In theory, any computer running Linux can be custom-built and tweaked down to the very last bit. In reality, a first-time Linux user wants to grab an install CD, get a working desktop, and do their own thing from there. Lots of Linux distributions make claims about being easy to use, fast, or stable, but what does that mean for a non-programmer trying out a Linux system for the first time? Today we're taking a look at the real differences between three popular distributions of open-source software, and offering our readers their chance to weigh in on why they like their own particular open-source OS.
Editor's note: The summaries below are by no means conclusive, and each is based on an installation of the default, GNOME-based desktop of each distribution by an editor trying to keep an open mind. As with most things Linux, your mileage will vary depending on hardware support, application preference, and limits of patience.
Lifehacker Faceoff: Battle of the Linux Distros