Lets see -
it sounds like you really have all that you need to actually do this. If you want to serve these up to the rest of your computers, I know that you could use Samba to allow for network shares on your windows and mac compies. The setup isn't all that difficult, and I think I have a semi-walkthrough on the archlinux wiki. http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Setting_up_Samba
Ignore the part about pacman, and continue on. (after installing samba for your distro of choice that is) Of course, if you have to log in remotely, you can SSH or telnet in but that may be a bit difficult and doesn't give you a desktop at all. You could also get a cheap CRT monitor and attach that to your laptop if possible. Not sure what to do about that though.
As far as distros go, it depends on what you want. Simple to configure via commandline - Slackware, Gentoo, Arch, Crux etc.
Pretty (although this seems not to be your aim) - SuSE, Ubuntu, Red hat etc.