I've mentioned some of my favorite Linux distributions before. I've gotten away from PCLinuxOS, mainly because I didn't like them changing things related to package management and updating, and not making such news easy to find on their site.
I'm not a fan of Ubuntu, since they have taken on the attitude that "We don't care about the user base, we are going to do things the way WE want". The Xubuntu and Lubuntu still look decent, I think partly because they are community supported. While ubuntu was debian based, they are only debian based on the surface now, and are pretty much there own animal.
I've messed with OpenSUSE, and while I like the look of it, I don't use
it enough to be comfortable with it, so I find it clumsy to work with.
The lack of command line commands that I use regularly under debian is a
bit irritating as well. It just didn't click with me.
My preferred linux distros are Crunchbang Linux, and SolusOS, both of which are based on Debian Linux, which I am most familiar and comfortable with.
SolusOS is toted as a user-friendly distro, and so far that seems to be the case, and I have put it on a computer at church.
Crunchbang is a clean, minimalist desktop linux, in that it doesn't have a desktop for icons, everything is excessable from menus and/or hot keys (using the "windows" key). It is aimed at the bit more tech savvy, and my dad and I both prefer it. I have even "remastered" it to my own preferences, removing programs I don't use, adding stuff I do use, and making minor tweaks to the way it looks. I have my remastered Crunchbang on a thumb drive I carry around with me, making it easy for me to walk up to a computer, plug it in and use it, and not care or worry about what is on the computer. It's basically a Live CD on my usb drive.
I've messed with a number of Linux Distros over the years, mostly as LiveCDs, which I nice for test driving. I keep falling back to the tried and true Debian based distros.
For my "Tool box", Parted Magic, Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD), and on occasion Puppy Linux. Parted Magic is kind of a play on words of the old Norton Partition Magic, and provides drive partitioning tools, cloning/imaging tools. It has a handful of other useful utilities, and is helpful for rescuing files when windows dies, all from a LiveCD.
UBCD is not linux, but a LiveCD or diagnostics tools and other utilities. It can test harddrives, memory, video cards, reset windows passwords, give hardware info, etc. It is for the tech savvy, and you need to know what you are doing, or it won't mean anything to you.
Puppy Linux is a LiveCD linux that is kind of different. In terms of looks, it resembles windows95/98, and is made to run on older computers, down to Pentium classic & Pentuim2 computers. Some people like to use it as a base to make there own linux. It lacks the package availability of the bigger distros, but has most of the common programs you would use on a daily basis, and can bring an old computer back to useful life, even if it's just to check email, simple word-processing, etc. Works well of a usb thumb drive as well, and is pretty snappy.
I use Linux Live USB Creator (LiLi), or Unetbootin to put and cd iso on a thumb drive. 95% of the time one or the other will work, occasionally there is a different method needed for a specific distro to get in on a thumb drive, but they are few and fare between. Usually they make a "hybrid" ISO that will burn to cd or go on a thumb drive.