I'm a big user/fan of Linux also. I've explored Ubuntu and Mint mostly. They are really great systems.
I agree with you about the thrill of new Major OS releases being anticipated but that's not really Microsoft's fault. Technology today allows and therefore fosters the way things are with regard to OS updates now. Some people, let's call them Windows Insiders, can't wait to install each and every build that the Microsoft fools release. So, I guess you could say they still have the love and anticipation of each new release.
If you wanna minimize all the Windows (or Microsoft) spying 1) Never use Bing search engine and 2) You don't need to know how to stop it personally as there are many 3rd party applications that can configure your system in the blink of an eye to stop the spyware.
I've never really like the idea of change for change's sake. That's just silly. But Microsoft does get some stuff right. File Explorer and the classic "Notepad" app now have tabs just like a web browser. It's one of those things they should have thought of years ago.
I said I never use Microsoft's search engine Bing which is true. But I forgot to also mention that I won't touch their Edge browser either. I don't see myself ever touching it. Not to the day that I die. I guess that's my way of keeping them from becoming a bigger monopoly than they already are and keeping their fingerprint on me as small as possible. Anything Microsoft tries to strong arm upon me, I naturally resist to the full extent of my power. So, it's not really wise or beneficial for them to engage in the stupidity of the forced browser tactics.
I frequently go back and fourth from Mint and Ubuntu. Mint is a great operating system especially for Windows user who want to dip their feet in the water. The only issue with Mint is the cinnimon GUI. It is both it's best and worst feature. I say that because while it feels familiar it's limitations start to pop up rather quickly. I want to specifially point to window scaling, It does a horrible job with scaling and in todays age of high pixel density displays this is a large issue. I'm confident that this will get fixed in the future.
Pointing towards Ubuntu, something about the GUI just works well on high pixel density displays. I can't put my finger on what it is but I just know that something "feels" off with Mint and I don't get that feeling with Ubuntu.
As far as the excitement around new OSs, something I've been getting into lately is finding the absolute smallest Linux distros and find out exactly how few resources I can give it in a VM and it still works. Currently I've give Bodhi 1 zen1 core and 256mb of ram and I can still browse the internet just fine. Youtube has some trouble but bringing it up to 512mb seems to solve the issue.
I really want to get an AM5 system to run VMs on but they have serious speed issues when you fill all 4 memory slots. This is just a hobby for me so I can't spend money on a threadripper or Epyc system. I currently have 5 1800X systems in my home server room so maybe a threadripper or Epyc system is in my future? 64cores and 1TB of ram would probably get me 6-7 years of great performance. IDK, I'm several tangents deep right now. Fact of the matter is that all those zen 1 systems are really starting to show their age and native 2.5Gbe would be a really nice feature to have. Although, if I went with a system that large I'd probably need at least 10gig. Maybe scaling 2.5g off of multiple systems might be the way to go.
Anyway, that's my major reason for using Linux over Windows, it allows me to run very stable servers and gives me the ability to tinker with how the OS functions at a hardware level. These are all weird things that a Window user would want, but the constant forced updates breaking things completely rules it out as an OS that I can run servers on. Keep in mind, I'm doing all this on a budget and don't have any ECC memory so I need all the stability I can get.
It's frustrating because Microsoft has such a monopoly on gaming that that is really the only thing holding Linux back from being a real competitor. It gets closer everyday but without any actual competition Microsoft can do whatever they want with Windows and people just have to deal with it. I want to go back to 1)operating systems with a GUI that makes sense and 2) fewer, large updates(outside of security updates) than what feels like weekly updates.
I'm forced to dual boot because I haven't been able to get PCI-e passthrough to work in my VMs. I believe it's a hardware limitation, but I'd really love to be able to get it to work so I can just open a Windows VM if I want to game. The other upside to that is in the Virtual machine I would have significantly more control over the OS. I can do all my important stuff in Linux for security reasons(banking, work, ect) and just open a VM if I want to game.
There still is a lot of exciting tech being developed on the software side but not with Windows. This speaks to one of Linux's flaws, but there are always cool new features and quality of life updates in each new major release. I don't hear about something months in advanced "Microsoft is bring X to Windows 11, it'll be a complete game changer for Y!"
Upgrading hardware frequently isn't an option for many of us so it is fun to see software changes that are free and accessible to everyone. When I buy hardware I expect at least 5 years out of it. I talked about the limitations of my 1800x systems but Zen 1 was slow from the start even if it won in the productivity space. It was essentially cheap cores and I needed cores cores over single threaded speed. Now I need cores and single threaded speed.
This ended up longer than I expected and went off on several tangents so thanks for reading if you made it to the end.