I am a Linux Newbie and Just Need a Starting Place
Three words. Ubuntu, Ubuntu, and Ubuntu! Many people recommend this Linux distribution with the justification “It just works" but I am making this recommendation for a different reason. As far as “It just works" distributions go, along with Mandriva, I believe it comes closest to this philosophy but my reason for picking this Linux distribution for users new to Linux is the community. That’s right! Other Linux users. The Ubuntu community is by far the largest and quickest to respond to user submitted questions. This is mostly due to the sheer number of Ubuntu users and, as a new Linux user, why not take advantage of these numbers during your times of need because not even Ubuntu “Just works" all the time. As my colleague said, the best Linux for you, as a newbie, is the one you can get help with when you need it.
My “It Just Works" Recommendations:
Ubuntu Linux is designed as a complete desktop replacement. It aims to be an out-of-the-box replacement for operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X and does a fairly good job of doing just that. Ubuntu comes with a Live CD (more on this later), a graphical installer, the option to install within a Windows system using Wubi, the ability to dual boot with other operating systems easily, a complete office productivity suite (OpenOffice), a huge online repository of Open Source software, and a self updating system to keep your computer up-to-date and secure. You will get this and more with the worlds fastest growing Linux distribution.
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and attempts to offer you all that Ubuntu does and more. With Linux Mint you will get an Ubuntu based system with a custom desktop, several Linux Mint specific configuration tools, a Linux Mint repository of additional software (as well as the ability to use the Ubuntu repositories), the addition of several non-free media codecs, support for DVD playback, and your most common browser plugins all pre-installed.
Mandriva Linux (formerly Mandrake) is well known for it’s pleasant user environment as well as its friendliness to new users. A Live CD, quick and easy installation, all the applications you need to get started pre-installed, as well as several Mandriva Linux specific configuration tools are all at your fingertips in this visually pleasing and easy to use Linux distribution.
OpenSUSE Linux is Novell’s community-supported version of their commercially produced SUSE Linux. The goals of this Linux distribution are threefold: make OpenSUSE Linux the most widely used Linux distribution, make OpenSUSE Linux the best option for new and experienced Linux users alike, and to target Linux software vendors by simplifying the packaging process. OpenSuse Linux, in my humble opinion is one of the best KDE based Linux distributions available. Their searchable menu (similar to Windows Vista) and the sheer beauty of their KDE desktop release makes it my Linux of choice for a KDE based desktop.