Just a quick update on the off chance anyone is interested.
Shortly after my last post I upgraded the machine with 2 gigs of ram and was running Lubuntu fairly happily. I did miss some Ubuntu features though and decided to try installing it as well. The install froze however at the point where you activate 3 rd party software etc. I tried several times, wrote a new image to my usb stick to no avail.
I then read that others had had a similar problem and it seemed to be related to a situation where you already had an OS on the machine, which I obviously did. So after wiping lubuntu, ubuntu installed without a hitch. I've been using it for about a week now.
Some programs are slow in starting (e.g Chrome) but once they do I haven't really experienced any problems. I use the laptop pretty much as a web-centric machine, surfing, google drive/docs and so on with little heavy lifting or many apps running at the same time.
Again, tremendous thanks to MIPS and others for all the help earlier in the thread.
Cool stuff, that laptop should be fine for most tasks.
Can it play full HD movies 1920x1080?
Not sure, really. the screen runs at 1280 x 800 at the moment, but I don't know what driver it uses. It just says 'unknown' in the details section of Settings. That's probably something I should look into, maybe another graphics driver could improve performance just a bit.
Wrt the video driver, lspci tells us you have an ATI chipset GPU,
First check if it's supported by the proprietary fglrx driver but I suspect they dropped support for older cards a long time ago.Code:01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] nee ATI M24 1P [Radeon Mobility X600]
There's also the opensource radeon/ati driver (xf86-video-ati / xserver-xorg-video-radeon not sure what it's called) which apparently has pretty good support for your GPU.
If you are currently running it as a normal framebuffer device you won't have any decent performance as I doubt opengl works with fb.