I can't learn without taking risks. Today I clicked the 'hold my slice' button of Slicehost. I probably will have to wait for 4 weeks in the mean time I'll have sufficient time to read their tutorials and learn how to tweak my own server. If it doesn't work I'll have no support to shout at it'll be all down to me.
Installing Ubuntu is sort of preparatory learning, a first taste of linux, before I enter the world of command line without GUI.
I'm quite comfortable now using ubuntu desktop at home. I plan to get a cheap video card to suit my 19" widescreen at home. When I have my slice it'll be convenient that I see tutorial on my MacBook and SSH my server to do setup.