jhbumby, why is mandrake not ok for your needs?
On all the distro you will have to learn the same basics things, one day or another.
The gui interface might be more or less easy to use
I do not think a live cd is the solution, because you seem to
need a full fledged desktop solution. And if you are not going to have the net,
then you should go ahead with a dvd distro to maximise the number
of package you may need or not in these 6-12 mths
Maybe a bit of a contradiction in the sense that you want
to do "advanced" things but at the same time you just want to have to open the can:
will optimize my amd 64 system, and can enable me to use it right away
Mepis is allegedly user-friendly, easy to setup
Ask many peopne, get as many suggestions
Try Suse 9.3 while you are at it
Hearsays linspire and xandros are trying to do this "right away" thing
you want. I am not convinced from what I read so far. You can try.
Ubuntu is poor when it comes to multimedia out of the box,
from some other thread I read, you may need to download mplayer
I don't have the time to learn the system the way I need to right now
Nothing is going to replace that am afraid
Seriously if Mandriva or Suse or Mepis (or ubuntu) is not fit in your opinion,
then time is your problem.
The fact that some people think linux is not ready as a desktop
is a big big debate, we do not want to enter it.
It all depends on skills and time
If you have time you will get the skills eventually, or a distro
will be there sooner or later that does it for you.
Patience and some effort is the essence.
You are on LQ, so already doing the effort bit seeking advice
What is your time scale?