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I am an instructor and need my laptop to present movies, CD music, mp3, and mpg files regularly. I have tried Fedora (nothing that I need works) and to make matters worse my scroll lock key has been disabled, which turns on the back light of my illuminated keyboard.
Is there a distro that can seamlessly do what I need it to do without having jump through hoops to get things functional?
I'm surprised that nothing you need works with Fedora! Actually I suspect that you were just missing the media codecs. I think you'd do better with something that's a little more user-friendly. Try Linux Mint.
Tell us more about your laptop... CPU, RAM, video card, wireless chipset, etc...
Most distros (including Fedora) do not ship multimedia codecs, for legal or philosophical reasons. (Mint is an exception because they are based out of, I think, France?) But it only takes about 5 minutes to download and install them.
For the record, of the 27 distros I've recommended in reviews, 25 come with codecs or will offer to download them for you.
I don't think that contradicts what I said by "ship." The codecs are not on the install CD but can be easily installed after the fact. Even Mint (which does ship codecs) recognizes this and offers an alternate DVD with no codecs for inclusion in Linux magazines or use in countries that restrict the codecs.
I advice Ubuntu. I have not tried Mint, but Ubuntu has a large community, so that if you had some problems you would surely find people who would help you. Ubuntu also supports hardware out of the box very well.
Distribution: Mepis and Fedora, also Mandrake and SuSE PC-BSD Mint Solaris 11 express
I'd try Mint first, especially with the newer desktops like cinnamon. Kubuntu isn't all that bad either. PC-BSD has a different licence then Linux does, therefore it has all the multimedia codecs installed. All are very user friendly.