I want to tell you there is only one Linux but you know those guys in the north have an accent that is a little different from the guys in the south. Plus the food they eat is a little spicier down south and those east coast boys like a sporting life. The west coast gang likes the beaches. And to top it all off there is a lot of action behind the scenes in Linuxville. But we shouldn't let the back room folks have all the fun. So, I'm going to explain Linux real simple. There are three main Linux trees, the Red Hat or .rpm trunk, the Debian or .deb trunk and the Slackware or .tar gz trunk. Then there are three main desktops, KDE and Gnome and XFCE. Of course there's other trunks and window managers, but these are the main ones. According to popular talk, Debian or .deb is the most popular and so is KDE. Some can always argue but that's the way it seems. I myself like Debian (Ubuntu) plus XFCE. These trunks and desktops have become the bases of many distributions. If I were to recommend a distro I would offer Xubuntu because it runs well on older and slower hardware and flies like crazy on new hardware. Then the Debian (Ubuntu) repositories have a little fuller selection of applications than the other systems. Mind you they all have the most popular applications. The support team of one distro might say we have fries too but we also have special sauce. This might be in the form of better system configuration and management tools or fancy graphics drivers. You might want to examine a distro closer before you settle down to one. You should make sure you have access to the applications you want and have the look and feel you want and the support you are comfortable with. The trick to any desktop is to fit it to the way you work while you learn what you can do with it. It is OK to dual-boot or virtual machine if you still want MS windows. I am doing this and while a hassle, it is great if the need is there.
Linuxville is a busy place, always renovations and revisions going on, things are always getting better. Years ago you had to manually mount your disk drives, now auto mount is standard stuff. Linux is getting user friendlier everyday. It is very good if they can do this without sacrificing user choice. I was a MS Win98 fanatic as a lot of people were. Why? Because Win98 themes were very popular and I enjoyed getting away from the out-of-the-box looks. And darn it, I didn't have a business machine, so I had the liberty, the freedom to change it. Win98 people went wild. XP in comparison is rather stiff, every time I added a tweak, a new security patch would break it. Now with Vista there is a canned glitzy look. I really don't know what you can do with it and I never liked what MS anticipated my likes might be. Cars did the same thing, the 5 spoke mag wheels are standard now, they were once a pricey option. The after-market got radical and came out with spinners. The Linux desktop after market is vibrant. Take a look at www.kde-look.org , and www.gnome-look.org and www.xfce-look.org for a hint of user activity. Themes, icons, backgrounds (wallpapers) and system sounds are plentiful. And if you have suggestions for improvements, you can talk with developers.
I hate to be a separatist, but in Linuxville you have to draw the lines between the server folk and the desktop user folk and then again between the business user and the home user. The extent of the knowledge and user experience is different for each group. Linux can be adjusted to suit your work habits and have the look and feel to suit your tastes. The hardest thing is to become an expert at Linux because there are so many areas to concentrate on. This is why community is important. If you decide to make yourself at home here in Linuxville, look around.