Site for Distros: www.distrowatch.com
Debian: Volunteer maintained. Uses the popular apt package system used as a base for many other Distros
RedHat: Commercial. Used by large corporations, governments, and schools. Related to Fedora (open source branch), and CentOS (free version). Uses the rpm package system
Why pay? SUPPORT!
Slackware: One of the oldest. Not for beginners
Ubuntu: Based on Debian. Very popular, and used on some commercial desktops. Easy to install and use. Recently headed in a direction that alienated many users.
Linux MINT: Evolved from Ubuntu. Much more polished and usable. Keeps a more conventional desktop like Ubuntu used to. Better out-of-box-experience.
Puppy: Lightweight, and fast. Great on older systems. Has own proprietary packages, but some versions support Ubuntu, or Slackware packages.
CentOS: Built from RedHat source. Essentially RedHat without support
FreeBSD: Not Linux, but UNIX. Worth a look for comparison, but I recommend GhostBSD for beginners. OS X, and iOS are based on BSD variants
GhostBSD: FreeBSD for beginners
Damn Small: Started the mini distro movement. Always less than 50M
Tiny Core: Full GUI operating system in a 14M download. Amazing!
Multimedia: OpenElec, XBMC, GeexBox
Make your own ROKU.
OpenElec and XBMC run on the Raspberry Pi
Security – Forensics: Kali, BackBox
Recover files, test network security.
Disk Utilities: Parted Magic, Clonezilla
Free alternatives to Partition Magic and Ghost
Hirens Boot CD includes both
PBX (phone systems): AsteriskNOW
Make your own phone system
HOW TO TRY
boot from CD/DVD. Does not touch your operating system!
Can install later
There’s one on HIRENS
Install into VM:
VirtualBox, Parallels, VMWare
Install on an older computer
Make a bootable USB
Install to USB
Use a large USB stick, and a live CD/DVD
Linux Mint MATE 32 bit
Linux Mint MATE 64 bit
CentOS 32 bit
Or, download your own ISOs and burn