[SOLVED] New, user-friendly, but not derived from Ubuntu distro for a laptop
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debian is a really good, stable distro. it's what ubuntu is derived from. plus as of squeeze it's taken all of its binary blobs out of the kernel making it 100 percent free and open source. pretty much the only distro around that does that other than lame communist distros like gnewsense and trisquel. that is.. if that stuff matters to you.
if you really want a learning experiance, i would go with arch linux. it'll be a real project the first time around but its fun.