Thanks for all the info guys.
I did try the different kernel options with some of the distros. Mandriva just freezes and Ubuntu gives an "Authentication Failure" after having a million and one SQUASHFS errors.
I don't have a spare drive on hand to try the DVD drive, but at this point I give up.
I have decided to throw in the towel. I deem this machine not worthy of the Linux World. If it has this much trouble with anything I throw at it, maybe it was for the best.
Thanks again for all your help guys.
According to this...http://webapps.ubuntu.com/certification/make/Dell/
...your Dell is...
Certified Dimension E520
64-bit PC (x86_64) 8.10, 8.04 LTS, 7.10, 7.04
If you have another PC just swap optical drives and see what happens.
If you are using any expansion cards then remove them to find out if they are preventing your Dell from running GNU/Linux.
If they are, then reintroduce them one at a time until you find the culprit.
If it's a card you can't do without then try a slot swap with the other cards.
Two or more slots may be sharing resources.