Well, I'm a newbie (more newbie than you I'll betcha!) so this may be like the blind leading the blind, but.............I'm using the 'live' CD's of the various distributions to gain some little experience with LINUX. I've got Knoppix 3.7, SuSE 9.2, MandrivaMove, and FreeSBIE 5.3 all on 'live' CD's.
I've tried the first three with varying degrees of success, but this is the easiest and best way for me, I'm satisfied.
Try some of these~~~~~~~~You'll like them!