> I also have some production code that I could not afford to lose or have stop working.
That is an understandable reason to delay upgrading. I do recommend you test whether your application will remain to work with an upgraded system.
> I've *never* had to do the make - make-install - make-test stuff. This scares me!
I can heartily recommend reading the documentation before venturing into stuff that scares you. That usually alleviates the scariness. CPAN is not that hard to deal with and is a great tool once you get the hang of it. In fact, it caters for an 'install $package' interface.
My ActivePerl (v5.6.0, with MS Services for Unix) installation on Win32 is currently broken, so testing whether I can get CPAN going myself is currently somewhat problematic. Fixing it isn't too high a priority either, since I mostly use OpenBSD for my Perl work ;)