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Well when I was a newbie, I started learning with Slackware. I told you it depends on the taste. Why did you mention Gentoo? Or at least why do you have to?
Because Gentoo is in your profile.
In my opinion, a distro that is easy to use is a distro that comes with X and either GNOME or KDE plus a splash screen on the Live CD. However, some hard-core users would prefer to use a text-based installer. Yes, it does depend on the taste.
Such arguments/debates are almost always present when someone asks for help picking a distro. It's very subjective to the asker's particular tastes & abilities & willingness to spend time learning their new distro. It's difficult for people to suggest something that somebody they don't even know, is going to like.
For the most part, I think folks do their best to suggest a few 'easier-to-use' (in their opinion) distros, and a few 'harder-to-use' (in their opinion) distros. Also, we usually like to suggest our own favorite distro, with or without some disclaimer caveat(s).
I too tried a half dozen or more distros within a couple-week period of discovering Linux, and nothing was appealing until I got Slackware installed, and then, I decided I liked it and was going to learn to use it. Totally depends on the person.
P.S. - Digikid,
if you find that your Vector (or whatever) boots up fine to the login console, but you can't get X running and need a browser, you might like to see if you have 'links' or 'lynx' or 'elinks' available on your distro. You can browse the net using these console-based browsers and seek help with X, instead of having to reboot and/or use that 'quickweb' thing. The console browsers take a few minutes to get used to, but they're great in a jam. Just do like "links google.com" or similar, to load a URL into the browser.
And - don't forget, the manpages always work from the console too.
I finally got it working, but I'm now trying to get my driver working correctly. It shouldn't be to big of a problem. The only really big problem I have is getting the Wi-Fi to work I don't have any access to a wired connection when I get home Monday. So now I'm going to see if I can install slackware when I get to my aunts house, I found an installation guide where you don't need CDs but you need a linux distro on your computer. Oh ya, I'm not looking for an easy-to-use so boring after you start it kind of thing I want something where I have to program everything in order to get it working (ok not everything but you get the picture. I'm trying to learn everything I can about linux and if I have to use the hardest distro to do it, then so be it. I'm sick of windows anyway, all I do is go on play my games, use the internet and get bored really quick.
I want to help out the community in any way I can, so bring on the fun!!
Linux is not just the software; it is also the community.
Choose a distro that you like and that runs well on your computer, but also choose a distro with a friendly community that is open to beginner questions.
I got my start over at http://ubuntuforums.org and they took good care of me while I was learning.
I already did the partitioning, I'll have to wait until later to check out Debian.
Hi, then I come a bit too late. but have you thought of trying a virtualization software like Virtualbox, you would keep a working Windows system and could try as many distros as you want until you find something that suits you, which you would then be able to install in dual boot. That would be my recommendation.
Two big things to consider as well: Hardware compatibility (will this run on my machine?) and software (what do I want to use my computer for?). Snowpine already mentioned another very important one: The community. The one he mentioned is awesome, friendly, and very active.
When you choose a distro, you're also choosing a software repository. This is a hyooooge, gynooooormous advantage that users of the big, popular mega-distros like Debian, Ubuntu/Mint, Fedora, etc. Independent ones (like PCLinuxOS) and some of the smaller little-known ones that aren't based on the big ones (using their repositories) simply don't offer nearly as much software, and their users have to hunt for the package they want and unpack tarballs and stuff like that. Not "beginner friendly," but very valuable for learning Linux, which is what you said you want.
As for Slackware, it's awesome. But for a beginner to Slackware, I recommend Salix. It is fully Slackware-compatible but alot easier for newbs and kids like me who like a sweet, simple, fast interface (Xfce is the default - more awesomeness!). But check those two big factors: Hardware compatibility and software availability.
Whatever you do, don't choose CentOS if you ever want your hardware supported. All the drivers, programs, and kernel it supports are EOL.
I couldn't disagree with this more; the "upstream vendor" (Red Hat) routinely backports the latest hardware support to the kernel to the point it really isn't 2.6.18 at all but rather a mutant super-kernel. My experience with CentOS 5.x as a workstation operating system has been overwhelmingly positive, even on my Dell Mini netbook.
Also as I'm sure you know, there will be a new Red Hat/CentOS release later this year that has 2.6.32 and all the latest "stuff." (You can test-drive the Beta today if you like!)
"CentOS does not support any hardware" is a ludicrous statement.