Getting rid of snags one at a time
At the end of the day I solved a few problems. The Ubuntu support wiki has been extremely valuable in this. Following the step by step instructions was enough to mount the NTFS partitions at boot time with read/write rights. I finally found the cause of being unable to install VMware (missing linux-headers) and struggled long enough with synaptic to solve that (which required selecting one of about ten versions of linux-headers).
After this I could start VMware and find the virtual machines on one of the partitions, but they would crash on me again and again. The problem was the setting where to store log info and snapshots. By default if was the NTFS drive, but VMware apparently did not have write access on that drive. Pointing the setting to my home folder solved that problem. After installing XGL VMware crashed again because it could not access the preferences folder. Well, a simple chmod solved that issue.
The issue with my old Windows CE based Cassiopeia is temporarily solved by using the Windows virtual machine, especially since there is no linux version of Mobipocket yet. I think.
Next step: migrating all Outlook information to Evolution, the Firefox bookmarks and passwords to Linux and make a list of applications I need on a daily basis. Ah. and the all-in-one of course.