Long ago a helpful gentlemen put Ubuntu 8.04 in some surplus space on my desktop computer. He set it up to dual boot, the other partitions being Windows XP. I have toyed with it since but done nothing serious. I have just read that I'm overdue to upgrade - and maybe get serious.
But, several months ago I got a WiFi home hotspot to untangle the wires of five active household computers. Only later did I discover that the wireless adapter I got for the XP portion of my Ubuntu computer didn't work with Linux. So I bought a Netis WF-2120 labelled as working with Linux and installed it successfully in XP, but Ubuntu didn't notice it was there. And the driver CD didn't have Linux-specific instructions or a Linux-specific driver. I emailed the manufacturer and they sent me the code to enter. That's when I discovered that my original assistant had set things up so I couldn't meddle - there was no way to access the command prompt.
Honestly, no matter how far-fetched it sounds, this is the honest straight goods. And I need help.
In search of a driver, I downloaded Ubuntu 10.04 and 12.04 and burned them to live CDs and ran them to see if they might find the wireless. They didn't. But I am going to need them, I suspect. I got the MakeUseOf ebook on Ubuntu to guide me in installing the new versions. But the first thing 10.04 wanted to do (I am likely misinterpreting this, but I don't plan to trash a working computer even if it is half XP) was, it said, to reformat and repartition my computer - and the XP part is not expendable. Obviously the 8.04 obsolete version of Ubuntu is, and there are no personal records or settings in it - as mentioned, they're beyond my access.
So - I can't get Ubuntu on the internet to upgrade it until I can give it a driver for the computer's wireless adapter, and I can't get a command prompt to do that. I don't dare risk installing on the 8.04-->10.04-->12.04 route for fear it repartitions my whole hard disc and kills XP. And as is likely obvious, I don't want to use Ubuntu to learn to speak Geek, I want to see if I can use it as a productivity tool.
I am in Toronto, Canada but have no contact with any local group - I am "frail elderly" and constrained in my travel options, but have free time to talk, exchange computer messages, etc.
Advice and assistance would be very welcome.