|"When I try to load Ubuntu I get a screen full of geek- speak which (I think) is telling me the bios is out of date, 1999."|
Any version of Linux will display the boot process, so ignore it. Unless KDE/Gnome refuse to initialize, leave things as they are. If you're new to Linux, I'd strongly recommend trying live distros before comitting to one:
"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."