What prompted this note is I recently had the opportunity to see a demo of the new Fedora 10.0 and am mightily impressed with the "eye candy." Ubuntu's new version "Jaunty Jackalope is just about ready for release." Then there's OpenSuSE, Slackware, Mandriva, Debian, CentOS, Gentoo, and Turbo. We apologized if we left anyone out. My goodness, what are all these Linux operating systems and which one do you use?
First, an explanation, what all these distros have in common is they all use the Linux kernel as the heart of the operating system. Then each vendor or organization adds functionality and services to the kernel that serves the needs of that particular organization and what they want in their operating system. The kernel with the added functionality is called a distro. And all of them are free.
So how do you evaluate all these distros? I don't. There are too many versions to look at them all. If we are going to load an operating system to run our applications, ideally, you want one that has a lot of users, hopefully, in a forum or a company that can help you with questions when you need help. Accordingly, I would limit myself to a few that have the largest communities. I suggest you focus on the those that have the largest market share and our focused on the home desktop: OpenSUSE, Fedora and Ubuntu. All three have been around awhile with many releases to get the bugs out.
Currently, Ubuntu has the highest marks for being the most desktop friendly and has the largest installed base followed by OpenSUSE. They are both a good mix of usability and performance. As I said, I was blown away with some of the "eye candy" and speed demonstrated in the newly release Fedora 10.0.
I suggest you take a look at all three by looking at the screenshots on their websites, downloading a copy to a cd, and booting from the cd to see how the desktop functions, and making sure all your hardware on your computer has the software drivers to run properly. All three come with a full set of drivers, so this should not be an issue. Looking at the three might be something you would enjoy on a rainy day.