After the laptop died and I arranged for a replacement, I started wondering how I could get by until the new drive arrived. The answer I arrived at was an external hard drive with Ubuntu installed onto it. Getting this working wasn’t quite as easy as it could have been, but now it’s quite happy and I’m back using the laptop. Thankfully I’d managed to copy most of the files off that weren’t in an SVN repository somewhere so not much has been lost. In fact I’m surprised by how many of the files I care about are now in various SVN repositories – a fact that makes this sort of event far less painful than it might have been.
One continuing irritant is that when Ubuntu updates the kernel it helpfully adjusts the grub files to boot it – helpfully, that is, as long as you’re not using an external hard disk  in which case it alters the boot disk to one that doesn’t exist! First time it did it I was confused, the next time I remembered and adjusted the files prior to the restart and all was well.

Removing the old drive was very easy and the instructions I found on the IBM/Lenovo web site were clear and easy to follow. The actual size of the disk surprised me – it’s tiny!

Tiny disk!

I should be installing the new hard drive this week. It looks as though a PXE boot will be the easiest way to get Ubuntu installed, but that means changing around my home networking a reasonable amount, so I may just try and source a USB CD-ROM and do it via the setup CD.