With my laptop out of action, I scraped together my old PC only to find the primary hard drive containing Windows and my root Debian partition had developed a sufficiently bad twitch that I had to junk it. Replacing it with a spare drive, I decided to give Ubuntu a try. Its Debian with sugar on top.
I LOVES THIS DISTRO! Why?
* It came on a single CD. Fedora needs THREE (or is it four?)
* It automagically discovered all my hardware and drives (the only exception was my Linksys wireless card, there's no Linux drivers for it. But as ndiswrapper is already in the kernel, adapting the Windows drivers was easy)
* It automagically configured X and sound flawlessly.
* Its still Debian under the hood which means excellent inter-program integration and smooth upgrades. For example, install a new graphical program and it instantly appears in your menus.
* Once the Ubuntu universe and multiverse repos are included there's 17,000 (!) packages available.
* The Ubuntu Wiki has answered my questions easily.
* It looks good, it makes me not hate the GUI. For the first time I'm actually using a graphical file browser on Linux.
* Setting up the network connection was trivial with a little GUI.
What really makes me UNF Ubuntu is this: I downloaded the Ubuntu LiveCD ISO so I'd have something to use in case I screw up the bootloader. Now I'm faced with the horror of burning a CD under Linux. I brace myself for the worst and look up the instructions on the wiki: 1) Find the ISO in the file browser. 2) Right-click and select "Write to Disk". That's it. Hell, that's easier than on my Mac.
Here's the minor bumps I've encountered so far.
* As mentioned, the wireless card gave me some trouble but its not really their fault as there's no Linux drivers. But as the kernel is precomipled with ndiswrapper I could use the Windows drivers.
* The included movie player, Totem, came with no useful codecs. It couldn't even play an mp3 or an mpeg even though it was the default player for them. Finding the codecs was not straightforward as they are not "totem" packages but "gsplayer". Both mplayer and vlc were available as packages and installed fine. Changing the default player was easy.
* There's hot buttons in the toolbar for Web, Mail and Help but not one for a terminal. Strikes me a little weird.
* I had to add the security, universe and multiverse repositories to the package manager. It wasn't a manual process, but its odd they were turned off by default.
This is possibly the smoothest Linux install yet. No fighting with the X configuration or sound drivers. The default GUI is pleasant and usable. The underlying distribution (Debian) is very robust. Support is well organized in the form of a wiki.