The hard drive on my Thinkpad R51 failed. Tried Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD but it takes almost 6 minutes to start up. Some looking around and came across Puppy Linux. Its a very small, very fast Linux system designed to boot of CDs or USB sticks.
Now after an hour of working in Puppy Linux, I am a total fan! It has all the basic stuff - network configuration (I was able to connect to my home wireless with zero problems), browser (SeaMonkey), chat client (ayttm), Office tools, media players and so on. The best part is it runs off the RAM and everything is extremely fast.
The icing is that as you shutdown, it asks if you want to save your data. Choose a USB stick and all your stuff - browser settings, network settings, etc are stored in a single file on the USB stick. So, the next time you boot with the USB stick, all your settings are loaded and applied (no need to configure network again, no need to log in to GMail again)
I am almost happy my hard drive failed :-)