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I have found Ubuntu to be the easiest distro to use. I now use Kanotix, a strait up Debian with a splash of Knoppix. The Debians are not too hard either (I don't care what they say.). Your best bet (and I wish this advice had been given to me when I first started) Is to find some live CD to download. Try them out to see which one fits your hardware the best. I use Ubuntu on my laptop because the wireless card works for it. I use Kanotix for the desktop because the soundcard and video card work well with it.
I agree that Ubuntu can be a good choice.
You ask is it free; it can be downloaded or you can even request a CD; it that free enough?
It also boots as a live CD to try before installing to your computer.
Just few days ago, I wrote about choosing a distro in my blog
You might find that useful.
I would suggest you to go with Ubuntu as thats very easy to install, update and have almost everything a new user might need. Further, if you require any help with your linux distro, LQ members are always happy to assist. Just post your question here.