Umm, I'm a totally hopeless newbie too ... I've tried Knoppix and it's great - you don't have to 'risk' anything to try it as it runs 100% of the CD. But that kinda makes it slow, and it sounds like you are going the same route as I am, using some older hardware to learn on. I've tried many other installations, and I'm sure they are great but IMHO the easiest Linux to install is Mandrake. I say that cuz it's the first one I've managed to install... it has a graphical install process which makes things eaiser. Hope you have success in your learning!