Yes Ubuntu is the way to go.
It's easy and you can do all the technical stuff as well.
I got my own compiled kernel running with suspend2 (hibernate) and it runs all sweet.
Gentoo is a good experience to install, I must agree, but basically a waste of time for desktop use and further because you always have to compile each and every program you install. Just because it compiles doesn't mean that you can feel that you're particularly skilled. The emerge install process makes it almost as easy as apt-get, but with apt-get you get pre-compiled packages, which takes less time, to download because they are smaller and because they don't have to be compiled. Sure, they might run a few microseconds faster here and there if you optimised everything right, but you wont make up for the hours of compilation you spend with installing all your favorite apps, because if a program runs slow it's mainly because of bad programming, which cannot be solved by just compiling yourself.
With Ubuntu, you have the joice of installing (easily) with apt-get, installing .deb packages which is also pretty easy and compiling your own, which is also not very hard. So, if you seriously find a bad implementation, you can still fix it yourself.
If I'm wrong tell me ;-).
Always mention at least your distribution/version! You can add it in your signature if you don't want to always type it. ;-)
Ubuntu 5.10 with custom kernel (2.6.16-suspend2),
Debian Sarge 3.1 and Etch
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