The experience is humbling, since the only Linux this laptop ever ran at what I would consider a decent pace was Fedora Core 1. And since I can't wait until Core 4 comes out (it was supposed to be tomorrow, but it's been delayed a week), I decided to try something different and went with Xfld, which is the Xfce live demo.
It turned out to be a reasonable choice: it installed with minimal fuss, and despite some Wi-Fi tussles and the usual lack of power management, I am getting to like Xfce. The "Agualemon" theme can be tweaked to use the same window widget placement as Mac OS X (i.e., on the top left corner), and the overall look is clean and efficient (except the hideous default filemanager, which looks like an usability nightmare).
Having Another Slice
On the development front, since my Python setup was mostly in my iBook and I'd rather wait until I'm sure about being able to bring back the hard disk before trying to re-write "missing" code, I'm now taking a closer look at Cake, the Rails-like PHP framework.
Things started off a bit badly (the default setup assumes you have mod_rewrite and that you're running off the site root, which are two things I never do unless I absolutely have to), but it looks like something I can get into easily.