Some of y’all know I’ve been wrestling with computer problems a lot lately. My old Gateway laptop’s hard drive crashed on me (after only owning it a little over a year), which was a big headache as my backup procedures were not as good as they should have been.

So I ordered a restore disk from Gateway and in the meantime bought a cheap Compaq laptop (for around $450). It ran great for a couple of weeks and then the touchpad and keyboard quit working on me. I did everything imaginable to try to fix it without luck (I can use it with a usb mouse and keyboard), but thankfully I have the protection plan on it so hopefully I can get it fixed or replaced asap.

Meanwhile I bought what I thought was the right hard drive to put back in the Gateway (I had to replace the crashed HD before trying to restore the OS) but I got a stupid SATA hard drive instead of an ultra ATA hard drive. So I went back and turned it back in for store credit, and then bought another hard drive online but they goofed up and sent me a 3.5″ HD instead of a 2.5″ HD (in other words, a desktop HD instead of a laptop HD). Fun times.

So while waiting for all of this, I started messing around with web-based desktop suites and later with linux (to run on my Gateway while waiting to get a HD).

After trying 4 different Linux versions and a bunch of different web-based desktop suites, I ended up with what I think is a pretty sweet situation.

For the OS, I’m using Puppy Linux. It is pretty barebones (similar to DSL – Damn Small Linux) but has most of what I need and runs great right out of the box. I tried some bigger Linux versions (fedora and ubuntu) but they frankly were more buggy and harder to configure. For storage, I’m using 2 flash drives – one for the OS and applications, the other for data.

By the way here are some pretty slick screen shots from Puppy linux users.

As for the desktop suite, I wanted something that would store all of my critical files (so that I would always have an off-site backup) but also would allow me to ideally work on my files from any computer. And I wanted to have basic office functions — calendar, task lists, etc. I tried several different packages that have try to do it all (the best I found was Desktoptwo, but in the end I combined several things together.

What I’m using is IGoogle.com (google’s personalized widget-based homepage). On my front tab, I have Gmail, Google calendars, a task list, and widget for Box.net. I then use Box.net for my file storage (which is much better than google docs, as I can upload entire folders at once). As for working with the files, I can either use Open Office or MS Word on whatever computer I’m at, or I can work with the files on Google documents and then load them back into Box.net.

So far, so good. I suspect I’ll still probably use Windows Vista once I get all of my compter problems worked out, but I gotta say that Linux is looking pretty good right now.