Ubuntu is very stable and has good support
using WINE, you can run any Windows-based softwareNO! SOME Wondows programs will run on Wine BUT NOT ALL.
How steep is the learning curveIt is not impossible. We were all newbies once.
How secure is itIt is generally accepted that Linux is more secure than Windows.
Are there any obvious advantages or disadvantages to using Linux over Windowsand
What can someone accomplish with Linux/Ubuntu that is any better than one could accomplish with WindowsLook at http://www.whylinuxisbetter.net/ People tend to write malware for Windows and not Linux.
Are there any hardware compatibility issues with Linux/Ubuntu?Yes. And sometimes you have to install drivers for Video and Wifi.
How effective is WINE at running Windows software?As above it will run SOME Windows software but NOT ALL. There are some apps which will go further e.g. PlayOnLinux or the PAID Cedega.
You do not have to have Linux OR Windows. You can have Linux AND Windows. You can Dual Boot - then you can choose which you want to use.
There are many Gimp tutorials e.g.
You can Google more.
If you have ISOs you should use a program like UNetbootin. Available for Linux. Windows and OSX.
Have you tried K3B?
Which disto do you use? Maybe it is the burner you use. Which one have you tried?
There are a lot of native Linux media player. Why not use one of those?
PlayOnLinux supports Windows Media Player 10. http://www.playonlinux.com/en/supported_apps-5-0.html
It may not be easier. It is different. There is a learning curve, just like there is a learning curve moving from Windows XP to Vista to Windows 7 to Windows 8.
We are here to help with problems, but you need to fully describe what your problems are.
Why could you not install Elementary OS. What happened? What did you see?
What do you mean "I couldn't boot into it." What happened? What did you see?
Please explain more.
Why do you want to create a virtual machine without virtualbox? What do you want to create a virtual machine of? Why without virtualbox?
Windows Virtual PC - http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/install-and-use-windows-xp-mode-in-windows-7
9.40 means 2009 April. It is too old!
What are the basic specs of your computer?
A black screen with a flashing underscore often means a video problem.