There is nothing like formatting a hard disk, and do a clean installation of Linux. And, Ubuntu is such a pleasure to load. Of course, I have come a long way from night outs to get the X up and running; at the same time, the Linux distributions also have come a long way with nice GUIs and easy installation procedures. It just takes a few hours to have the machine loaded with all your favourites — gsl, gcc, latex, gnuplot, octave, scilab, and so on. After that, of course you spend the rest of the time writing blog posts like this🙂
NB: I loaded Ubuntu 10.04.1 on my Sony VAIO VPCEA36FG laptop; I found this site very helpful to get the touchpad and sound working.