xconfig is another one but I find menuconfig to be my favorite.
Really, compiling the kernel isn't that hard, although getting it right can be! Definitely try it!!! download the 2.6.1, then as root mkdir /boot/261 (or some other directory of your choice), untar the source package into that directory and cd into the source directory, then vi Makefile and find this line:
take out the '#' and change that path to the path you just created. Otherwise it will install the new kernel to /.
Now, do the best you can at identifying your hardware. Little by little go through the menuconfig reading all of the HELP pages. Some make sense to you, some don't. Save this config to a file before exiting so you can just go back later and pick up where you left off by loading it when you start menuconfig. Do you follow what I'm saying?
Last, and most important, is to edit /etc/lilo.conf. Do you use lilo? If you're interested in doing all of this let me know and I'll tell you how to set up lilo.conf if you don't know how to.