Linux is all about choice, so I thought. Actually it is more about variety of the same thing. There are at least 300+ Linux versions out there today. Do you have to choose out of that mess? Linuxes are distinguished by the type of packaging system they use. There are only three that I know of, .rpm (red hat package manager), .deb (Debian), and .tar.gz or .tgz (tape archive something or other). Linux seems to have started with these 3 file types and then branched out by language types and then special purpose Linuxes. So, there is Red Hat with .rpm, Debian with .deb and then Slackware with .tar.gz. There are versions that branched off these main ones and became popular distros in their own right. Remember I said before that Linux is a kit of sorts. A kernel plus utilities and applications that make up a distribution. So you can have a tiny Linux like Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux or a big Linux like Red Hat, Mandriva, Ubuntu. It all depends what you put with the kernel. Once again the live CD distros are the easiest to experiment with. You just pop in the CD and reboot your computer. Some live CDs will allow you to save your system settings and personal files on a MS Windows folder. Some are so small they will fit on a jump drive. I used to be into model cars as a kid. Putting together a car kit was the most fun. Imagine putting together a working Linux distribution. It is quite a hobby. Some people really like doing this kind of thing. The reason I chose Kubuntu Linux was because it is being maintained by a group rather than one or two persons. The bug fixing and updates are available faster and the fan base tends to be larger. It doesn't mean Linuxes maintained by one or two persons are low quality, but they are often tight on time and budget to get things done.
Do I have my picks? Yes, of course. Kubuntu is my present favorite and main distro. Right now I favor the Debian distros, I've had good luck with them and I am beginning to understand how Debian things work. I also like SimplyMepis. Also Debian based, it is very much like Kubuntu with KDE desktop but still has a different flavor. I am beginning to think that after you settle on a Linux version, you will discover a Linux is a Linux is a Linux. A kernel, a number of utilities, some tools, and some applications. It's all in how it is packaged together. If you were to include all of the various functions, languages and formats in one .iso file you would need a few DVDs to hold it all. You would never not ever use or need that much Linux to meet your particular computing needs. So, it is very good that some industrious persons have packaged together different combinations of Linux stuff to meet different requirements. And as is and has been the Linux culture, the various versions or "distros" of Linux are available for download on the internet. So, go ahead and ask the big question, what would programmers do if they did not work for a company (like Microsoft)? Linux is the answer, they would do Linux. Linux is the result of lots and lots of programmers who really wanted to see a free operating system work.