Part of my new job as a Linux Engineer is to evaluate different Operating Systems. I am most familiar with RedHat, having grown up with their OS since 5.2 back in the mid-90's. Wow, have things changed. So, I looked at a linux that a lot of people are talking about: Ubuntu, and was pleasently surprised at how easy it was to work with.
I worked with Ubuntu "Breezy Badger", the most current installation available. It installed onto my older Compaq E500 laptop without a problem, as it recognized the hardware and software (except the PCMCIA wireless card) right out of the box. Ubuntu installs with a text-based installer, a bit of a surprise, but not a shock to work with.
The distro came with OpenOffice 2.x, the latest GNOME 2.12, and a bunch of other common utilties. The install process connects you to the internet to download updated packages; by the third reboot, you are up and running with the latest Ubuntu software.
Ubuntu is based on the Debian architecture -- you use APT-GET to locate packages, resolve dependancies, and update the machine. You can also use the graphical Synaptic Package Manager to graphically make these choices.
But, as an advanced Linux user, I was surprised at some of the lack of expert options that other distros, such as RedHat feature. I had manually install (via apt-get, but couldn't do this at main installation time) packages to make, compile, and deploy. I couldn't find Acrobat Reader -- yes, they did have the compatable .pdf viewer, but not the real Reader. I wasn't able to successfully convert .rpm files into .deb for proper installation. And when compile time came around, I often had to go searching for various libraries, and build them from source, as no one had a .deb available.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Ubuntu distribution for general use. I would be very comfortable using the machine as a common desktop environment -- playing music & mp3's, writing in Open Office, moving files around the web ssh/ssl things and the sort. But for the advanced expectations of compiling, working with text based command lines, and advanced operations, Ubuntu fell short of my expectations, and I had to try another distro. Ubuntu was very easy to install, and easy to get up and functional, and very friendly. But the SysAdmin functions that I perform require more than it could provide.