After my disk failure, my re-born laptop is more-or-less fully functional again. Previously I used dual boot setup. This time I used the free VMware Server to run Linux under Windows. So far it works well: I can do almost all my work in Linux, escaping out to Windows just to use the Outlook calendar and set up the VPN – and view the occasional IE-only web page. The biggest improvement now is that Linux networking can piggy-back on the Windows VPN so I can access the corporate intranet from home under Linux.
(Thanks John for the pointer to VMware Server – though I did end up using it the opposite way around than you had suggested.)