My family likes the Gnome version, 64-bit, LinuxMint 12 with Cinnamon. I also have a dual boot with the 64-bit, KDE version LinuxMint 12 KDE. Both can be transitioned to from Windows without any learning curve. It’s used every day with no AV. In fact they can be used by anyone with no AV. Nothing crashes and no worries when accessing financial information.
Totally free with no WGA or product activation. New versions are introduced evey 6 months. I download the 1.2 GB iso file in four minutes (FIOS), create an installation disk using K3B in about 5 minutes and installation takes about 30 minutes. Drivers are included, but I like to add the ATI Linux driver for my PCI 16X 2GB dual head graphics card. This, like the original open source driver, provides 1680 x 1050 resolution. I find the fastest and most stable internet performance using Google Public DNS. (220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168)
Other free applications come from the free 30,000+ repository or from trusted sites.
Typical free applications include Firefox, LibreOffice (emulates Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint plus others), Google Chrome 64-bit, Chromium, Opera, Lynx, Google Picasa, Google Earth, Filezilla, Truecrypt, Ad-Block Plus, VLC Media Player and K3B.
It has totally simplified computer maintenance, security and repair over the last 10 years. I’m using an 64-bit, HP dual core, 1.7 Ghz desktop with 2 GB of RAM and an Acer 19″ monitor with an illuminated Logitech keyboard (Y-UY95) and Wacom MTE-45 bamboo digitizer tablet and pen. New, the desktop cost $239.00 a couple of years ago. It’s very fast, doesn’t crash and the Wacom driver comes with the original Linux install.