The first thing you must know is that if you are interested in becoming a geek, you have come to the right pitch fork on the road-Linux. It is much harder than Windows is and it is optimized for server services
(where things are set and left to function without much human intervention) not the home user. Why not? because when it comes to desktop implentations it is not user friendly. All of the Linux implementations are still in a very primitive stage when it comes to addressing the home user. There is only one distro that right now is ahead of the pack when it comes to making the user more productive and better able to work with the existing Windows installed infracture. That is "Xandros OS" at Xandros.com. And as it is typical of Linux this distro is the easiest to work with provided that you stay,upgrade, and function within this distro. Also, remember that freedon in Linux means freedom from Microsoft not freedom to install and manage resources and applications when you want to how you want to. That is why applications are provided for you in what is called a "package." This package will install a set of standard applications and some that you don't even need.
Linux is not an operating system but a central management station called a kernel. It is just a skeleton on which anyone, I said anyone, with little overseeing can cloth with xtra code and call it a distribution (a distro.) That is why Linux is all over the place and why you can not mix and match the programs that come in different distro packages. This causes them to brake down and not work properly or not work at all.
The other big problem for Linux is what is called "Linux Dependency Hell." This is a situation where you can never seem to install, upgrade, or adjust an application because there is always something missing. For example, you need a driver for a device, so, you painfully search for and download that driver. Then you find out that that driver needs an extra file to work properly, so, you search for and download that file. Then, you find out that that file needs another file...and so on down the line. Sort of like a "Catch 22." That is because at each step there are what are called dependencies of each file missing. You will get many headaches here, even if you are a programmer.The vocal Linux community has not been successful at addressing this problem. They are just happly to tweak and marvel at the intricacies of this UNIX variant.
So, most Linux home users spend their time tweaking instead of being productive. So, if you really want things to be harder, if you really want to tweak and then cry in the wildeness and have other people mock your state of Linux ignorance, go ahead, pick any distro.
Of course there are other Unices to choose from, for example, there is the BSD family. One popular one is "FreeBSD" which unlike Linux, is an operating system without many of the problems associated with Linux. It is a better overseen and managed implementation of a UNIX variant. In fact it runs most of the applications written for Linux and many time faster than Linux. You might want to check "pcbsd.org" to see an example of this option.
So, now, we have the Unices coming to the forefront: Mac OSx (based on FreeBSD), Linuces, Solaris, ant the BSD family (NetBSD,OpenBSD,FreeBSD,PCBSD,etc)
So, you see, you have a lot of options in the rock solid world of Unix. Good luck.
I'm a student, just want to try linux because I heard it
gives you more direct control of your computer,
because Windows xp has everything so dumbed-down that I feel like an idiot using it,
and because I want to intro myself to some programming, and I understand that Linux has commands and requires a little more nerdy hands-on stuff.
So which Linux version is for the newby-home-user who wants to learn a little about computer guts?