Wow! Great to see this thread alive and well! My interests are currently with these distros.
PCLinuxOS - This is my favorite rolling release. These guys and gals have done a lot especially when you consider that so many stepped up to the plate in Texstar's absence. The latest point release is very good and I have seen great reviews on it. I am anxiously waiting for the x64 release and it looks like it is getting closer everyday. Some of you might know that the PCLinuxOS community did a lot to help me make it through my last eye operation, these folks are just like family to me. Also, PCLinuxOS kept me from giving up on Linux a while back when no distributions seemed to run on my hardware. I owe the PCLinuxOS community a lot and PCLinuxOS has my highest regards.
PCLinuxOS sticks with a stable core so to speak, they place hardware compatibility above higher version numbers and they go the extra mile to make sure the maximum amount of hardware that can be supported is. PCLinuxOS will go as far as to roll back a version of things to avoid serious show stopper bugs, this is very responsible development in my opinion. The re-mastering tool that comes stock with PCLinuxOS is still the most valuable tool I have ever seen in any distribution. PCLinuxOS has always struck me as one of the highest quality distributions there is, these folks have high standards and their quality is outstanding.
Ubuntu 12.04 x64 - Most of you know I have never been very much of a Ubuntu fan. Ubuntu has failed me more than any other distribution I have ever tried. The LTS release changed my mind about Ubuntu though. I started getting interested in Ubuntu when Gnome Shell came out and Ubuntu decided to create their own user interface. I liked the very first version of Unity used in the Netbook Remix, especially what Oz Unity did with it and to me it had great potential. Unity took awhile to take off but I see good things happening with it, it has a MacOS like appeal and to be honest, it is fun to use at his point in time.
People complained about Ubuntu's decision making process, including myself but now they seem to have their own direction. Designing their own user interface, providing some popular package updates and sticking with stable, working versions of things has really changed my views on their work. I see less "upstream issue" responses to things and they seem to be doing some real development work now. I have always felt that any given distro has a certain responsibility for what they release and Ubuntu is taking responsibility now. Hardware support is good in 12.04 and the point releases they provide help ensure that newer hardware stands a decent chance of working. Ubuntu has helped spark the interest of game developers and even though I am not much of a gamer I know that this is something that has held Linux back and I am glad that Ubuntu has influenced these changes.
Ubuntu's application showdown is also something good because it just might help create a more level playing field between Linux and Windows. Ubuntu has done things lately that matter and I finally feel like they are deserving of some press and recognition. In the past I felt like Ubuntu was getting far too much press over nothing but now they are doing some very innovative things, taking responsibility and coming up with original ideas that benefit everyone.
Linux Mint Cinnamon - When Gnome Shell entered the picture I really wondered about the future of Mint. Like Unity, Cinnamon had a rough start but now it is really looking good. I see more and more distributions offering Cinnamon in their repos and that says a lot. Cinnamon to me offers the best of the old and the new, it has just the right mix of desktop effects and functionality. Cinnamon has a very elegant look and feel and it makes a traditional desktop seem like an attractive choice again. Like Ubuntu, Clem decided to go his own way rather than use Gnome Shell and that really impressed me. I could never have imagined Cinnamon looking as refined as it does in Mint 13 and it is a pleasure to use.
Clem made the decision to fork Nautilus and again to me this is responsible development. Mint is well known for it's usability and these type of decisions are good for the community because it takes away the worry about loosing features that we all want. No one can say that Mint is nothing more than Ubuntu with codecs. Mint clearly has it's own identity in the Linux world and that is what most of us have always wanted. It's my opinion that Mint's future is brighter than ever because Clem has decided to go his own way and not follow the crowd. I should mention that I do like the Mate version of Mint, Cinnamon just happens to be my personal preference.
Sorry for writing so much but after reading how the Linux desktop was dead I have to completely disagree with that. Distributions are taking their own direction, taking responsibility for what they are releasing and in my opinion providing a higher level of quality than ever before. I like where things are heading and think that Linux is getting better than it ever has before.