For several years now, I've used PCLinuxOS, a Linux distribution, on my home machine (an HP Pavilion). But PCLOS is mostly based on the KDE desktop environment. I generally prefer the Gnome desktop, but installed Gnome too (KDE and Gnome coexist just fine), and was quite happy for a long time.
A recent series of updates made my system very unreliable, though: my wireless started winking out, and there were strange delays, once per session, when my screen would go unresponsive. Eventually, I have no doubt that the good people over at PCLinuxOS forum will iron things out through a series of updates. But I got restless, and popped in a Fedora 10 disk I got in the mail (from my about to expire LinuxFormat subscription). Then I completely reformatted my hard drive, and installed the new software. That whole process took about half an hour.
Fedora -- an offshoot of Red Hat -- is very well documented. I quickly got online (a great little pop-up wireless tool), and found several long FAQs. No stranger to Red Hat's approach to things, I started following instructions to add the ability to use my nVidia graphic card, load up Firefox with plugins to handle Java, Flash, Windows and Apple video codecs, and more. That took another half hour or so, but it didn't require much brainwork -- I just cut and pasted from a Firefox window to a terminal window, and let "yum" (a software management tool) do its thing. See this post-installation guide for tips.
I'd backed up my home folder right beforehand on a Western Digital "My Book" (500 GB). It was a piece of cake to plug it in, and drag back all my files (including about 9 hours of music). I quickly copied over all my old mail files, too, made sure I could sync my new Palm, and use my own for-pay application, Notecase Pro. Oh, and set up the printer. No problems.
As I write this, Fedora is downloading a host of little improvements and updates, and that's gone on for over an hour, but it doesn't stop me from doing anything else. And here's the amazing thing: all of this is absolutely free. I can pop in a CD, freely downloadable from the web, completely reformat an old computer, and get state of the art programs, graphic effects, and a smooth computing experience. I've had a pleasant evening of fiddling around, and to show for it, got a new, tidier computer that thus far, performs very well indeed.
Congratulations to the programmers at Red Hat/Fedora.
I've been using Ubuntu at work, still, but Fedora is an excellent alternative. Thus far, I can recommend it.