I would have to second the Debian nomination. It can be as up-to-date as you want utilizing their stable/testing/unstable branches. It is relatively easy to setup and a breeze to keep updated.
Gentoo is nice, their portage system is quite cool. However, if fedora poses problems for install, I would not recommend Gentoo, unless they now have an installer. Without an installer, the Gentoo install is quite difficult for the average person.
Debian is my distro of choice. I do some programming, although not as much as I used to. While I don't use windows emulation, I do use virtualization software to run multiple OS's under linux for testing/simulation.