So after completely trashing my Fedora Core 1 install during an ill-conceived font experiment (who says TrueType fonts are really easy to install in Linux?) I decided to have another go at installing Fedora Core 2 on my battered 8100.
This time, unlike my previous attempt, the Wi-Fi card worked (sort of - it stopped working after one reboot, and came up again afer another). I still have no sound (which is to be expected for a while, since ALSA doesn't have proper support for my sound card and OSS is now deprecated), but at least I have network connectivity (and just managed to install a slightly buggy Firefox build with SVG support).
I'm still setting things up (nothing like apt to keep your system in shape), but there is one funny thing I've noticed - the overall response feels a lot like FreeBSD (things slow down smoothly and disk accesses are - at least for now - fairly sparse). It is faster than 2.4 on the same hardware (noticeably so), but it's the smoothness of the thing that kept me from removing it again.
Guess this 2.6 stuff will take some getting used to. Any hints on getting the sound card working (it's detected as an YMF-744B, using the snd-ymfpci module) are most welcome. I'd hate to think I have to wait for ALSA updates, since support for this chipset has apparently been in limbo for a while now...