Ubuntu. The most popular and (i think) best linux operating system there is.
Especially because it’s lite. It takes up less than a gigabyte to install.
But go before that. Go back to putting in the CD. You know how you could select “Try ubuntu without any change to my computer”? That’s where this post is coming from. You can create a CD but have it save data and instead of a CD be s USB disk.
This is actually simpler than it looks. You will need an internet connection (which I’m assuming you have as you are viewing this page), a PC with Ubuntu Karmic Koala (9.10) installed, and a USB disk, and preferably a mac as well.
First, open a web browser and go to www.ubuntu.com/download to get yourself the .iso of the Ubuntu install. disk. Then, plug in your USB disk to your Mac, open disk utility, select the disk and select Erase. In security options select Zero Out Data, and put the disk format to MS-DOS (FAT). Click erase, then go into the drive (not the partition), click the Partition Menu, from the Pop-up select 1 Partition, and on the right I would title it USB and slect the partition type to be MS-DOS (FAT) and click Partition. Let that finish, then Eject he disk from your mac. Unplug the disk and plug it into the PC that is running the latest ubuntu on it and has the .iso from ubuntu.com/download downloaded. Close all of the running applications and in the menus go to System>Administration>USB Startup Disk Creator. Here, drag in the .iso file to the top box. Select the USB drive from the box on the bottom. Change the slider that appears to a desired amount. I have a 4.4 GB drive and I let it have 1.5 GB. This is because I still wanted to use it as a normall USB drive.
Now click create startup disk and let it do the rest. It will take 10-30 minutes, but the outcome is great. Plug in the disk to a computer and on most computers on the initial bootup screen (usually with the logo of the computer manufacturer) hit escape. Select USB[-HDD/Hard Drive] and you are good to boot. Select “try ubuntu without making any changes to your computer” from the menu that follows and you will boot right into the ubuntu operating system from your USB disk. Here you can setup email, download files, etc. and after shutting down you can plug the USB drive into another computer and boot using the same process and your files and settings will remain.
If you can, try putting it on a necklace. This way you have an operating system with you and all you need is another computer, which there are probably plenty of around these days.
I used the PNY MicroSwivel which is great because it is 4GB and nobody would think that it was a USB disk until you opened it. And then you boot it up and your friends think you just screwed up their whole computer, until you shut it down, unplug the disk, turn it on again, and it’s like nothing ever happened!