Well the BSD install on the laptop finally failed to boot one day but the Windows worked fine and I have been using that for about three months. I have been trying to install PCBSD on the SUSE laptop and finally got it to go by installing an old version, then upgrading. Everything works well, except Firefox still crashes when I visit a page that uses Flash. Nothing I can't live with.
This laptop does not seem to share the problem the other one has with corrupting some file or other and I will keep my fingers crossed for keeping it going this time. I have certainly gained a lot of experience with installing lots of different distros, and now I just need to spend some time learning how to use the one I like.
PCBSD is still chugging right along on the laptop. I downloaded Apache and MySQL without any major mishaps, and am now running Drupal with only a small, persistant error at the top of the screen. It is thrown up there by the system and not Drupal, so I can't ignore it by sending errors to the log only. I will have to ignore it manually for now.
I am even able to log in as root; that sort of behaviour is not allowed by PCBSD by default. A quick edit to /usr/local/share/config/kdm/kdmrc put all to rights. I also made myself owner of the www folder inside Apache. I hope that is not a serious enough security threat to affect the balance of power in Europe.
I also installed Firefox and Open Office. I may try out WINE as well. Later, though. Things are already pretty slow running and I am not getting any younger here.