Well, i got a new laptop and i realized it's been about a year since i've given a linux a serious look so i figured it was time to try it out again and see how far things have come in the last year and how it compares to my windows and OSX systems. I tried linux a few months back when i was creating my media center PC. Since i could get MythTV for free there really wasn't any reason not to try it since it promised a good alternative to Media Center. Unfortunately I didn't have very good luck with it, presumably because i sort of had a top of the line system and lots of the hardware weren't supported well. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but for a media center it's kinda important for things like TV capture, DVD playback and 5.1 sound to just work.
However, for the laptop it's not quite so necessary for hardware support to be totally there. As long as it can boot, run the display, and connect to the network, then i'll be happy. What's really nice is that nowadays it's not even necessary to do a reinstall of your OS in order to try out Linux. Instead all you need to do is use a "Live CD," which allows you to boot of a CD into a fully functional Linux desktop. You can usually choose if you have access to your disk or not, and some clever Live-CDs even allow you to boot off a recordable CD and use the CD itself as storage! Now that is pretty damn clever. You just carry around a CDR and you can get access to your system on any machine that has a bootable CDR drive.
So I'm going to take a look at Ubuntu this time. I like their stated message, as exemplified in their welcome: ""Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of who we all are". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world."
I also like the reasons they give for their distro. Namely: Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that starts with the breadth of Debian and adds regular releases (every six months), a clear focus on the user and usability (it should "Just Work", TM) and a commitment to security updates with 18 months of support for every release. Ubuntu ships with the latest Gnome release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off a single installation CD
I've always liked debian beacuse it's been such a solid distro. However, i've found their release cycle to be lacking. It sometimes feels like you're on BSD in that you can be years behind everyone else in terms of what's supported and what's available. I also would like a distro that strives to "just work". However, my standards are pretty high ever since i started running OSX. So we'll see how it delivers on that count.
I have a couple of choice here since Ubuntu has their current stable release (Warty) and their upcoming release which you can test (Hoary). They're kinda bizarre names, but whatever, that doesn't really matter to me. Because of the live CDs i can try both out pretty easy and decide which i want to go with. Considering that Hoary is due to come out in a month or so it's probably pretty safe to go with that right now.
If things work out well then this will be the primary OS for the new laptop. If you've had any experience with this distro let me know what you think!