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It is almost impossible today to avoid collecting various "wares" (ad, spy, mal or worse) as you wander around on the internet.

Mh experience is different from yours, I guess. I have been running from one to three computers here, mostly 24/7, since early 1996. I ran Windows 95 first, and although I hated it, I never got a virus or anything like that. I switched to Linux (from Red Hat) in mid 1998, and have run that ever since. I always kept a copy of Windows (95, then XP, now 7) so as to have something to run my income tax program on. I started with TurboTax, but I got mad at Intuit at some point and switched to TaxAct. Now it is the end of 2012, and still no viruses. I do not even run a virus scanner in Linux. Still running Red Hat, but I just upgraded to their Enterprise Linux 6.3 on my new macine from 5.8 on my old machine. I also upgraded the oldest machine from CentOS 4 to CentOS 5. I think that one (12 years old) is too little for CentOS 6. 512 MBytes RAM, two Intel 550 MHz Pentium III processors.

The machine I just replaced I built myself. The new one is store-bought:
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