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If you're a hardcore Gentoo or Slackware type, go away and read something else. You're probably not going to like what I'm about to say. (But rest assured that I respect and admire your dedication to running the leanest GNU/Linux install you can muster, and I do indeed care about preserving your freedom of choice.) For now, however, I'm talking to the newbs out there.
If you've just started using Linux in the last year or two, chances are you're running Ubuntu. And if you're sitting on the fence contemplating trying Linux for the first time, you should definitely be considering Ubuntu. Here's why.
The arguments for choosing Ubuntu fall into two categories: immediate practicality and long-term viability. For sheer practicality, Ubuntu is a no-brainer. It installs in minutes, recognizes most hardware immediately, hides root from those who have no business messing with it, and comes pre-configured to let you get to work right away. For long-term viability, Ubuntu offers a well established coalition of developers, rapid growth among OEM vendors, and – most importantly – a massive base of users around the world.
First, the practical stuff.
Almost nobody actually enjoys installing an operating system. You might be an exception, because you read Maximum PC, and that probably means you're into computers. But for the most part, OS installation is a mundane and sometimes irritating process that the overwhelming majority of end users prefer to avoid. Unlike most other distros, you can get Ubuntu preinstalled from Dell, System76, and ZaReason, which means you can skip all the hassle of installation and just get started with a working PC. (Recent rumors also indicate that HP may soon be joining the list of Ubuntu-installed vendors.)
If you do choose to install Ubuntu yourself, you can look forward to one of the most streamlined installation routines available on any operating system. While Ubuntu's install process does give you options for custom drive partitioning, you could also just keep clicking Forward, pausing only to enter your time zone, username, and password, until the installation is complete. This is almost identical to what you'd experience with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.