Having never used Linux before, just wondering what the 'best' distro might be. Really I'm looking for the easiest one to use 'out-of-the-box', but also the safest and most secure. I know Ubuntu is probably one of the most popular, but I've heard great things about Mint, which is the one I'll most likely try.
Can anyone give me their general recommendations on popular Linux distros and also, what is the driver support like for Mint out of the box (wireless cards etc)
Ubuntu features a new GUI, Unity, which may or may not be the best thing for you. I just spent the last 2 weeks battling it with my 2 different Nvidia cards and am having problems. If you have ATI cards, you shouldn't have the same problems. I've also found annoying things with the dragging and dropping from screen to screen and the screen management. I think it's just due to the immaturity of
Mint features Gnome 3 which comes from Gnome 2, a very mature (and stable) GUI, but in my opinion, it isn't as "pretty". I know I'm going to get flamed for that one.
That's the main difference between them. Hopefully that helps.
In terms of driver and software support, I find anything derived from Debian easiest to use (aka: Debian, Knoppix, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, or Mint), but granted, I don't have a lot of experience with Red Hat, Fedora, Slackware, Open SuSE, or Gentoo type distros.
Choosing the distro and gui all comes down to personal preference.
I use Kubuntu on my netbook, Fedora on laptop and Mandriva on my main desktop (I may switch to another distro). I use the KDE gui most often, but want to check out some used on Mint.
I recommend going to www.pendrivelinux.com download YUMI. This software allows you to put multiple distros on a USB drive, so you can boot your computer from the USB drive. You can choose a different distro on each boot. You can then try several until you find one you like.