Ubuntu 8.04, 8.10, 9.04 and 9.10 should recognize all devices on the 1501 except perhaps the dialup modem.
You should try 9.04-desktop AMD64 or 9.10-desktop AMD64 on it.
All other devices should work including the wireless, no additional drivers should be required.
Ubuntu should automatically install the VGA and WiFi drivers for you.
Unlike windows, Linux includes 99% of the drivers you will ever need, they are built-into the kernel or are kernel modules that come with your kernel, you do not typically need a driver CD.
If you bought the laptop with windows already installed it's very unlikely the driver CD from Dell has any drivers for Linux and even if it did they would be outdated and probably unsuitable for Ubuntu 9.x anyway.
You should always try the official drivers that come with your distribution's kernel first before trying to install anything yourself.
Ubuntu has Firefox, Gimp, OpenOffice, VLC, mplayer various PDF readers and about 10,000 other applications. You should be covered.