For the past several weeks I have been distro-hopping (much to the chagrin of my wife) on my Toshiba NB505 netbook but over the past week or so I think I have finally found the ideal distribution in Linux Mint Debian with the XFCE desktop.
First thing that appeals to me is the fact that this is a rolling distribution based on Debian testing. It's great that Ubuntu 12.04 just came out and will have five years worth of support/updates but with a rolling release I will never need to whip out my trusty Corsair USB stick and install a new version of the OS to get the latest and greatest. Now I will grant you that even Debian testing isn't even up to the 'latest and greatest' but the software versions don't seem to be too old. This is the first distro I have tried based on Debian testing (Wheezy) but I am impressed so far that I have been able to fairly easily install and use without major errors the software packages that usually make their way onto every version of Linux I run. This list includes Chrome, Firefox, gedit with plugins, Guake! terminal, Google Talk plugin, GParted, UNetBootIn, and the Thunar file manager. These are all fairly basic packages but in my tour of the majority of the major distributions I occasionally ran into a road block at some point or another with one of those packages.
Next on the list of perks is the speed of the distribution. Most of the time I find myself using the LXDE desktop environment as in my opinion the lightest, usable desktop Linux has to offer but I admit that I am really enjoying my time in XFCE. To me XFCE seems like a cleaner, shinier version of LXDE. I don't think it has quite the speed of LXDE but it's not too far off and looks better doing it. Aside from the desktop environment though it doesn't feel nearly as bloated as Ubuntu and yet has a good set of pre-installed utilities for normal computing tasks such as LibreOffice, gimp, pidgin, and a few more.
There are a number of smaller advantages as well. The installation was a breeze. Also, somehow the automatic hardware configuration seems to have done a better job at mixing for my speakers since listening to music is actually bearable as opposed to every other distribution that made the speakers sound like the crappy, little things that they are. Also, I know I have never dug around too much for it but it was also very quick and easy for me to find the power settings that allowed me to control when the computer would suspend and hibernate in addition to adding a screen dimming control after a minute of inactivity.
I still have a 13gb partition that is waiting for something new but I know that I will not be removing Linux Mint Debian anytime soon. Especially given how pleased I am with it and the wife doesn't mind using it either. It's fast, easy to use and easy to administer. So download it and go check it out, it even makes a great Live CD! http://www.linuxmint.com/download_lmde.php