If you’re reading a Linux blog, you’re probably a person who is pretty technical on some level, chances are. If that is the case, you probably don’t view a computer as a “means to an end”, but potentially an end in and of itself, and like to tinker and understand at least the rudiments of how the technology you use works.
I think one of the best distros out there for the Technical User is Slackware. It’s one of the original Linux distros and has a focus on stability and reliability, which, believe me, makes learning on it quite a bit simpler than other distros that can be less stable. When you’re trying to figure out the basics of how something works, the last thing you need to be doing is troubleshooting stability problems, because then you’re always wondering “Did I just break something, or is this just flaky?”, and don’t know where to start.
I started with less-than-stable distros, myself, but as soon as I found Slackware, I actually started learning at a pretty quick rate, mostly because I wasn’t constantly fighting with the filesystem problems, random error messages, and other general It-Worked-Yesterday-But-For-No-Apparent-Reason-It-Doesn’t-Work-Today flakiness that I got with the first two distros I used.
And if your goal is to understand Linux and not just blindly use whatever’s in front of you, Slackware is a really great way to do that. It’s straightforward, doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and it does what you tell it, and doesn’t get in your face when you tell it to do something else. It’s the most unix-like of the various Linux distros, being built with a Sys V architecture (if you don’t know what that means, that’s okay), and after struggling to understand what was going on with other glossier distros, I found that learning Linux with Slackware as my distro of choice was a breeze by comparison.
Now, that doesn’t mean that a less-than-technical user can’t use Slackware… one can. But it will take someone more technical to set it up and get it to where it needs to be for a non-techie user. Slackware ships with a lot of good software, and several window managers, including the immensely popular KDE 3.5, (which is what I’m using to write this now), and is extremely user friendly.