Red Hat 8. It looks good enough and I will enjoy exploring it, but I realise it is a bit 'old' now.
Red Hat 8 and 9 are the "Windows ME's" of Linux, in other words they're old, crippled and don't have any upgrade path to speak of besides fdisk... I too used the older versions of RH, but their move to RH Enterprise Linux disaffected a LOT of people, and caused us to find an alternative, particularly for our daily desktop/laptop use.
Limited space in our computer room suggests to me that I ought to have the Mac as a dual boot machine, with some sort of Linux and OSX. Is this possible? Is there a Mac Linux?
I can't believe I beat the MAC folks to this post, but yes, there are several very nice distro's that support the Mac, you can find a great comparison on the following page: Mac for Linux Comparison
. I also would search google for "mac linux distributions" and you'll get a LOAD of good links to help you out.
I do not want to use the XP machine as I depend upon that whereas the others are not critical, so if I make a mess of things it isn't a disaster.
Dual-booting is highly over-rated, it makes 1/2 of your computing environment totally unavailable at any given time. I usually recommend using a version of VMWare, Virtual PC or one of the free alternatives (Bochs, CoLinux, UML) to make things a little easier, that way you can try the distributions without accidentally causing a "where's my backup tapes" moment. I would experiment on the other machines, they might not be the fastest, but they'll get the job done. Install the KDE desktop on one, GNOME on the other, do a Pepsi challenge and see which you like most.
I would greatly appreciate some guidance on this as my own lookings on the web have left me more confused than wise with all the different distributions (zat right?) and different versions to go for. I don't want to buy something and then find I can't use it.
I recommend looking at the latest SuSE (9.2), it's very stable. You can get the upgrade version for about half the retail version. Check for the boxed edition Here
. I also recommend looking at Mandrake's latest version (10.0 I think) and Xandros. Start surfing the distribution-related sections of this site, and check out the Distrowatch
site, just about every type and category is there.