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i think as far as user friendliness and ease of installation, mandrake is the the choice...i prefer suse, it's extremely easy, has great configuration tools, lots of programs, and easy to learn with. redhat and fedora core get a lot of good comments too, but personally i've never had much luck with them. so i'd suggest mandrake or suse. check out http://www.distrowatch.com to get a great idea of what each distro is about and whats available...i'm pretty sure every distro is available for download from the web someplace, but you'd need dsl cause it's hundreds and hundreds of mb's of info..you might check out bestbuy, they carry a few distros, or check out http://www.cheapbytes.com they seem so sell almost every distro at very affordable prices...good luck and welcome to linux!!!
Which distro to pick is pretty much a personal preference thing. Like the other guy said, Mandrake and Fedora Core (redhat) are pretty much the heavy hitters on the Linux world, though a word of warning... one of them (I think Fedora, not sure though, maybe both) comes with an XMMS (Winamp for linux) that doesn't support mp3 playback. Some stupid legal reason, and easy enough to fix, but annoying nonetheless.
Myself, I'm really loving Slackware right now. I'm still a newb, so I'm not sure if I've settled yet, but it's a cool distro.
One of the truest things I've read in this forum was:
Do you want to learn linux or learn how to use linux?
Slackware is good for learning linux as a lot of the GUI applications are replaced with editing the files manually. Install is pretty straightforward, use is fairly simple once you play with it enough, overall a pretty nice distro.
Mandrake is extremely easy and has a windows-like feel to it. It uses quite a few wizard-like tools for installation of programs as well as configuration. The install of Mandrake was very easy and it configured everything up on install (I have an nForce2 board). This as well is a nice distro.
Those are the only two I have installed and used and won't be the last two. With a lot of people bringing up SuSE I'm interested in that as well, but can't comment on it or any other distro's of linux since I haven't used any of them recently.
i vote Fedora or Mandrake there all good i personally vote Fedora for ease of installation but, i have heard that Mandrake is good.
Personally i would go with any Distro with allot of technical assistance as you never know what could pop up. whoever you could check the hardware specs i don't i just pop the CD and hope for the best i recommend Fedora or Redhat for AMD users not AMD 64 i hope i make that clear.
My suggestion is to buy or download a nice beginners guide to linux where they include everything. Installation, basic commands, X, Internet, etc then I suggest you download Slackware, reads through the manual and try some stuff yourself and tries to learn as much as possible. I think this is a good way to come smoothly into Linux. What I did was just to install and then sat there staring at the monitor thinking "what am I supposed to do now?". After a few days I borrowed a basic guide to linux and I got it right. I returned to the book still after a few weeks to look up some stuff. That's my opinion on how to start with linux but if you already is familiar with linux I think you should go with Debian.
I hated Mandrake. Somehow it always got hung up on my ethernet card during shutdown, and now the installation's pretty much wrecked -- I suspect the two are related, but I'm not sure.
Incidentally, if you use BitTorrent for your downloads, they may proceed faster than they would over straight download. Just remember that it's a good idea to seed your download for a few hours after you're done with it.