The pool of usable Linux distros for older hardware is shrinking. For at least the rest of this year, it appears you can still install Etch and make it work well. Everyone has their own ideals, and I’m quite sure you can find fault with mine. More here
I’ve grown tired of messing with GNOME. While I find the KDE folks have probably lost their way in the pursuit of the 4.x series, you can still get and use KDE 3 for Etch. It’s one of the better manifestations I’ve seen (cf: SUSE, RHEL/CentOS, RedHat-KDE Project, Kubuntu, FreeBSD, and some others) for reasons I’ll probably never understand. BTW, I found GNOME fun and useful until the whole thing changed radically at the beginning of the 2.x series. I realize things like Unicode support matter, but just about everything I’ve experienced from a user perspective has been disappointing. It simply does entirely too much I don’t need, and precious little I actually like.