The hard drives on the laptop finally failed, but luckily I had already ordered replacements and copied all my valuable data.
I tried out a Linux variant, but apparently the drivers for my RAID controller are insufficient. Thus I had to re-install MS Windows. If I could have gotten it working with Linux, I would have also had to install something called cedega - that supposedly would allow it to run the Windows version of Civilization 4.
I do have Civilization 4 installed and operational, which is key. It didn't work until I applied the 1.61 patch.
Many thanks to Carl for the help with loading drivers and such.
So, after loading FireFox and Putty, I'm back at work.