Choosing a distribution
This seems like a logical place to start for beginners who might be confused about all the different types of Linux, not to mention all the weird names. Each distribution has its own set of basic applications and a look and feel of its own, but for the purposes of beginners who are looking for the same things that they get with Microsoft, for example, most major distributions include an office suite, e-mail, and Web browsing applications. Jack Wallen has broken down these considerations in his post, "10 things to consider when choosing a Linux distribution."
Of course, Ubuntu has broken out as one of the most popular distributions with a strong community and good support. For that reason, it should be high on your list. The nice thing about Linux is that if you decide you want to try something else...you don't have to plunk down a bunch of cash; you just have to go download something else and learn about it. Here are some recent reviews of some of the major contenders:
Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and IT Security blogs.