OK, here's the news:
1. Nobody really uses SUSE anymore. Even Slackware beats the pants off it for usability. Give SUSE the heave-ho and you're halfway to paradise. *
2. Java is 100% unnecessary for most of the productive tasks for which you will use a computer. Just bin it. If anything you think you want to run requires java, bin that too and just use a non-java equivalent. Java is very useful for mobile phones and old-style web apps, but nothing on the desktop since 2004.
3. This is the choir here. Nobody in this audience really cares whether 2012 is the year of the Linux desktop or not. The linux desktop is great: we know that and we use it. Whether everybody else uses it or not is largely irrelevant to us.
4. GNOME 3 sucks - this is widely established. The good news is that you run Linux, so you have your choice of XFCE, LXDE, Enlightenment, AfterStep, Ratpoison, Fluxbox, etc. Just run whichever window manager you want.
5. If your MUA won't export to mbox and/or maildir, why are you using it? Question 1 for any data-critical apps is always "How do I get my data out of it?". If an app cannot answer that, don't use it.
*OK, that one may be slightly contentious, but TBH, I've never (and I mean in since kernel 1.0) heard any convincing argument regarding why anyone should run SUSE over another distro. Counter-arguments happily invited.