I am a newbie like you so can't help with most of your questions as I am still stumbling around in the dark too!
I am running SuSE 8.1 and downloaded the Nvidia drivers. I got the RPM versions rather than TAR.
Having got them onto my disk all I did was right click and select 'install' from the menu. It all worked perfectly. You must install the kernel first. Don't forget to reconfigure your card for 3D acceleration.
Sorry I can't help with anything else but there are some experts here who, I'm sure, will.