I would also—like the people before me—recommend you set up a virtual machine and experiment a bit if you're lacking a control panel to do your stuff. Well, really, I'd recommend doing it anyway since it will give you great experience and teach you a lot. You can start over from scratch whenever you want, download ready-to-go images with window managers or without, and so on.
That's really all I can recommend for you right now. Read up, experiment on some throw-away VM and remember, always have fun.
EDIT: Of course, it all depends on how much time you've got on your hands and how much interest you have. But it'll teach you a lot, that's for sure.