"First.. How do I determine the version of a piece of software I am running.. Example, GTK.. I am running Mandrake 9.2."
rpm will tell you:
rpm -qi gtk+
If the software has a GUI screen with a help button you can find out through the help button.
If the software is a CLI command often you can type in -v or --version to get the version number. For example:
"Second.. When you get a response that states 'make sure PREFIX/bin is in your path".. What the heck does that mean.. Were is my path.. My home directory? Or the /usr directory?"
The path is the list of directories that the kernel automatically searches for the program you want to run. The path varies from user to user, root, su, etc. Also different distributions set up the paths differently. If you want to know what your current path is then type in:
"Third.. Whats a good peep-to-peer program for linux? I have tried to install xmule and lmule, never able to get either of them to load.. Not sure if there are others or what.."
You might try minicom.
Be prepared. Create a LifeBoat CD.