I was very impressed with Linux Mint 17.1. The common feature upgrades and bug fixes add real value to this distribution. The changes in Update Manager, the Login Screen, Language Settings, Kernel Menu, and artwork should please almost all Linux Mint users. And the huge range of background wallpapers, along with the slideshow feature make it a great choice for those who want frequent changes to the look of their Linux Mint systems.
Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn with the MATE desktop environment is a very cool distro. It suffers from two big problems, one of which has been inherited from its Unity parent, and that would be the inability to format old partitions, created by previous versions of Ubuntu. This is somewhat worrying. Samba printing is another disappointment. There was no screenshot problem like with some other distros, though.
Besides these issues, everything else was perfect. Familiar, friendly, extremely productive. Super fast and super stable, too. There was nothing out of ordinary, no problems. Suspend and resume worked without any issues, the system blazed at the speed of light, and with maybe ten minutes of work, you can transform it into anything you want. Docks, menus, new fonts, new themes, all there, just waiting for you. Total freedom and fun.
There can't be a perfect score, because the associated problems do not allow it. But assuming you had this distro given to you, and someone bothered to install the needed Samba package that normal people require, it would be an excellent alternative to many other mainstream releases. Highly polished, slick, and almost overwhelmingly simple and easy to use. The grade is something like 9.0/10, but it can do better. I demand it. For you, this is an excellent test bed. Go for it.
There have been a several interesting new hardware announcements from the Raspberry Pi Foundation this year. Sometimes I wonder how they do it all - with so much involvement in education, development of new hardware and software, and the many Pi user groups and events. It really is quite impressive.
It's been a while since my last upgrade and there has also been a gap to the latest Fedora 21 release, so now seemed like a good time. I upgraded my laptop by installing over the existing root partition but leaving the /home partition in place to maintain all my settings and files. I wasn't able to even attempt this in the Fedora 16 installer, but it was easy enough in the Fedora 21 installer and it worked surprisingly well. Downtime was only 20 minutes or so for the installation, though a couple of hours was needed to investigate various new settings etc.
I am not sure if Ubuntu Mate 14.10 is an official release from Canonical yet. It is still to be listed in distrowatch. But, never-the-less I came across this distro as a reference from a couple of readers from my blog. I used the distro for a week and I am writing down my experience with the distro. It has the same specifics as Ubuntu 14.10 - the desktop environment is different here: Mate 1.8.1, with it's typical GNOME 2 looks.