The number one piece of advice I have for anyone trying to use Linux is: "Only install what you need to survive!" The reason is simple. The more packages you install the more likely it is you'll run into some kind of conflict. The more packages you install the more potential patches you'll need. The more you install the less drive space you'll have.
Keep your Linux install small. If you need that industrial strength hair dryer go ahead and pack it along, but be prepared to ditch something else. For example if you need Beryl you may need to avoid certain graphics packages.