Understanding Ubuntu?

I’m doing some repair work on Spouse’s mom’s computer.  The sick toaster arrived on Thursday along with its disappointed users.  It had a “virus” according to the folk at the computer shop who wanted to charge her big bucks for fixing it.

I doubted very much whether this was the case and – at my request – the afflicted machine was presented for my inspection prior to the authorization of any such repairs.  I have my doubts about these repair shop chaps;  the primary hard drive wasn’t even connected to the mother board when I opened up the case of the machine.  A couple of quick connections later, I at least had the hard drive responding.  I now suspect that the master boot record, a file Windows needs to get started, has been damaged one way or another when the computer was being used.  I am hoping to attempt a repair.  There’s nothing wrong with the hard drive itself – I’m actually typing this post on the machine in question.   I downloaded an image for the Debian installation of (Linux) Ubuntu 9.04 and installed it on this machine earlier this evening.  (For those who don’t know, Linux is a totally free open-source operating system;  the advantage of the Ubuntu 9.04 version, as I understand it [easy there, Linux guys, I’m new to this] is that it can easily co-exist with previously installed Windows operating system, a neat little trick.)  My hope was to install this version of Linux and examine the contents of the hard drive (I don’t have the Windows backup disc right now, and the machine as presented was failing to boot into anything, so I needed an operating system that would grant me access to the hard drive.)  A couple of quick mouse clicks later, la voila, Firefox is up and running and I am typing this here post.

Wish me luck.  At the moment, I’m having some trouble getting Linux to grant me access to that portion of the hard drive partition that contains the Windows stuff;  I can see it (and the files it contains) in the Linux equivalent of Windows Explorer, but I can’t seem to manipulate data over there (can’t write files, can’t delete them either).  For now, it’s too late to continue the investigation.  But tomorrow is another day.