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Ubuntu 10.04 seems to work best for me. I'm not too crazy about the newer versions. I tried Puppy and REALLY liked it, but it doesn't seem to work in all environments - sort of hit and miss. I also tried LinuxMint, openSUSE, Fedora, and a few others not listed here. Had various issues with each. Some seemed overly complicated. I have some old versions of PCLinux and Knoppix that were pretty cool. Knoppix was my favorite for a long time, but I couldn't figure out how to get and install new packages.
Without Debian my life would have been different. Debian is the place where I live, the home where I keep on coming back again and again even if dare to try another apparently sexier distro in a moment of weakness... Debian is which runs my main machine, that were my important data lives. Debian is that which always works, silently, smoothly, reliably... Debian is all; the present, the past, and the future...
Distribution: Mint 14 (desktop) and Mint 11 (laptop)
Very pleased with Mint 14 Nadia (Mate). Was happy with v11, upgraded to 13 Maya the latest long term support. All sorts of problems tried both Mate and Cinnamon distros, neither seemed to work. Come v14 and back to the same state of happiness I had with v11. Was dual booting and updated XP to something ending with 8. Now that does get my Christmas turkey award. Removed all dual boot and now simply spiffing! Think Mint 14 should be long term supported version not 13!
#1 -- Manjaro Linux
#2 -- Linux Mint
#3 -- Ubuntu Spin
Good point. But what is the definition of a casual user? I assume 'hobbyist' means somebody who 'fiddles.' What about those like me that want a nice stable platform with minimal need for intervention that allows them to use their data via sensible apps for practical, non-IT, purposes? Do people like me constitute a third category? :-)