I am sort of revisiting Ubuntu after a hiatus and plan to make my windoze 7 dual boot.
1) What is the highest Ubuntu version I can install and have the Gnome desktop. I don't mind installing extras if it gives me Gnome I am not at all comfortable with Unity
2) Which java? OpenJDK or Oracle? Do I need to download and install from the bin file or is it available in the repo?
3) Are the Cairo dock and cube workspace still around. The latter is absolutely essential during meetings which never seem to end ;)
I'm also not a massive fan of the Unity desktop manager. I found it very clunky and inefficient. I would recommend either xubuntu or lubuntu, which is Ubuntu with either the XFCE desktop manager or the LXDE desktop manager respectively. Much lighter and more like Gnome 2 of old.
OpenJDK is available from the repo.
Don't know about Cairo, I used one called Docky which is quite nice. Never heard of Cube workspace but it all sounds much too fancy looking for my simple tastes.
Thanks Tim. I will check out xubuntu/lubuntu. I think l in lubuntu stands for learning.
I meant Compiz You are absolutely right. It is eyecandy, and precisely why it is useful to make windoze users green with envy.
This may not be the solution to your question, but if GNOME is your priority, then you can forget about Ubuntu and try out Linux Mint.
Installing Gnome 3 is relatively easy on Mint than Ubuntu. Besides, if you are big fan of Gnome 2 (and don't like Gnome 3) then Mint has nice alternatives like MATE or Cinnamon (which are mostly like Gnome 2).
And of course, if you are running light on resources then XFCE/LXDE environment would be better than Gnome (2 or 3). Linux Mint has their XFCE version, and as previously mentioned, Ubuntu has both versions - XFCE(Xubuntu) and LXDE(Lubuntu)