I thought my search for the "definitive" linux had been answered with Mint 6 Xfce (Mint 5 was nearly there as it worked up to a point - graphics effects being the main issue - on three out of four machines. It couldn't do the graphics at all on my laptop and so was unusable. It couldn't properly handle the SIS graphics on another).
However, when I tried Mint 6 LiveCD on my laptop wow - what a revelation!
Excited, I moved onto machine #2. No joy. After umpteen attempts, including combinations of which DVD drive I used, Normal / "Compatibility mode" (whatever that is?) and adding the "noscsi" switch (I'm still not sure whether the "--" at the end of the boot line should be removed nor what noscsi does?), I finally succeeded.
Encouraged, I installed it and two reboots later it worked. Unfortunately, the next time I forgot the "noscsi" in the Grub options and it died never to recover. It would get as far as Grub but after that couldn't even find itself.
In the meantime I moved onto machine #3 and SIS graphics notwithstanding, seems OK (but I haven't yet replaced Mint 5)..
Machine #4, old and low spec, works fine (but sloooooow!).
Anyway, my main concern is #2. Whatever I try, it fails. It gets to the main loading bar, which reaches 99%, then the screen blanks, the monitor switches off but Mint continues to probe my HDDs. In compatibilty mode it just goes on and on, after an hour reaching about  of incomprehensible messages and so I press the panic button! [NB I have also tried the Main and KDE versions (does KDE really need an extra 400Mb of Bloat?) with exactly the same symptoms and it can't be the discs because they work fine everywhere else]. Just out of interest, I've just tried Mint 5 again, and that booted fine (without noscsi) but it'll give me zero graphics effects - but that's another post).
(a) On #2, on the brief occasion that it was "successfully" installed, why was the "noscsi" switch not added to Grub by the installer since that was how the liveCD was persuaded to fully boot? And I couldn't find anywhere to edit it before it bombed?
(b) On #4, having lost concentration due to the excrutiating scanning phases (below) I forgot to click the advanced button to direct Grub to the installation partition rather than the mbr. Consequently, I had to reinvoke Boot Magic and reinstall (yawn) Mint. Is there anyway I could have used the liveCD just to put Grub where I wanted it?
Why must the installer scan/probe a machine three times, on each occassion taking long enough to go out and mow a ten acre field - by hand!? And if I have to go back a stage it does it again - and then yet again when going forward?
Look but DON'T TOUCH...
(a) Disfunctional Vista and XP
Even worse this constant probing, even without actually installing, can have potentially disasterous side-effects. On one occasion, the laptop - which is currently Vista only - was left unable to boot. Fortunately it did recover after a couple of attempts. Similarly, on #2, XP is left un-bootable but again can eventually be persuaded to recover...
(b) vanishing Sata drive
However, on each occassion, the Sata drive had become invisible - even to Bios!? (Perhaps that was also the issue with #1).
No liveCD should need to or be allowed to modify the system - at all. Even when installed, the only part of my system that it has any right to touch is the partition(s) that I designate for its use.
Systems #2 - #4 are all multi-boot Win98/XP plus 3 or 4 Linux distros (at least whislst I find a version that ticks all the boxes). If I relied solely on Grub in the mbr, accessibilty would only be as good as the last installed distro. Thus I trust Boot Magic at the first level with each distro having Grub in its own partition. Machine #1 is currently, unfortunately, Vista (yuk) only. Because of the restrictive relationship between M$ and OEMs, only (self created) "Recovery" Discs are available and which can only be tested when a (the?) catastrophe occurs and even then would only restore to "Factory State" with the loss of everything else! But one day when I build up the courage...!
Machine #1: Toshiba L350-170 laptop. Intel T3200 Dual Core. 2GB Ram. 250Gb Sata HDD. Sata DVD. Intel GMA 4500M gaphics using (upto!) 1340Mb system memory.
Machine #2: Asrock mobo. 2GB Ram. AMD Athlon 64 x 2 4400+ cpu. 250Gb Pata HDD + 320GB Sata HDD. 2 x Lite-On Pata DVD. ATI Radeon 9250 128Mb AGP Graphics card.
Machine #3: Foxconn mobo: AMD Sempron 1250LE cpu. 2Gb Ram. 250Gb Pata HDD. Lite-On Pata DVD. SIS 761MX Mirage 128Mb system memory on-board graphics.
Machine #4; AOpen mobo. Celeron 400MHz cpu. 384Mb Ram. 40Gb + 10Gb Pata HDDs. Samsung DVD + HP CD-RW. nVidia 6200LE 128Mb AGP graphics.
[PS Why is Mint 5 supported to April 2011 but Mint 6 only to April 2010?]