I'd recommend installing "rcconf". As root do
apt-get install rcconf
From there you can disable all services you don't need and I think it's a bit easier to handle than sysv-rc-conf.
If you'r new to linux and hesitate to compile your custom kernel you could install a kernel image that was build for your kind of CPU. For example if you have an AMD Athlon/Duron you can install the appropriate image with
apt-get install kernel-image-2.6.11-1-k7
This could speed up boot-time a bit. Hope this helps!