I'm a newbie too with a very limited knowledge of linux but if one thing is for sure is that I've tried many distributions (mandrake, slackware, debian, fedora and suse). So from a newbie's point of view I have found mandrake to be the easiest in everyway. Insert CD, installation with no problems and system ready without any problems. Same with Fedora but I prefer Mandrake. Slackware and Debian seem a little more difficult but you just need to read some documentation (my knowledge is really very limited but I've made it).
Now I'm setting up a system Pentium II, 64MB RAM, 12GB and 3GB HD and mandrake is my choice.
I hope this is of any help to you