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That's because 14.04 is LTS (Long Term Support) and of enterprise quality (extra reliable and extra stable). The next LTS version will be 16.04, which will be released in 2016.
Intermediate versions (standard releases, version numbers for the current period: 14.10 to 15.10) only receive security updates for a mere nine months. But LTS versions for a generous five years.
See this graph of the life cycle of Ubuntu versions (click on the image to enlarge it):
Intermediate versions (standard releases) are not bad, but 14.04 LTS is simply much better. The difference between consumer quality and enterprise quality....
The lead developer and founder of Ubuntu is Mark Shuttleworth. This is what he says about this:
"Our working assumption is that the latest interim release is used by folks who will be involved, even if tangentially, in the making of Ubuntu (read: developers and testers), and LTS releases will be used by those who purely consume it (read: you and I)."
In short: choose LTS!
You may temporarily have to choose a newer intermediate version though, when you have very new hardware that's too new for the most recent LTS version. That's because the drivers for the hardware are in the kernel, which is the core of the operating system. Only the latest Ubuntu has the latest kernel, and therefore the latest drivers.
However, Ubuntu 14.10 has in this respect only a temporary advantage over Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: an LTS version of Ubuntu receives in the first two years of its existence, every six months the newer kernel of the most recent intermediate standard version. This is done by means of a so-called "point release". See this announcement.
The timetable for the kernel upgrades for the point releases of Ubuntu 14.04, can be found here.
Since Canonical releases LTS versions with a two-year interval, you can always choose to "go LTS". No matter how new your hardware is. As far as support for new hardware is concerned, there's only a temporary difference of a few months between the latest LTS version and more recent intermediate standard versions.
With Linux Mint you won't have to pay attention to this matter: nowadays, Linux Mint only uses LTS releases of Ubuntu as foundation.
For 64-bit Ubuntu, there may still be a little less applications available and a little less hardware drivers. Yet I advise to choose 64-bit, because that unleashes the full power of your hardware.
Important exception: computers with "only" 2 GB RAM or less.
In a 64-bit system, applications use more RAM than the same applications in a 32-bit system. So if you have a computer with relatively little RAM (2 GB or less), then 32-bit is definitely the better choice. For with 2 GB RAM or less, you'll even notice the performance difference during simple, "light" home usage.
Computers with Windows 8 pre-installed: for those, always select 64-bit Ubuntu and not 32-bit. A Windows 8 computer with UEFI, needs a 64-bit operating system.
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Xubuntu is your best choice.
You should also take into account the minimal system requirements of Ubuntu versus those of Xubuntu and of Lubuntu.
Linux Mint 13, Xubuntu 12.04 or Lubuntu 12.04, because those older versions still support those old processors.
There's one important exception: for many non-PAE processors from the Pentium M series, PAE support can be forced by using forcepae as boot option. So they can be made fit for Linux Mint 17.x and Ubuntu 14.04 after all.
5. You can get a free copy of Ubuntu here.
Want more tips?
Do you want more tips and tweaks for Ubuntu? There's a lot more of them on this website!
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