Being a linux first timer, I ordered Mandrake because of all the recomendations from other people. When it came in the mailbox, I stuck it in and rebooted the computer and i was up and running with the KDE desktop within 10 minutes.
This is a very good distro. If you are looking for something a little more stable than xp, but are intimidated by Linux, i really recomend mandrake. Although it isn't quite as powerful as some of the other distros, it still has the user friendliness that you need as a first timer.
I think it's worthy of mention that once, with mandrake installed, i had my computer running for 2 weeks straight without it freezing up or crashing.
Once you become used to the way Linux works, I reccomend switching over to either Slackware or Red Hat, since these are slightly more powerful and stable than a "newbie" distro like mandrake.
One more thing, if you are using a "Winmodem" (a winmodem is basically a stripped down version of a modem that needs all kinds of windows software to run) mandrake will probably not be compatible with it (although there are some manufacturers who unofficialy provide drivers for them).
The best solution for this is to buy an external modem because:
1) They are very rarely winmodems
2) The setup is VERY easy (just plug it in)
3) They tend to be faster than "internal" modems
If you are not sure if it is a external or internal modem, or if it is compatible with linux or not, usualy all you have to do is ask the salesman or whoever is selling it.
MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10