Ok, firstly i understand your fustration, Linux has a huge learning curve, its not Windows, Ubentu as simple as it may be advertised, and be, is still a linux operating system, so sometimes its gonna be tough.. I know i have lost my rag, and reinstalled so many dammed times its unbelivable, but i stuck with it, and now XP is but a fleeting memory...
right you sat Totum doesn't work, What do you mena by that, what are you trying to play? DVD's Movie Clips? MP3's?
Why do i ask? Well being a ex-helpdesk engineer, its stupid question time..
If you want to play DVD's and you don't have a DVD player, well you can't
Totem on Ubentu doesn't automatically play Windows Media Movie clips (WMV files)
Some linus ditros like Redhat don't automatically play MP3's because of licencing issues...
So firstly what do you mean by totem doesn't work?
Ok, now you want to experiment, and use mplayer, ok, its not going to be easy, but as i tell my students anything worth doing never is... so have a look at
You said your not on the internet on this box, and well that may be a problem.. however a step by step apperntly goes like this...
The first step towards an Ubuntu multimedia powerhouse is to make sure your
box is up-to-date (dont type in $ this tells you its a new command)
open the command console and login as root
<then enter your root password>
$ apt-get update - This will update your system might take a while
$ apt-get upgrade
$ apt-get dist-upgrade
It's time to grab all of the packages needed to install MPlayer. MPlayer
is the most versatile media player available for GNU/Linux - video, audio,
X, no X - it very well may be the only player you'll need. Let's start with
gcc/g++ and other dependencies, and then grab the MPlayer source.
$ apt-get install manpages-dev
$ apt-get install autoconf
$ apt-get install automake
$ apt-get install libtool
$ apt-get install flex
$ apt-get install bison
$ apt-get install gcc-doc
$ apt-get install g++
$ apt-get install x-window-system-dev
$ apt-get install libgtk1.2-dev
$ apt-get install libpng-dev
Have your Warty Warthog CD handy and accept any extra packages, e.g. the
libtool install will also install gcc. We'll use a US mirror for (most of)
the MPlayer packages and assume you're working in your home directory.
Download MPlayer, codecs, English fonts and the default blue skin.
$ wget http://ftp5.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer/rel....0pre5.tar.bz2
$ wget http://ftp5.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer/rel...040922.tar.bz2
$ wget http://ftp5.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer/rel...8859-1.tar.bz2
$ wget http://www1.mplayerhq.hu/MPlayer/Skin/Blue-1.4.tar.bz2
Using the README from mplayerhq.hu  as a baseline, install the codecs
with the following commands.
$ tar -xjf essential-20040922.tar.bz2
$ mkdir -p /usr/local/lib/codecs
$ cp essential-20040922/* /usr/local/lib/codecs/
Time to compile MPlayer. Issue these commands.
$ tar -xjf MPlayer-1.0pre5.tar.bz2
$ cd MPlayer-1.0pre5
$ ./configure --enable-gui
$ make install
Now install the fonts and skin.
$ tar -xjf font-arial-iso-8859-1.tar.bz2
$ cp font-arial-iso-8859-1/font-arial-14-iso-8859-1/* /usr/local/share/mplayer/font/
$ tar -xjf Blue-1.4.tar.bz2
$ mkdir -p /usr/local/share/mplayer/Skin/default
$ cp -r Blue/* /usr/local/share/mplayer/Skin/default/
Finally, copy over the included conf files.
$ cp MPlayer-1.0pre5/etc/* /usr/local/etc/mplayer/
Test your install by launching the graphical version of MPlayer.
QuickTime, WindowsMedia, MPEG, avi - you should be able to play just about
anything. Give yourself quick access to MPlayer by adding a launcher to
the top GNOME panel. Right click on the panel and click Add to Panel...
Select Custom Application Launcher and click Add. Use the following
information and click OK.
Ok, some points to note, the actual reame file at http://www.oldskoolphreak.com/tfiles/hack/ubuntu.txt
tells you to use the sudo command, however as you yourself pointed out, your a newbie and this is a newbie forum, so i will make an assumption that you haven't set it up... sorry if i am wrong, now back to my earlier questions this readme also tells you how to setup DVD support for Ubentu as well as setting um XMMS the MP3 player, and if you start feeling really brave the Internet Radio streaming...
I hope that helps, and may you have many a fun filled multimedia lovin' evening..