One of my projects this weekend has been to repair and restore my wife's HP Mini 210 Netbook. Two months out of warranty, the hard drive shot craps a few days ago. What a bummer that was; she really liked the computer. It was perfect for her, and she wanted me to either fix it or replace it with a new one of the same model.
After doing a little research, I found that buying a compatible replacement HDD locally was a no-brainer - the local Best Buy stores stock a couple of Western Digital Scorpio Blue notebook compatible SATA drives for about $60, and physically removing and replacing the drive is about a 5 minute job. The problem is that we didn't have any recovery media for the little computer. I had all the data backed up on another computer, but had no way to re-install the operating system.
Once I replaced the drive, and successfully ran all the diagnostics, I really wanted to move on and get this thing running. Searching the HP website, I didn't see an option to download a disk image of the installation media. The best I could do was to pay $40, and wait a week for them to mail a USB drive with the recovery media (the netbook doesn't have an optical drive). I figured that paying the $40 was just paying for my mistake of not having created a recovery disk image back when the computer was running, so I was resigned to part with the cash, but I really didn't want to have to wait.
Then I remembered talking with a few people in the past who have converted to Ubuntu. I went to the Ubuntu website, downloaded an installation disk image, burned it on a DVD, plugged a USB DVD reader into the netbook, fired it up, and the operating system installed flawlessly. After installing, it took a while to get used to the navigating, but by the time that I reinstalled the programs that she needs, and transferred her images, videios, music, and data, I felt pretty comfortable with it. The biggest setback was when I set up the Japanese language input method editor, and accidently switched all the menus to Japanese. That took me about an hour to figure out how to undo what I had done, slowed down by having to pick through the menus and translate enough to figure out where I was in the settings utility. Oh well, it gave me a chance to learn more about using the operating system.
After all that was done, I gave my wife a brief tutorial on navigating the new operating system, and she has been using it now for the last day and a half. It seems like a really nice OS, and operationally, she likes it better than Windows 7, and finds it easier to use overall.