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I'm looking at all the Windows-ish distros and wanting to find an easy to learn distro that has a visual boot-up, has plenty of games as well as productivity software, that I can install on some computers for a youth group computer lab we're setting up.
I want to also set it up so it automatically boots into a user and I can put a boot disk in if I want to login as root.
Most of the major distros will do the job for you. www.distrowatch.org has some very good reviews of a couple hundred distros.
If you're going to be running multiple computers, I'd really recommend a Debian-based distro like SimplyMepis or Ubuntu just for the ease of keeping them up to date. Since SimplyMepis is KDE based it may be the better choice for a more "windoze like" environment.
Once they are up and running, normal day to day use is pretty much the same from one distro to the next. KDE on one, is KDE on another. Lot's of point and click. Once you get used to the slightly different lay out and look, Gnome is no harder to use or learn to use. Still mostly point and click. KDE just has a more "windoze-like" feel to it.
KDE is by far the most Windows like desktop you'll get. It comes as default on Mandrake (thats the only major one I know - I think SuSE uses it too). GNOME is a tiny bit harder to get used to and it's default on Fedora Core and Ubuntu. That about rounds out the easy-to-use distros.
I don't know about GNOME, but being a KDE fanboy, I know theres a tab in the KDE Control Centre under Login Manager called Convenience, whic will allow you to set a user to log in automatically. You shouldn't really need a bootdisk to bring up root. As long as your root password is strong, just type "su -" at a console to get root privledges.
SimplyMepis should serve you well. Welcome to LQ and good luck
If you're still open to experimenting you might want to give Ubuntu a try. The newest version ("Hoary Hedgehog") was just released last week. It very simple to install and use. KDE is a little more Windows-like than Gnome, but a lot of that is hype. Their both easy to learn.
I don't know of any distro that is specifically "teen-centric", but most of the apps that are popular with teens have a Linux equivalent: Firefox for web browsing, GAIM for AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN IM, Rhythmbox which is similar to iTunes.
Since both Ubuntu and Mepis are Debian-based you should be able to download anything else you need with the Synaptic package manager.
recently I had the same situatuation with an org I work with called Womens Transitional Housing. Since I started getting quite a surplus of used parts I had the idea of constructiing a few systems and holding a make-shift seminar about how to use the Internet, email etc.
I chose to use Debian-Sarge for this event. Although I did install Debian on the systems myself before the event everything was ready to go by the time everyone showed up. With some generous donations from a local mom n pop computer store, we had 9 complete working home desktop quality systems up and running.
So far it has been amazing. There is a waiting list right now for 5 more systems to be donated to women who attended this event. THEY LOVE IT! So far in two weeks time there have been little or no technical issues with the systems and I hold bi-weekly meetings regarding system repairs, other software options, how to use apt-get and other linux distributions.
It hasn't turned into anything like a complete LUG, but they are happy to be able to browse the net, send and receive email, chat and anything else a typical home system can do.
To help out a bit I made a sort of data sheet regarding various simple how-to's regarding logging in, changing the desktop environment, using apt-get to upgrade and a few other simple tasks to simply keep the system running without too much effort.
SO far so good! You don't need to be a geek to run linux!