I've got a couple dozen hours in and here's the things I've figured out that I wish I had known earlier.
Don't sweat too much about what system you start out in. Just pick a decent-sized system near where you start that has a station close to the star and start doing your thing. If you want a system with lots of player activity, Lave seems to be a good choice. Personally, I started in (and am still based in) Eravate.
Screw up in your Sidewinder. Even if you get the money together quickly, don't upgrade and risk a more expensive ship until you've learned the ropes. Run a few delivery missions to nearby systems so you get the hang of flying, docking, and so you work out your controls the way you like them. Later, when you get into scooping, practice in a Sidewinder.
While I agree on learning in a Sidewinder, being I made my early money through trading, I'd recommend a Hauler once one feels comfortable. I didn't bother with an Adder, and I'm glad I did not. But I did get into a Hauler.
Just watch the FSD range ... couldn't make a trip, and got a bounty on my head as a result. Also do the CGs, the best way to make a lot of money ... fast. I wish I would have known about them when I first started. But I didn't until I was already in a Asp/Vulture.
Ideally, you've got a stick and throttle. A good game controller would be a second choice (like and XBox 360 controller). Playing effectively by keyboard (especially if you have an interest in combat) is best left for the second coming of Eubie Blake. Either way, play with the controls. ED lets you use buttons as "shift keys" so you can map a d-pad to something like power allocation by default and then have (Button)+(D-Up/Down/Left/Right) be for fine thruster control for docking/landing. You can also allocate a separate set of controls for situations like driving your buggy or when your landing gear is deployed.
If money is an issue, the Thrustmaster HOTAS-X is a great value. Here in the US, they run US$50, but they are often on-sale for as little as US$30.
Otherwise, I'm totally into the Saitek X-55 and, now X-56. I got my X-55 on-sale for US$150. But I just paid US$250 for the X-56.
GaidinBDJ wrote:[list] Cobras are your friend. Save up for a Cobra MkIII as soon as you can. They're good multi-purpose ships with lots of fuel space and can take some sizable components for when you want to customize one for a particular task. Right now, I have three. If only I could name them...
Agree on the Cobra Mk III, although I also like the newer, Viper Mk IV for protecting oneself doing various jobs. The latter can be configured with >20ly range IIRC.
But I did go from the Sidewinder to Hauler to Cobra III. I really enjoyed my time in the Hauler, and I still buy one when I just need to pick up an old ship at another Starport.