If Linux is too "vanilla" for your taste, the INQUIRER's Liam Proven recommends PC-BSD 1.3. He discovered the virtues of this particular system while trying to revive an old laptop, apparently. His litany of attempts on the Thinkpad i 1200 (circa 2001) prior to PC-BSD goes something like this:
Ubuntu 6.10 and 7.04 won't start, nor will SUSE, Fedora, Mandriva or Slackware (in the form of Zenwalk) or Debian (in the form of Knoppix). They all seem to hang at the point of polling USB.
On the other hand, the FreeBSD distro that has been "tweaked" for the desktop works fine. In fact, everything about it worked fine upon install, Proven says. The system connected to the Internet with no problem and ran the setup with no evidence that the laptop's processor was taxed beyond its ability. After one reboot and some automatic updates, Proven says he added some applications (Firefox, OpenOffice, Skype, etc.) and proceeded to use the laptop with no problem.
Though the desktop environment installed with the system (KDE) is not Proven's favorite, its set of admin tools is complete and it does everything he needs it to do, he says.