I'm by no means a Linux Guru. I've been using Linux off and on for 3 – 4 years, and I know my way around the operating system, but I'm no developer or real power user. I do however, know what I like when it comes to an operating system .I'm a big fan of having a good balance between speed, efficiency, and aesthetics.
Sure, I use KeepNote for taking notes in class, but yes, I have wobbly windows on because they're just so pretty. As of late, I've been using Linux Mint 8 Helena with both KDE and gnome, and I'll admit that it's mostly because I just had way too much of the orange and brown of Ubuntu.
Linux Mint is great, it works really well right off the bat and it has a lot of things installed by default that can be a pain to install yourself and it bleeds convenience. As an avid beta tester, I felt the need to install Ubuntu Lucid Lynx though, just to see what all the fuss was. I won't judge it on it's stability at the moment because it is brand new in the beta state, but it's not too terribly unstable with only a few minor program crashes.
The new layout is great, I really like the color scheme with gray, purple, and some brown and it's put together well to put out a polished product. The change of the windows buttons is a bit odd at first, but it's easy to get used to and didn't bother me after an hour of use.
The operating system implements a lot of features very nicely, included a nice little Empathy IM client and Ubuntu One integration directly on the task bar. For those of you that haven't hear of Ubuntu One, it's a nice little online file storage system that holds 2GB at the moment and allows you to sync with your desktop.
One thing that does bother me a little about Ubuntu is that it's a bit lacking in default software, but I guess that was a luxury I came to expect from Mint. Otherwise, the new Ubuntu could be my first step back into using Ubuntu over Linux Mint. The theme has proved to be a big improvement in my eyes, and even the icons look a bit nicer.
Speed is up to par, and boot times are surprisingly short. Everything feels speedy and productive as you look through menus and find what's needed. I'm not the biggest fan of the Gnome environment, but with the release of Lucid Lynx it is looking a bit better in my eyes.
Ubuntu 10.04 effectively meets my usual requirements of an operating system with it's nice looking aesthetics and it's general feel of speed and efficiency. If you haven't tried it yet, you can definitely count this as a recommendation to at least give 10.04 a whirl and see what you think.