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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
For more advanced trainees it can be a desktop reference, and a collection of the base knowledge needed to proceed with system and network administration. This book contains many real life examples derived from the author's experience as a Linux system and network administrator, trainer and consultant. They hope these examples will help you to get a better understanding of the Linux system and that you feel encouraged to try out things on your own.
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Go over to DistroWatch.com, download some LiveCD/DVD and try them out to see if your hardware gets detected correctly and if you like the distro you're trying. The one you stick with at the end is the one that's best for you. As pointed out by repo, Ubuntu is a pretty good starting point if you're new to Linux and does a good job in detecting and enabling hardware. Depending on the hardware you have available it might be slow because it's pretty 'bloated', that's why I'm pointing you to DistroWatch.com to try different distros. Have fun with Linux.
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If all you want to do is flip a switch and use the Internet, play some games and do some office work, then Ubuntu, Mandriva or PuppyLinux should suffice. Laptops tend to have a lot of proprietary problems with wireless, cameras and bluetooth connectivity which is why I think Ubuntu is better for laptops. If, however, there are no driver problems then PuppyLinux is great because it is fast and everything pretty much works out of the box, though it sometimes has problems with touch pads.
Mandriva/PCLinuxOS is great if you want a little more control of your computer but by using a GUI interface instead of a console.
For stability, Slackware, Fedora or Debian are great but they tend to lack certain proprietary support for out of the box use. Also, the console may become your best friend.