Well, the world doesn’t seem to have become significantly worse (or extinct) simply because the Mayan calendar expired today. Apparently, it was only one of their calendars that said that, anyway.
Since determining that I couldn’t afford to have $1300+ tied up in my day-to-day laptop (MacBook), and didn’t want to be beholden to Microsoft for every single aspect of my computing, I did some research and finally ended up with a Dell Latitude D630. The machine has proven to run Xubuntu 12.12 flawlessly. I did change the original Dell MiniPCI Wireless card to a more common Intel card, but the initial boot had only the existing hardware installed and didn’t require any trickery to get it running like so many laptops do. The only specific items required for installation were the latest nVidia drivers and the wireless card drivers. Everything else worked out of the box.
The D630 in question cost $80 from eBay, with an additional $12 for the Intel wireless card, $22 for 2 extra GB of memory, and $75 for a 1 TB external hard drive that was hacked apart for the drive (cheaper to buy the external unit than an equivalent internal unit, go figure). The machine has a Core 2 Duo CPU running at 2.2 GHz, so is pretty peppy no matter what I do. The memory is a total of 4 GB, which is enough space to run VirtualBox and Windows XP, although I haven’t used it for quite some time. This laptop has been in constant use in this configuration for over 2 months, which is probably a record for me. I usually reconfigure or change about once a month, but I just don’t have time right now to do so.
Time to drink to the Mayans; their prophesies might be wrong, and they might be a blood-thirsty race, but they were quite adept at many things while they lasted.