Less Technical Users
If you aren’t quite as nuts and bolts as that, but still want to break away from Windows, I highly recommend Ubuntu.
If you’re interested in trying Linux and want a distro that will work for you out of the box without a steep learning curve or a lot of tweaking necessary, Ubuntu is for you. Ubuntu has what is probably the largest support base and user community out there in the Linux world, and as such has the widest array of knowledge easily found if one needs to figure something out. A quick google search for just about any Linux question will instantly turn up several links to Ubuntu support forums and articles right at the top.
Not that you’ll need them, though. Designed with the “average user” in mind, Ubuntu is elegant, graphical, simple-but-powerful, and stays out of your way while you do what you need to do… everything about which a certain other OS could really learn a few things.
Ubuntu is very stable, has a massive repository of free software available that is so easy to install that literally anyone could do it, and has a setup routine that is 100% graphical and dirt simple. Ubuntu uses the other immensely popular window manager, GNOME, which, like KDE, focuses on user friendliness and it manages to look nice in the process, and stays out of your way.
A word of caution to the more technical users out there. If you’re interested in digging around under the hood, but you’re new to Linux, wait a bit before you start playing around with Ubuntu, because Ubuntu really isn’t that sort of distro. As I told a friend recently, comparing Ubuntu to Slackware is like comparing a fully decked-out Cadillac to a high performance stock car.
If you’re looking for comfort, and ease and just cruising down the road in nice, cushy seats and air conditioning and high-definition audio playing your favorite song, while enjoying real oak finish and lots of shiny chrome, you want Ubuntu. It’s a comfort distro, designed for someone to open the door, sink into the plush, form-fitting seat, relax, set the cruise control, and just go.
But if you’re looking for tearing out the dash to see how things work, and don’t want to have to reverse-engineer mountains of sometimes bizarrely configured and oddly interacting components covered in layer after layer of polish, plastic, metal, and casings, and just want to be able to start with the bare necessities so you can bolt on exactly what components you need and nothing else, then Slackware is for you.
If you’re the former, and you try Slackware, you’re going to be frustrated by the rather bare, unhelpful bones of the stock car, and will probably have a hard time trying to figure out where to put the stereo, and will stumble over the steps you’ll need to follow to install the air conditioning, and be fumbling around for days trying to wire up the cruise control.
Likewise, if you’re the latter, Ubuntu will drive you nuts. Ubuntu covers up the fairly basic (Debian-based) Linux framework with a lot of stuff that — while it helps the average user out with basic tasks — makes for a tinkerer’s nightmare.
So what distro is right for you? It all depends on your goal, and your experience level with Linux. Many highly technical Linux users use Ubuntu, and some Linux beginners use Slackware (like I did), because both are excellent distros for what they do. But one is a great under-the-hood learning distro, and the other is a really great let’s-just-install-it-and-go distro. So that choice is yours.