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I would say that the best pdf reader is Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Sorry. But its gratis and available on linux. Other, open source viewers all has some troubles, eg. the scroll wheel does not works, or very slow on large files.
For the distro, it's question of taste and usage. Do you want to browse the Internet and have fun, or develop a kernel driver or server program?
I do not think Ubuntu is "hard to use", I would definitelly suggest it for browser and other easy usage.
From the other side, if you prefer to know your system in depth, and configure every aspect of it, go with Gentoo (I do).
But I do not suggest it to a real beginner.
But there are plenty of distros on the market nowadays, you can try a dozen of them, and share your experiences, if you have time.
I do not, so if I need it fast, I install Ubuntu, if I need it tailored, I go with Gentoo.
For MP3 player, mplayer and totem is good enough, but if you want a nice catalog also about your files, go with gmusicbrowser.
in Ubuntu i get lots of access denied and i find it slow and needs constant tweeking
other distros i tried do not have this problem
I've never had those problems with any of the ubuntu releases. The only real issue I've ever had was with a wireless card that didn't work out of the box and after I got it working it just stopped one day and I couldn't get it to work again. I used ubuntu on my laptop that my wife uses on a regular basis and she loved it. I currently have 9.04 on a dell optiplex gx240 with 512 mb ram that my 4 year old uses to play reader rabbit.
Now personally I like Fedora and CentOS for my use, but I would not consider Ubuntu hard.
I have to agree with everyone here except smeezekitty on the ease of Ubuntu (But then again, he is writing his own OS, so I don't think he was ever a newbie but rather was born with kernel knowledge genetically imprinted in his brain). I can't say I've tried all of the alternatives, but of the distro's I've used, Ubuntu is the most newbie friendly. My wife (a hair stylist who wouldn't touch a computer before I met her 6 years ago) has been using Ubuntu for a few years and is quite capable of using it and installing software. If your goal is to "use" your computer, I'd suggest Ubuntu. If your goal is to learn Linux, I'd suggest Slackware. For MP3's I like URL="http://amarok.kde.org/"]amarok[/URL], and for PDF's I have to agree, Adobe Acrobat is still the best for the quality of the user experience.
Ubuntu is fine if you are just browsing the web and dont mind some trouble setting it up
i didnt grow up on linux
Sorry to say this. You're weird :O
You don't mind the trouble of making your own OS, but you mind the troubles in Ubuntu, which you still haven't stated which they are clearly?
And by judging of many users of Ubuntu they didn't find many troubles with it. Personaly I use it on my laptop too, all the setting up things I had to do was input my WLAN WPA pass phrase.
#1 I want to buy a cheep laptop to install it on, any suggestions for a laptop for around $100-$150 US
At that price, it sounds like a secondhand laptop.
#2 Any suggestions on any good flavors to try first?
I'm going with the majority here...Ubuntu as a beginner's distro (or Kubuntu or Xubuntu...). I would definitely recommend that after about six months you revisit the decision and decide whether you want to stick or twist, but one of the *buntus is as good a place to start as any (ok, or maybe mepis or mint are equally good...)
#3 What is the best MP3 player to use and the best PDF viewer to use.
No idea about the MP3 player, but install Acrobat reader, Okular and kpdf (evince? what about that?) and see which you like. I think Acrobat is marginally the best, but okular is fine too and it does more than just pdf files. I'd probably like kpdf better if it didn't insist on only opening one document at a time, which may or may not be a factor for you.