There are distributions of GNU/Linux that are really cool although not as popular as Debian or Fedora. The best thing about Free Software is that, with so much freedom and choice, it seems everything is possible... and it is! Here goes a selection of some of these distributions that surprised me in a very pleasant way.
I find the story of the Hurd really interesting because it goes much beyond the discussions about the kernel, GNU, Free Software, Linux and computers in general. It involves people, relationships, strategies, decisions, work, commitment, random events and many other things that make life so exciting. It is important to see the mistakes of this project to try to avoid them and it's much easier to spot them now that we know the outcome. I believe that the GNU people did the best they could under the circumstances but, of course, they couldn't predict the future.
This is a story that does not start with “once upon a time” and does not end with “and they lived happily ever after”. This story is about the concrete jungle, it's about the wild world we live in. This is a story about the ugly things that happen behind the scenes while the show must go on... this is the story of the fight for survival of two operating systems.
Considering user interface friendliness, graphical beauty and technical maturity, I have no doubt, Ubuntu is ready. I have seen many people using Ubuntu and love it. Speaking about non-technical users, the most notable thing they usually have in common is a person that told them about Ubuntu and helped to get it running. They were initiated by someone that is in some way close to them and this person took the first steps of informing, installing and offering some kind of support at the very beginning. I have also heard many stories of people who decided to dive in by themselves and had troubles.