All my computers have specific functions: the Mac is the day to day box, Windows is for games and mild browsing, and my old faithful, made-from-all-the-old-bits Linux box runs (somewhat noisily) in the corner as a file server and general workhorse machine.
I first tried Linux in 1999 (OpenLinux 1.3), then left it for a couple of years (no hardware), then got into Mandrake, then RedHat/Fedora, then Gentoo, back to Fedora, and now, I’m on the Slackware based Zenwalk. I never became proficient beyond what I needed: a backup desk top, and a basic file server.
Gentoo is a lot of fun, but it demands a certain level of dedication and tinkering (for me at least). Fedora on the other hand does most stuff out of the box (except MP3s!) but just seems to get bigger and bigger (5 CDs now!) whilst what I need to use stays pretty much the same. I tried Debian, and that was nice. I tried Ubuntu, and that was OK, but I wanted something in the middle – Debian’s stability, but with that small, perfectly formed feel Gentoo has. In the end, I found Zenwalk, which is a stripped down version of Slackware…yeah, I’ve become a Slacker (officially now).
Zenwalk comes on a 420MB CD, installs in minutes, runs the XFCE window manager, and comes with the best of class in most apps; GAIM, Firefox, Azureus, nmap. All the things I actually use on my Linux box. No more, no less. It’s fast, simple and it runs great. I can see this surviving on the box a lot longer than most distros.