I dont know why people recommend ubuntu or the other 'easy' distros without knowing what hardware the user has.
Well, thats sort of a lie, I can see why people do but IMO its counterproductive- give someone jockey-gtk (for the OP- this is the ubuntu and mint 'hardware driver install' GUI) and then when/if they move to a distro where you need to use command line its more difficult than if they learnt with a 'harder' distro to begin with.
Not that its that hard to install the nVidia/ATI/AMD GPU drivers, or a lot of the wireless network drivers with any of the major distros....
If you do go with a 'beginner friendly distro' I'd avoid ubuntu 11.04, due to the 'unity' desktop. I'd also avoid anything that uses gnome 2.X. Not that gnome is bad, but gnome 2.X is at the end of its life. If you get used to gnome 2.X now, you could find it difficult to keep using gnome 2.X in the future.
Better of getting a distro that uses Xfce, Lxde, KDE or even fluxbox/openbox.