You did pretty good...
except for a few things:
"1. How do I get my resolution native??"
I'm assuming you mean the auto-detect during install. I haven't run into that problem for a long, long time. What I do hear is people with NVIDIA (I think it was that card) and having to use their proprietary software to drive it and having problems. You should have been around when the initial install dumped you to a giant TTY and you had to use vi(repeatedly) to manually define everything about your video card/CRT(yeah big glass-tube) before you could even think about starting(repeatedly) a X-windows environment.
"2. Why don't mp3s work?"
Yep, and your next line "Codec and legal issues or some crap" pretty much explains the problem. The "for a fee" OS vendors pre-pay for the "legal issues" and pass the savings on to you (or whoever). I mostly have problems playing DVD's, vlc works swell, and there are easily found solutions.
"by the time you get to recompiling your kernel to suit the hardware and get things going"
I haven't done that since somewhere along the time of RedHat 3.* At the time I was running a serial mouse using the same IRQ/IO addresses as the network card wanted.
But I do agree that the support you get from folks online can be a little curt, it's especially important to give them enough information about the environment you're in as you know. But then, even now, I've never been afraid to just email the coder and ask WTF? Sometimes they even fix the problem at their end.