Probably not much help, but how are you burning your disks/are you sure your network's set up correctly? A simple test (where I'd start) is to pop in a Knoppix disk. This doesn't try to install anything, it just runs off the CD. If you have basic hardware issues with Linux, you should be able to narrow them down from there.
Edit: By the way, you certainly shouldn't have to cripple your system just to get Linux working. My feeling is that there's a bios or hardware problem. Except for a handful of things (like winmodems) Linux runs just as well or better on any hardware MS Windows does. MS Windows is more forgiving of hardware faults, but that leniancy is paid back several fold over time. Example, my system was a little dusty inside (like many old-timers, I rarely have the cover on my box, or everything screwed down properly). Windows worked just fine, no complaints at all. Linux would error during bootup. I spent god knows how many hours assuming that it was Linux's fault. Just for kicks, I looked in the system. Seeing the dust (okay, fur), I realized that might be a problem. I cleaned the system, and Linux worked like a charm. At that point, I realized how good Linux was. I'd love to get back some of the Word documents that were scrambled because of the dust on one memory chip, because Windows didn't realize there was a problem. (Oh, and thanks to the genius that engineered the "blow all the dust down, through the CPU cooling fins, and directly onto the memory" process...)