Hi Michael. I don´t know if this will help you or not ( you probebly already know this )but I´ll give it a shot anyway. This is the solution to half of your problems.
Since you are a newbie ( like me ) I will assume that you work with Windows. The best and cheapest way to know how your hardware is configured in your computer is using
SiSoft Sandra -- http://www.sisoftware.demon.co.uk/
-- ( the freeware aplication ) that will give you more information about all your hardware components and specs of some of your Windows grafics/video software than we will ever need (or undestand ). The purpose/advantage of this is that hardware specs are the same for Windows and Linux, so with Sisoft Sandra you will get the information that you will need to manualy configure your hardware in Linux. Getting around Sandra is easy.
The really hard part is finding out how to put this information in Linux and with that I don´t even have a clue that might help you, sorry.
Wish you luck ( you´ll need it ).