Don't Bother. Honestly. Linux, although marvellous on the server, is just not ready yet for the desktop.
This is a long winded response. Please bear with me as I give you some background.
I was first bitten by the computing bug in 1984 when I discovered my uncle's Atari 800 and Xenon, which at the time came on a cassette. I've been programming full time since 1988 on successive platforms starting from the Atari ST (1988) and moving up to PCs in 1993, web in 2001 and mobile just a few of years ago. I am adept at least half a dozen computer languages. I custom build all my computing hardware. Basically, I think I know PCs, computing and operating systems pretty well by now.
My last OS was XP, which I kept squeaky clean, fast and efficient. I had that XP install running for six years and it recently got corrupted when one of my memory modules went sour about a month ago.
I took this opportunity change my OS. As much as I loved my XP install, it had several limitations:
1. Microsoft's decision to nerf proper 36bit PAE mode since Windows 2000, artificially limiting the OS to 4GB (minus graphic card memory) was starting to really hurt; mainly because I use virtual machines to do all my development, having dozens of these for various clients and development platforms. ~3GB memory was becoming a pain as I could only load a handful of VMs at any one time.
2. Games. Yes. Gaming drove me to PCs and programming. I was missing out on DX10 and DX11 titles. Again, thanks Microsoft for nerfing XP.
What did I really want? I wanted a 32bit OS that could give me access to 4GB+. I didn't want a 64bit OS as I have no need for it. I don't see 64bit as mainstream. Sure, its a must for video production or crunching big pharma molecular combinations... but for me... 32bit was more than fine.
I wanted to give Linux on the desktop a shot as I knew Linux 3.0+ had proper 32bit PAE support. I work a lot with Linux servers. I love Linux, first bitten by Gentoo in 2002 (I bootstrapped several installs from Gentoo stage 1 - so I am familiar with Linux's gubbins).
These are the distros I tried about a month ago.
1. Linux Mint Debian Edition - 2011.09. I love Debian. Really really love Debian. So I thought LMDE would be perfect. And it almost was. Bar one issue. Debian. For me, Debian is perfect on the server. Very stable. Very slow for updates. Perfect. On the desktop? Not so perfect. Several widgets and apps that I needed would not install on LMDE due to it having older packages based on Debian testing. Also a fresh install of LMDE has serveral problems, mainly a non working swap and hibernation support which reqires abit of tinkering. This is just the tip of the iceberg though as several things don't work after a vanilla install.
2. Ubuntu 11.04. That lasted all of 10 mins as soon as saw Unity.
3. Linux Mint Lisa Gnome. This lasted 30 mins. Linux mint took Gnome 3 and added a few extensions. Gnome 3 still sucks. _Hard_!
4. Linux Mint Lisa KDE. This lasted about five days. KDE 4.8.1 is actually very impressive. And almost perfect. Sadly, its imperfections eat away at you until you start despising it. These range from a plethora of minor bugs, a flaky window manager that often ignores window rules and doesn't understand full screen apps, broken packages that don't install or run correctly and so on. Many of these issues has bug reports dating back to 2009 and 2010... so quick fixes were well beyond the horizon.
One overriding factor turned me away from Desktop Linux: stability. X11 would crash at least once or twice a day, potentially corrupting my VM images as an X11 crash kills any GUI applications relying on it. This is bad as I spend 90% of my time inside a VM. One bad crash could potentially ruin a VM image. This, for me at least, was not acceptable. These VM images range from a couple of Gig to 20GB in size so daily backups were a non starter.
In the end, I bit the bullet and tried Windows 7 32bit with a hacked Kernel which supports 36bit PAE. I now have Windows 7, 32bit with 8GB ram. Exactly what I wanted.
Is Windows 7 better than XP? Not for me. Its slower (but only fractionally) and UAC can be annoying for a power user and a hacker/tinkerer like me. The window manager isn't perfect either with focus stealing windows being more of an issue on 7 than it was on XP.
Good luck with your quest.
If you are a power user, don't have much time to tinker endlessly with conf files and require stability and peace of mind then avoid Linux on the desktop. At least for another year. Or even two.
At the end of the day, Windows 7 stays out of my way and lets me just get on with my work. Unlike all the above Linux desktop distros I tried. With these, I was constantly battling with the window manager to conform to how I work. This, in the end, distracted me from my work.