When dealing with obscure hardware, support comes later than mainstream. I would suggest you install the newest version of redhat or mandrake if you are a newbie. Most component configuration is kernel dependent, and unless you are confortable adding /etc/modules.conf modprobe settings for your winmodem and the like, you ought to download the iso's or buy a retail box.
With your hardware setup, I would recomment mandrake 9.1 due to its included winmodem support... although only the bought version has that/or via club membership.
In total, as a newbie, I moreso recommend that you install linux on commodity hardware that is supported. You don't want to start off crippled and angry because that chipset of that model of that line of that brand of that laptop isn't supported entirely.
You can look through currently supported hardware at the linux documentation project. http://www.tldp.org