As I'd been planning to experiment with the Jackd Audio Distro (JAD) and Ubuntu Studio, I downloaded and installed them first. In short, there are a number of tools in those distros that I'd like to have running. However, JAD is FC6-based and Unbuntu Studio is a version or two behind. In other words, there are a number of "known" issues that more recent distros have fixed and that I'm not willing to live with.
For me, the remaining choices were FC8 and Mandriva 2008. I've been hearing good things about FC8 and decided to try that first. Sadly, it's still a bit short in detecting hardware, specifically my stock (built-in) NVidia 6xxx video card. It still has the invisible mouse issue and still requires that the NVidia drivers be installed manually, including a number of prerequisites that the beginning user would find near-impossible to install.
So it's back to Mandriva. It detects the video card properly at install and autoloads the kernel modules for it. The Easy Urpmi service is also available which covers for a number of missing packages in the "free" Mandriva distro.
The one shortcoming in Mandriva that I have to work around is a number of odd RPM dependencies, due to the number of RPM authors who maybe didn't do as much due diligence as they should. My work-around: use Easy Urpmi for installing languages and their dependencies. Everything else, build from scratch. For some of the more cutting-edge stuff (e.g., stuff still in development), you have to build from source anyways.
So here I am blogging, while texlive-texmf (a _really_ big bundle) installs via Easy Urpmi and miscellaneous OCaml libraries are compiling from source. This should take most of the morning.....