I haven't wanted to take the time to do a Linux install and don't know much about recompiling the kernal, BUT I have wanted to learn how to use Linux. What I have elected to do for the time being is use versions of Linux that I can just boot from a CD and go.
The go part has been a little rough as I have been having trouble getting any version of Linux that boots from a CD to use my WIFI adapter. Nonetheless I have been able to learn a few things.
Here are links to the bootable CD Linux distributions I have been trying.