What you need to install depends completely on the hardware. Most things should work out-the-box and those that don't or have other drivers available should suggest the drivers that can be installed.
In the case of a wireless chipset, this can mean you need a wired connection to download the driver but my experience of Atheros is largely positive (just works, no additional drivers required).
You can look up to see if things will work but frankly, that's a lot of time unless you're using a very popular SKU (eg macbook, certain dells, etc) and there's a single page about it. By all means Google for your laptop model with "Ubuntu" in the search.
But I would suggest testing the LiveCD. You can burn a CD and be running in a real Ubuntu environment without installing anything. You'll see first-hand how much is working and how well it works.
Two things about what you're installing though:
- 10.04 is old in technology terms. Yes, it'll be supported for a while yet but driver improvements don't always find their way back to older versions. Try the LiveCD first. If everything works out the box, ignore me. If it doesn't, try the LiveCD of 11.10 and if that makes a large difference, I'd go newer.
- Server? I'm not entirely sure why you're going to install a text-mode operating system on a laptop. There are valid reasons so I won't hark on about it too much but if this is your first real install, server isn't going to hold your hand as much as the desktop install process will.