I think (hope!) that you will be very pleased as you dig around the Dreamhost environment, and see how they do things. They have put a lot of thought into the design and implementation of their shared server offerings, and have come up with an extremely powerful and flexible environment for an amazing price.
That's not to say that there are not some limitations to what you can do here, but those limitations are, IMHO, relatively few and extremely reasonable for shared servers; you certainly have a lot more power (and security/safety) in this environment than you have on other hosts I've used.
At any rate, welcome to Dreamhost and you are more than welcome to the help, though I didn't do much .