I thought this first part would take all day, but it only took about 20 minutes!
I put the cd in the laptop and rebooted it. The Ubuntu install disk gave me the option to run it from the disk without making any changes to the computer. So I did. This let me test all the hardware to see where the holes were. As expected the wireless LAN didn't register, but everything else did. Flawlessly!
I tried all the programs I expected to use out of the box. Firefox, Gimp, Open Office. All worked without a hitch.
So now what? Install. There was alink right on the desktop that said "Install", so I did. I don't know if installing from within the OS was the best choice, but I did it anyway.
It offered to let me keep Windows on a partition, but since Windows was broken it needed to go anyway. So I closed my eyes, said a prayer and chose the full install option.
A I've installed and re-installed Windows on probably 100 different machines in the course of my career and personal life. Every time, regardless of version, it took a minimum of an hour. Most times it took 4-5. I think the average was about 4 hours. There were some that turned into 2 day affairs. I honestly believed I'd still be fighting the install of Linux at dinner time.
Here I am, 20 minutes later, and it's done. Totally done. (Except for the wireless - that's phase 2). It's up, it's running, it's happy, it's shiny, it's really cool looking! Ok, maybe that's over the top, but it didn't crash!
So, on to phase 2.