So, I did end up buying desktop support from Canonical. After I placed my order, I was able to log into Canonical's support system ( which they call "Landscape" ) within a couple of days ( they sent me an email once my account had been activated ). I am able to log into Landscape using my existing Launchpad account. There is nothing much I can do on Landscape's main site, since I only bought desktop support. But, I can click on through to "Support", and then on through to "viewing or filing a support case", from where all my communications with Canonical's analysts take place. Luckily, this link is bookmarkable, although you do have to log in every time. The support cases themselves are not hosted on Canonical's servers, but rather on salesforce.com .
At the time of this writing, I have filed about 19 cases. Of those 19 cases, somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of those cases were either resolved by me, of were not resolved to my satisfaction, sometimes because it is a known bug, and sometimes because of my hardware. Canonical's analysts are upfront about the fact that they can not solve every problem, that when a system is not certified for Ubuntu, all they can do is provide a "best effort". I was advised several times to file a bug on Launchpad. Canonical's analysts did provide help by filing and updating these bugs. Canonical does make good on their promise that all support requests are responded to within 2 business days. This can be slightly annoying, because the weekends are often my prime time for working on my Ubuntu systems, and this means I sometimes have to wait till Monday to hear back. I do ( of course ) NOT expect Canonical's analysts to work on the weekends.
I have interacted with about half a dozen of Canonical's analysts. Every time one of my support cases gets closed ( either at my request, or because there has not been any activity on my case for more than 3 days ), I receive an email inviting me to take a survey of less than 10 questions about how satisfied I was with the support I received, and how likely I am to renew my subscription based on this case. You can ignore these invitations if you want, Canonical will not nag you about them. However, they do come in handy. One time, an analyst got impatient with me, and I noted this in the corresponding survey. Thereupon, I received an email from that analysts manager, to sort out what happened. So, those surveys definitely do get read.
Often times ( when I file a support case ), I will be asked to download and run a script provided to me by Canonical. This is a shell script, so you can look at it and see what it does. It collects information about my system, and writes that information to a compressed file in my /tmp/ directory. I can then upload this file to my case to get further help.
I do plan on extending my subscription to Canonical support. I like having a go-to person when I run into trouble. I was even able to get help with fixing a system which is not my own. Apparently, desktop support is not limited in terms of how many machines you can get help with. Even with its shortcomings, I consider Canonical's desktop support a pretty good deal.