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I have recently installed 11.10. I used the standard Desktop installer, and other than the hack involved to get LVM support using the Desktop installer, no babysitting was required at all. It even prompts you to set up the user account while it is downloading packages.
I assume the awkward installation process you experienced (the babysitting part, at least) was a feature of the Alternate Install. Presumably you would not recommend the Alternate Install to your non-tech family members :-)
The Desktop+LVM hack I mentioned is something I've been using pretty much ever since I started w/ Ubuntu in '08, maybe even '07. It is detailed here: http://www.debuntu.org/how-to-install-ubuntu-over-lvm-filesystem. I recommend you try it next time, and you will get a better idea of what an Ubuntu installation will be like for the mainstream user.
I agree with you about having to choose 32-bit or 64-bit. I've been using 64-bit since 10.04 with no problems whatsoever. I don't know why they are recommending 32-bit.
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