Thanks to a marvelous friend's help, the laptop is up, running Ubuntu, and doing so marvelously. There were installation pains, and I know I couldn't have done it by myself, but I'm told that such installation issues are not normal. At any rate, I like this OS a hell of a lot more than Vista...if for no other reason than Ubuntu is faster and has a better built-in selection of games/time wasters.
It's weird having a laptop. I'm using it a lot this week, because being sick, I'm spending a lot of time under a blankie on the couch, and I can still get work done. Luckily for me, tv writers are still on strike, so I have less distractions in that regard. I wonder, though, how much I'll use this and how much I'll favor the desktop.