A good starter distro is Knoppix on Live CD or Mandrake Move. If you want to actually install Linux on your system then Mandrake is probably the easiest to do. Concerning development tools, that's not really an issue. Just look for a distro that makes it easy to add new software and you can have tools coming out your ears by downloading them from GNU or other open source repositories. But most distros let you choose from a wide range of development tools during installation.
I dabbled with SuSE Linux 7.1 for a while, before I got into Mac OS X. The nice thing about SuSE (now part of Novell) was their excellent printed manual. As a newbie, I couldn't have even got it installed properly without the printed manual. :-|
The question of "which Linux" is specifically related to what you want to use it for. For example, if you want a server (nothing else), then go with stripped down redhat. If you want a home system, stay away from redhat, and their derivs, because you'll have too many issues, such as mp3 playing, etc. Sure, they can be done, but it's a lot more complicated than it is with other distros, simply because RH wanted an easy out from things.
If you're looking for a home system, go with Suse (now 9.3) or Mandrake. Drake is good, it's what I started using a while back, then moved up to suse for security and whatnot. Both are extremely easy to understand and use.
Mandrake Mandrake. how bout Mandriva??? Mandriva LE 2005?? Mandriva is super easy to install & so is suse 9.1 personal. ELX linux never finishes setting up. Fedora is awful if you like to use your main pc as a router, but is ok for client pc's. Debian is a little harder to install & may not work with your hardware especially if you have a fancy video card. Linspire is out for your wallet.