Mint 13 Mate installed and working, at last! It only took ten days.
@excollier, it took me two full days reading over and over again the page to understand how Plop Linux works, also suggested by cwsnyder, but basically it boils down to:
1. download ploplinux-4.2.2.iso at http://www.plop.at/en/ploplinux/livecd.html
2. burn it on a CD
3. burn the .iso file of the operating system you want to install on another CD
4. insert the Plop Linux CD in the computer
5. restart the computer
6. a menu will appear, select Plop Linux manager or Plop manager (not Plop Installation)
7. a new small menu will appear with the options: HDA partition, Floppy, CDROM, USB, Network
8. select CDROM
9. take out the CD with Plop Linux and insert the one with the .iso file to install
10. restart the computer and it will boot from the CD (Ubuntu in my case)
On the old Sony Vaio, Mint would start as Live CD but Ubuntu installed properly.
As vicking777 says in his post http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=94719
, there's certainly some issues with Mint and old computers.
Ah, it helps taking some passiflora drops or camomile tea between one attempt and the other.
P.S. Certainly not the weather for motorbikes, I suppose you have quite a lot of snow where you are!
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. “ Buckminster Fuller