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My first year with Linux, I've tried a lot of distros from big to small. Major players with huge installs and sometimes painful results (broken installers, unresolved dependancies and minimal support). To date, Puppy is still the #1 on my list for speed,reliabilty,ease of use, community spirit and plain downright fun.
I am a KDE person. Moreover, I like simple installs with superior out of the box functionality. And I want my system up to date but not bleeding edge. Add it all up and MEPIS will automatically come to mind.
MEPIS as always. The best Desktop distro out. One CD (live) and it's packed with the apps you need/want. AND the best installer I've ever seen. Just click the "install me" icon on the desktop off you go.
With the new SimpyMEPIS 6.0-4 Beta it is even better than before. Especially if you were turned off in the past by the lack of "eye candy". Thy have added some (not too much) and improved upon what was already a rock solid, support all my hardware, all my peripherals, give me the apps I need plus the power to get more distribution they have always been.
I'm tell'n ya. If you haven't at leased downloaded the new ISO (32 bit or 64 bit) you really owe it to yourself to try it live.
Continuing in the Mepis tradition of stability, this little Debian workhorse has become simpler to customize with the addition of compatibility with Ubuntu repos.
Yeah, there's even a version of Automatix for Mepis!
So you get most of Ubuntu's advantages while avoiding most of Ubuntu's problems.
And the Live CD is also the installer CD. You try it, you like it, you buy it --except it's free.
The last time a combo like this got me so happy was when Crosby, Stills & Nash joined forces to play at Woodstock.
[Woops! Showing my age, I guess]
It can be as bleeding edge or as stable as I want it to be. It lets me choose what I want installed on my pc without forcing things I do not want if it can be avoided. It has great documentation for just about anything and if not you're guaranteed a fast reply on the forums.