Good for you! When I started on linux, nothing worked. No sound, no video. Why back in my day, we used to DREAM of living in a cardboard box.
Today, pretty much everything is automatic or surmountable. I don't have any problems with video or flash that I can recall, but I use mandriva which has a 'paid' version that gives me access to non-GPL libraries and stuff and I think a lot of the video stuff is there.
When ever you install an application the package manage detects any dependencies and installs they along with your chosen app,
Dependencies isn't something most folks in Windows run into but is an old - now fixed - problem with linux. In fact, the system is now better than windows. It install/deinstalls programs as necessary, by auto downloading from the internet. My system checks for updates daily.
AND! upgrades are now continual. Moving from version A to B to C to whatever now just means keeping your system updates running continually. No more upgrading from version 5 to 6. I love it.
In terms of your screen, something that's available on KDE that I ran into by accident and looks cool, is customizable toolbars (or start bars, whatever they are called). How about 2 or 3 bars? One at the top, one on the left, one on the right? You can do that. You can also have '0' bars, which I discovered to my chagrin.
Have you tried running apache locally yet? It's a great timesaver when testing or setting up new sites.
In fact, if you're just testing html you don't even need to go that far. If you save your html in /home/mack/websites/index.html then your browser will display it without apache, use the url: file:///home/mack/websites/index.html :). Yes, that's three slashes not two.