I have been using linux on the desktop for the last 15 years. Before ubuntu came around there was no distro I could recommend to non-technical users. I tried. It was a disappointment for both sides every single time. (As a teenager I made my mother cry by installing linux on her computer.) When I noticed ubuntu some years ago, it had already a lot of traction and a reputation for being a distro that actually works for regular users. I gave it a try and was instantly excited. The desktop looked neat, which is important because non-tech users measure quality by the looks. If it looks and feels cheap it makes them feel uncomfortable. To my surprise everything worked right out of the box. Well, almost everything (think of wireless drivers). It had great i18n and L10n. It fullfilled the needs and expectations of regular windows users enough to make them switch to linux. Ever since, I installed ubuntu on the machines of many friends and some family members. (My mother is a happy ubuntu user for years now.) Most of them keep using it to this day and are very content with it. Once people get accostumed, they realize this new thing is more reliable and less annoying than windows. I use ubuntu myself too. In the past I used debian and got along just fine, but not having to constantly fiddle around with things because they do work out of the box, saves me a lot of time. And having nice fonts and slick UI is a good thing.
But some time ago Canonical (the company behind ubuntu) started to do awkward stuff: contributor license agreements, aggressive legal practices, unpopular projects like Unity and Mir, pushing for money on their download page (somehow implying that I can decide myself how they distribute this money, which I believe is deliberately misguiding). Ubuntu 13.10 asks to create an online account during installation. By default it has an amazon icon in the sidebar (launcher), and when I start the dash and type in the name of an application to launch, it shows me stuff to buy on amazon. (Not to mention it sends all my local queries to a remote location to do this.) Linux used to be my bastion against spam and commercialism on the desktop computer. With Canonical that's no longer the case. I don't trust Canonical. And I don't like this Shuttleworth guy.
So I switched to Mint Cinnamon. At first glance it seemed very promising, although less polished and obviously less attractive for regular users. I found some annoying quirks in the UI. I started to fiddle around with the system again and got less actual work done. After some weeks I went back to ubuntu. It simply has the most comfortable linux desktop user experience. I felt somewhat defeated when I returned, since I left because of disgust for Canonical, but with Mint I wouldn't have been fully independent of Canonical either. The next time I feel the urge to flee ubuntu I'll go directly back to debian and just accept that the comfortable times are over.
Until then I run a script on every fresh ubuntu installation to get rid of Canonical's Stasi features (and some other stuff).https://gist.github.com/aramiscd/8977188