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I'm quite amazed that one of the mods hasn't yet said "do a search, as this topic is posted about 20 times a week" and then closed it.
If it's applications you need to know about i.e. windows equivalents, then follow this link and you should see much of what you're asking about.
If you don't mind putting your hand in your pocket, the boxed set mandriva discs have some of the proprietary stuff already configured e.g. realplayer, if thats what you're familiar with.
Theres a small mountain of different media players available, at the moment, my mandriva 2005LE install has various ones installed by default. Though they're listed variously under the menu as Multimedia>Sound/Video/Graphics and for music, I've recently been using Amarok, which seems quite a capable app - Previously I've also used the ones included in the KDE desktop environment and XMMS.
I'm guessing, but if you're familiar with Winamp, then XMMS is probably the closest.
It then depends on what kind of media files you want to use, because if you've got lots of WMA/WMV files, then you'd probably have to see whether the app that you want to use has the available codecs to run the files.
Probably "doable", but how? Dunno. Both Itunes and Windows media player use proprietary formats (AAC and WMA/V). So I'd suggest you look into possible support for those formats if that's what you're familiar with.
You may end up having to go down the Xandros or Linspire route for a distro. I understand that they're aimed at users as "windows replacement".
Oh, and you'd have to check, but I think you'll have to pay. As I understand that they probably aren't available for free download. You'd have to check.
if all you're looking for is good media support and simple installation -- I'd probably go with Suse. You'll need an active network connection (I think the noly way to do a free install is via an ftp install.
I'd definitely stay away from Fedora (I've tried FC1,2, and 3... 3 was the only one that impressed me) --- you would have to install many much programs yourself. Fedora uses absolutely no proprietary software (meaning even the XMMS version included -- no support for mp3 or wma... only free kinds like ogg)
Slackware would be an awesome choice -- it can be time consuming to configure, though, unless they've updated their installer pretty significantly in the last year or two.
Debian's pretty awesome, too -- my current favorite. Major thing I like about it is the package manager -- it rocks!!
Mandrake is not bad as far as distros... Only one or two things were broken on installation, but I had to fight it to get them to work (they did work eventually, but it was, as I said, rather difficult -- and one of the main broken things was audio...)
That's pretty much it on my linux experience (except for Red Hat -- but that was only on a server, and desktop would probably be very much similar to Fedora -- not to mention that it's now discontinued, so I don't see it as a contender any longer in the desktop linux field.)
So, in short, First reccomendation, Suse... if you want more flexibility at the expense of simplicity, go with Debian or Slack.
If you're interested in linux for multimedia use, I'd have to say you should go with SimplyMEPIS. It has the most integrated "media stuff." I believe it's also got win32 codecs (to play .wma's and what have you). One thing though:
If you want to learn linux and experiment with it, then SimplyMEPIS is NOT a good idea. I tried "experimenting" with SimplyMEPIS, and I completely Screwed it up! The same "messing around" that screwed up SimplyMEPIS, yeilds a fun and usable system in Gentoo, so for "learning linux" something mroe heavy duty may be in order.
If your IT knowledge it A+ then you'd manage it, irrespective of distro.
Mandriva/SuSE/Fedora 3 (maybe a few others) should install fine (sorry not used Mepis, simply or otherwise).
Gentoo/Debian (proper, not debian clone)/Slack usually require a fair amount of hardware knowledge for configuration (of the 3, I've previously had the best success with Gentoo - the least with Slack. The main difference is package management. Gentoo uses e-builds which are similar to source - as used by slack i.e. slack uses tar.gz format - but with gentoo, once the package is downloaded it then has to compile, which can, if the package(s) are big e.g. KDE or gnome or Open office etc, can take some considerable time. Debian uses .deb which are precompiled binaries, but you'll often find that the package versions aren't the most up to date - both Debian and Gentoo package managers are good, and check for dependency issues, I understand that slack doesn't do that - for my money, gentoo because the documentation is superior).
If your IT knowledge is as limited as mine was when I started with linux (about zero/windows only) then you'd be safer to start with one of the mainstream rpm based distros (Mandriva/SuSE/Fedora 3 - note other posters limiting comment re fedora though). Install as dual boot, then if you screw up, you can just re-install over the top, as long as you haven't moved shed loads of data across (a seperate /home partition is handy to prevent that, as you can just re-install the main OS over the top into the /root partition and you shouldn't loose data).
For me it's always come back to Gentoo, I started my Linux days back in Red Hat Land some years ago and always found things irritating with RPM distros, SuSE always hanged my system after 5 mins of use.
Gentoo gave me an understanding of how things worked in Linux that I didn't get from the so-called "newbie" distros and I'm a better linux user for that. Gentoo may be a pain in the a** to install, and Xorg on ATI cards may drive you to insanity, but it's well worth it in the end.
Try a few if you're bandwidth allows and thenmake your choise.
I think the problem with linux for people who have only used windows is thats its hard to do certain tasks. hardware ive found is really hard 2 instail because theres no basic wizards i which think which is what us basic ex windows users want.
the other problem as ive found is that theres so many distro's it puts u off as well. why not make different distros for different users in mind as they seem 2 been conpeating against each other ?
although found few probs Linux seems to be so staible unlike windows where if u instail anything or do anything fucks up every second.
Actually, In my opinion, part of the reason we have some many Linux distros is that people (those with the necessary experience) looked at the state of linux distros, didn't like what they saw, made their own (usually as part of a large team such as the team(s) that maintain gentoo), resulting in one more linux distro. Without the skill to use LFS (Linux From Scratch) or create one's own distro, you simply have to choose from what's available.
p.s. If you can tell me (and the other posters/readers of this thread) what it was you used windows for, it might help us help you choose a distro better. I mean EVERYTHING you did. Some programs you may have to leave behind, but WINE (the windows emulator) is getting better all the time.
im basicly just useing Media files alot like playing music
Well, you have XMMS and Totem in most distros
messing about in adobe photoshop
You have the Gimp (similar to photoshop -- not *quite* so powerful, but great fun to play with,
Also I hear that Photoshop works satisfactorily under Wine (http://www.winehq.org)
browsing the web
I use Firefox, regardless of whether I'm in windows or linux -- you can use Mozilla, Konqueror (or Nautilus under Gnome) or Netscape -- whatever your preference
Again, here, I use Thunderbird regardless of OS... there's also KMail and many others...
writing webpages ( use notepad )
You'll find some pretty freakin awesome web devlopment proggies for linux. I like Bluefish a lot, Quanta++ (designed for c++ coding) also does web coding, and they both color-code based on language (HTML, CSS, PHP, etc...)
This I'm not sure about -- I don't personally have a DVD burner, but I hear that most burning applications support both DVD and CD burners
writing office docs just word and excel
At the slight expense of formatting discrepancies, you can use OpenOffice (openoffice.org). Some documenst from very new Microsoft editions don't show up 100% properly, but for the most part it's an exceptional program -- if you're writing a document from scratch, it's even better than MS IMHO.. it uses a far less bloated file format, and the eqn editor ROCKS
thats about it really
So there you have it -- most of your stuff should work with minimal adjustment -- and this is all distro-independent... some distros come with extra software, some might not include the above, some make installation completely painless, others compromise their installation easiness by adding extra flexibility.