Re: Data recovery from laptop harddrive.
If the screen is broken, you can try an Ubuntu CD and an external monitor. Plug in a working monitor, boot up the Ubuntu CD, and press whatever key combination switches to the external monitor (usually a Fn+F# control). From there you can boot up to the Ubuntu desktop and connect your external HDD. Then go to Places and open both hard drives and you can copy between them.
Alternatively, you can remove the drive from the laptop and use an enclosure for laptop size HDD's (if it has L-shaped plastic connectors it's SATA, if it has 2 rows of metal pins it's IDE, get the right enclosure). Another option (especially if it's SATA) is to just stick it in a desktop. The desktop and laptop SATA (both power and data) connectors are exactly the same, so you can just plug the drive into your desktop's power supply and SATA to your motherboard and use that. If it's a laptop IDE drive the connector is incompatible but there are adapters (like $5) that adapt a desktop IDE and molex power connector to the smaller connector on laptop IDE drives.