Re: What happened to Ubuntu?
I hate the Unity interface, I agree with you on that. However, the rest of you're "rant" is a bit unfair. You can still configure Ubuntu however you like, especially given that you can change you're entire desktop, unlike windows. There are several flavors of Ubuntu with very different desktops, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Gnome Ubuntu, etc.
For a new desktop, I would suggest KDE. It is exceptionally configurable, and can be either simple or have plenty of "eye candy". Xfce would be my second choice, it's a very nicely designed desktop and has a smaller resource footprint than KDE.
Power management for laptops has improved a lot since Hardy Heron, however, it is not enabled by default in newer versions. You have a couple options:
1. enable and configure the default Ubuntu solution, called "laptop-mode-tools"
2. install another utility many people use, TLP http://linrunner.de/en/tlp/docs/tlp-...anagement.html
-- keep in mind you want to use one or the other, do not have both installed or they will conflict with each other.
-Custom Built Box Ubuntu 12.04 & Windows 7 dual boot: AMD-fx6300 3.5 GHz, Asrock 990FX Extreme4, Radeon HD7870, Ares 1600 Ram, Samsung EVO SSD, Momentus Hybrid HDD.
-Thinkpad T500: KDE-Ubuntu 13.10 & Windows 7 dual boot