"I'm sceptical about their ability to do surveillance for the following reason: no one has solved the power issue."
If you can't monitor what they're doing without being in the same room, then the range is very small. On the other hand, if this could be scaled up to larger animals, perhaps the power would cease to be an issue. However, it does seem like the relative lack of sophistication present in these insects is what allows this control, in part.
"It's not entirely clear how much control a beetle has over its own flight," Hedrick says. "If you've ever seen a beetle flying in the wild, they're not the most graceful insects."
Still, if they can get the surveillance issue figured out, this could represent a significant advance is Search and Rescue -- use insects or small animals to access places that humans can't (collapsed buildings, landslides, etc.)
Having tried a handful of Linux distributions, I personally recommend Ubuntu. The biggest reason why is the Ubuntu Forums.
Read it before you install to check if other people have had compatibility problems with your intended hardware. Read it during install for work-arounds and useful hacks. Read it after you install for any questions you may have. The user base for Ubuntu is very large and knowledgeable. I imagine there are similiar knowledge forums for Gentoo, etc, but I haven't worked with them.
Basically, the Internet is your best friend when using Linux. Read as much as you can about your intended distribution BEFORE you install it. You can save HOURS of headaches!
Any given program will expand to fill available memory.