Okay ... on the spare computer, I'm now on my fourth distro, Libranet 2.8.1, a Debian-based package from Canada. I've played around with Linux befroe, but this is the first time I intend to use it as the dominant OS on a PC.
I tried SuSE 9.1, Mandrake 10.0, and Fedora Core 2 RC 3, and there seemed to be one majorly irritating annoyance with each of them, ranging from iffy hardware recognition in Mandrake to font rendering in SUSE to screen "painting" and a laggard feel in Fedora/Red Hat, that made me decide to wipe out the partitions and try yet another distribution.
Gentoo? The installation looked too difficult; certainly not for an advanced newbie like me. Slackware? What ... do you see a beard on me? Do I look like a guru to you? Debian? Installation is also supposed to be quite challenging, but I've heard wonderful things about apt-get, the Debian package installer, and its ability to avoid dkeep users out of Depndance Hell. Even though LIbranet isn't free like the other distributions, it got wonderful reviews, all seeming to say "it just works." I plunked down US$70, and downloaded away. The installation went off smoothly, all my hardware was recognized, and about 30 minutes later the GNOME desktop is displayed on zeitgeist, a 1700 MHz Intel Celeron box I built from spare parts not too long ago. (schadenfreude, my AMD 2400XP box, still runs Windows XP.)
I'll share my experiences with Libranet here over the coming days. Any other Cyburbanites -- I know jordanb (probably Gentoo or Slack, I'll guess ... the tougher the installation, the more geek cred) but anyone else -- trying or using Linux or any of the BSD variants on the desktop at home or at work?