You are brave to tackle an ePod
Unhacked ePods aren't very useful. Hacking an ePods is very easy if done right. It's easy to screw up as well. You really have to make sure you understand it. Recovery from a major screw up is difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.
Now that I have scared you........... ePods can be very useful and fun.
ePods run on a CE 2.12 core with a custom shell. You won't find many CE2.12 programs but you will find lots of CE 2.11 programs which will work well. CE 3.0 programs and higher will not run unless hex edited. Freecell and Solitaire that run in the BeePod hack actually came from CE 4.2.
>>> Do I need to find, download and install separate CE compatible proggies for text reading, image viewing and mp3 listening, or do these apps come with the Windows CE version I will be getting with my ePod?
Pocket Word is built in but you'll need to download programs to do other things. I use uBook to read ebooks. TCPMP will play mp3's.
>>> Do I need to contact my ISP to get a WinCE compatible version of their dial-up program?
Maybe. I haven't tried dialup on my ePod. You'll need to set up a Connection. From memory, I think it is in Control Panel. It all depends on your ISP. Wireless is a better way to go. Many wireless pcmcia cards will work. I use a wireless CF card. Additionally you'd need a wireless router. 802.11b cards and routers will give you the best chance of success.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/epods/ is another site with lots of information.
http://members.netjunkies.net/epods/ has info about BeePod
Ask as many questions as you want. There is very little activity on all of the ePods sites now. New interest is great.