Damn Small Linux might be an option.
Ubuntu 9.04 is really new.
Ubuntu 8.04 might fair better.
If there is nothing sacred on the XP computer I would try using a partition tool to set the partitions up before booting the Install CD.
There is a tool called "Universal Boot CD" that will boot you into a basic linux shell (For advanced users).
You can also boot into a few flavours of DOS if you a reasonably knowledgeable with Command Shell.
I have spent a lot of time with "File System Tools"> "Parttition Tools"
There are several ... I would say Ranish provides the most extensive info.
Your computer is older so you want to find a Linux Distro that is compact, while still being as PNP as possible.
Are you sure you CD player is OK?
It shouldn't be too pricey to pick up another one if you have a problem.
Someone in your neck of the woods may let you rip an old one from a dead computer.
I've only tried Ubuntu 8.04 & 9.04 with any seriousness.
I has Mandrake a while back ... didn't do much but load it in.
One thing I would look at in your situation would be getting the CD for "Damn Small Linux."
here's one ISO:ftp://ftp.heanet.ie/mirrors/damnsmalllinu...10-syslinux.iso
I lost my CD but it should be able to be downloaded and burnt with you Vista machine.
You can run it live without installing to see if you like it enough to kill your XP.