for beginners, but still allowing for customization, just not of the degree that is slackware.