Over the past month I was having a little trouble with Gentoo being difficult to maintain (too many things broke at the same time). I decided to try another distro and after some initial reading decided to try Fedora 13 (64bit). The install on my server went smoothly and I had a working machine in no time. Some minor annoyances however caused me to switch back to Gentoo. The main problem was with Fedora introducing a bug somewhere resulting in my mouse cursor disappearing on resuming from the screen saver. Only a reboot could solve that one. The Fedora forums indicated a problem with my integrated graphics chip but didn't offer a working solution. Added to this was the problem with Firefox plugins. Fedora seemed to get in the way a little and prevent them from working normally. So my server is back on Gentoo and running fine now.
A week later my laptop in Gentoo update hell had been neglected and I had ended up with two big updates causing me dependency issues all over the place. Spending several hours compiling only to find yourself back where you started is not good. So it was time for another distro on the laptop this time. Fedora after my previous experiences was put aside and OpenSUSE 11.3 (64bit) selected, the installer was pleasant enough up until the point where it had installed the packages but hung at the point of configuring the system. Several attempts using difference settings all resulted in the same problem not having a working install. So I cant really say anything about OpenSUSE other than that for such a mainstream distro its very disappointing to not even install. A command prompt at least would have been an acceptable result.
Moving on from the failure of OpenSUSE it was Debian 5.0.5 (64bit). The installer although graphical was a little more basic and not quite as intuitive as Fedora or OpenSUSE but it got the job done and I ended up with a working system. What struck me about Debian was the age of packages included, Gnome being several versions behind most of the other distros. Being mindful of the fact that Debian is designed to be more stable than upto date I was satisfied with it as a distribution and I am considering for my next server box. But for a laptop its not exactly what I was after.
I gave Fedora another chance by installing it on the laptop rather than the server. I was more impressed, no cursor bugs and I managed to sort out my issue with the Firefox plugins. Being more satisfied I had a play about and managed to get the fingerprint reader working. All that was required was a few clicks and a few finger swipes. This was a feature I had never enable with Gentoo due to all the extra hassle of having to set it up manually. So far my experiences with Fedora have been good, its especially good if you just want a working system rather than one which is heavily customised.