I decided to take another stab at the Ubuntu wireless thing this evening. I cleared a space in the spare room, perched the laptop on top of a box, contorted and got an ethernet cable plugged in. Not too long after, and I had wireless working. I still don't know exactly what I did, but following these instructions verbatim did the trick. I am now blogging from Ubuntu, and am a happy camper.
Except for one thing. Ubuntu has no black cursor theme by default. I dunno about now, but in the old days, as in the Mac OS 7 days, Macs had a black cursor. Early versions of Windows had white cursors, and ever since, my first act of defiance when setting up a new (Windows) machine is to switch to a black cursor. (The other thing is to move 'My Computer' to the top right of the desktop and the Recycle Bin to the bottom right). Now I see that Ubuntu has white cursor themes, and red cursor themes, but no black cursor theme.
Gonna have to fix that. And track down my old Glass-looking Gnome theme. And get decent fonts installed. And remember how I got my menus to use a 7 point font, and smaller icons. And and and...
But at least Ubuntu's running. I think I shall have some chocolate to celebrate.