Its unfortunate that you've had such a terrible experience; seems like a bad audio driver might've been the cause of all your issues. When I disable pulseaudio to do some music recording I can't play youtube videos, much like you describe.
If you ever decide to give Ubuntu another spin, I recommend purchasing your hardware with Linux in mind. Its a bit of a pain when compared to Windows, but when it comes to OSX you have to do the same thing.
ps. I haven't tried it, but there is a database of Ubuntu being tested against different hardware: certification.ubuntu.com/certifica...
I could see doing it for myself some day, but never again for anyone else.
Linux on the Desktop is the realm of power users in my humble opinion.
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