Neil, you have problems with your HP laptop. But this is not HP’s fault. The laptop you bought has been designed for use with windows only, like all (?) other HP laptops for home users. Most (all?) HPs Business products are fully Linux compatible and come with pre-installed FreeDOS.
A few months ago, I bought an HP Compaq 6720s (GR 644ET), installed Ubuntu 7.10 64-bit on it, and everything worked out of the box (except eth0, due to problems in Ubuntu’s kernel). I have absolutely no problems with my laptop, even the built-in card reader works out of the box.
BTW, HP has sponsored several Developer machines (including Gluck) and was one of the sponsors of the debconf7.
Maybe the following page at the Ubuntu wiki helps you with your laptop: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/hp_dv6000_series_(dv6116eu)
The next time you buy an HP laptop, buy one of their business laptops and make sure that a version with pre-installed FreeDOS is available.