I understand that this is marked as solved, but I just wanted to stick my oar in the water... I often feel quite bad that I get so much help from old threads and never really add something back for others.
IMO do as has been said ('Lennie' puts it well) and install something like Mint, or some version of a *buntu (not used either myself, but I hear good things) just to get yourself a working distro that you can start doing something within.
In my case it was Mepis that got me an up and running Linux box in the dim and distant past. I had been getting nowhere with RedHat and Mandrake on a few year old sub 1GHz AMD desktop.
Then get something else to play and learn with, that way its not such a big deal if you do cause yourself problems. I am also a believer in you do your best learning when something is broke and you have to get stuck in and really learn to sort it ...without being spoon fed all the right answers.
I like Slackware. IMO, it seems to do things in a simple and sane way and you can get a good and quick running box on some quite old hardware. There is far too much older hardware sitting doing nothing. Or even worse, getting binned for my liking.
You can get some good, be it older, hardware for next to nothing if you are willing to try, I got a bunch of IBM 330 xSeries 1U rack servers for a great price (about 5 quid each ! they had the fancy [C2T ?] cables with them, else they are not worth it) and just needed something installed on them.
But any bog standard box will do, I also have a few Athlon XP2500/Asus a7n and Opteron/DFI boxes that can do everyday stuff just as fast as something built in the last year ...but costing a 100x less.
The biggest help in really getting to grips was when I found the 'Rute' admin book and just set to work going thru it line by line, reading and then typing in the examples and trying out what I had just read about. The two Slackware books were also good, but the Rute users made me learn.
It is getting old, but the basics are just that.
LINUX: Rute Userís Tutorial and Exposition
The first link is an online HTML guide the second a .pdf to download.