For beginners the topic of distros can be quite confusing. How ever there is no need for normal users to think much about distros. Here is a list of popular distros and few words about them:
Fedora is an RPM-based, general purpose Linux distribution, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat. Fedora's mission statement is: "Fedora is about the rapid progress of Free and Open Source software."
One of Fedora's main objectives is not only to contain free and open source software, but also to be on the leading edge of such technologies.Also, developers in Fedora prefer to make upstream changes instead of applying fixes specifically for Fedora — this ensures that updates are available to all Linux distributions.
Ubuntu is a Linux based computer operating system. It has consistently been rated among the most popular of the many Linux distributions, Ubuntu's goals include providing an up-to-date yet stable Linux distribution for the average user and having a strong focus on usability and ease of installation. Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian, another free operating system. Ubuntu is sponsored by Canonical Ltd, which is owned by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth.
Kubuntu and Xubuntu are official subprojects of the Ubuntu project, aiming to bring the KDE and Xfce desktop environments, respectively, to the Ubuntu core (by default Ubuntu uses GNOME for its desktop environment).The most recent version, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron), was released on April 24, 2008, although an update, Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS, was released on July 3, 2008. The next version will be 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) and is scheduled for release in October 2008.
[ Currently Ubuntu is the most popular and best Linux OS. I use Ubuntu. Ubuntu sends free CD's right at your doorstep for free. You read it correctly. You can get a free Ubuntu CD shipped to your house from here:
Request an Ubuntu CD , It takes about 20 odd days for the CD to be shipped. You can get the CD within 2-3 days if you buy it.
The precursor to PCLinuxOS was a set of RPM packages created to improve successive versions of Mandrake Linux (now Mandriva Linux). These packages were created by Bill Reynolds, a packager better known as Texstar. From the year 2000 to 2003, Texstar maintained his repository of RPM packages in parallel with the PCLinuxOnline Web site. In an interview, Reynolds said he started PCLinuxOS "to provide an outlet for [his] crazy desire to package source code without having to deal with egos, arrogance and politics."
[PCLinuxOS looks cool]
openSUSE, is a community project, sponsored by Novell and AMD, to develop and maintain a general purpose Linux distribution. After acquiring SUSE Linux in January 2004, Novell decided to release the SUSE Linux Professional product as a 100% open source project, involving the community in the development process. The initial release was a beta version of SUSE Linux 10.0, and as of June 2008 the current stable release is openSUSE 11.0.
Beyond the distribution, openSUSE provides a web portal for community involvement. The community assists in developing openSUSE collaboratively with representatives from Novell by contributing code through the open Build Service, writing documentation, designing artwork, fostering discussion on open mailing lists and in Internet Relay Chat channels, and improving the openSUSE site through its wiki interface. Novell employed over 500 developers working on SUSE in 2004. Novell markets openSUSE as the best, easiest distribution for all users.
CentOS is a freely-available Linux distribution that is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This rebuild project strives to be 100% binary compatible with the upstream product and, within its mainline and updates, not to vary from that goal. Additional software archives hold later versions of such packages, along with other Free and Open Source Software RPM-based packages. CentOS stands for Community ENTerprise Operating System.
These are some of the best ways to start off with Linux. There are some other distro's such as Puppy Linux, but they aren't exactly aimed at main stream market, so more about them later. Here is an excellent online quiz which will help you in choosing a distro based on your requirements.