all I am trying to do is get the Linux machine to acknowledge my Android exists. Plug the thing in through USB port and nothing. Doesn't even 'see' the connection. (Its a Sony Ericsson Xperia btw)
Well, I've got nothing but time over the next while so if you'd like some help, I'm always up for a good puzzle. I won't force it on you if you don't want to work at it, but my offer's open.
I'm assuming we're trying to connect to the device via USB (as opposed to bluetooth or wifi). I would start by plugging in the Xperia then using the "lsusb" command and to see if Ubuntu reports the device as attached. You will likely have a long list of devices attached, so we're looking for the Sony one in particular. It will have an 8-digit ID number (xxxx:xxxx) ... post an excerpt back and we'll go from there.