Can I ask why are you bothering with all that upgrading headaches, why dont you just fresh install 9.10? It takes like 10 minutes, and could be performed by a 10 year old!
9.04 -> 9.10 works great... when it works. Ubuntu's quality control can be a bit patchy, and unlike Debian, most admins I know don't trust dist-upgrade for anything but a 100% stock Ubuntu install.
I'd second your recommendation of a fresh install, but I'm not sure if I agree with the 10-year-old part... 9.10 had its share of problems when I tried it on my X60s. It cleverly installed GRUB onto the USB stick, resulting in a system that failed to boot after the install was complete. Easy to fix, sure, but a rather amateurish mistake to make.
Oh, and then there's the fun to be had the first time a JFS root partition requires checking -- the startup scripts seem to be oblivious to anything but EXT3/4, and don't know to wait for a mandatory JFS check. Since X requires write access to /tmp, and JFS will mount as read-only after a clean unmount, the first time you hard reboot your system you get dumped to text-mode while the GDM script repeatedly rams its head into the wall trying to bring up X. Fun times. Again, easy fix (one-line fix to a shell script), but not exactly the sort of fix you should have to make...
Where exactly have you heard "mixed reviews" for the Kingspecs? I have only heard success and positive talk with them, and I can vouch myself for how great they are. Idk why anyone would be trying any other drive. I wouldnt really call them cheap either, theyre good quality drives!
They use a JMicron controller. That's enough to disqualify them for me. YMMV though.
I just think CF cards are so outdated in 2010, 8gb surely is too small for anyone to seriously consider using them.
Depends on your usage. My primary machine -- the one loaded down with tons of development tools, source code, etc. is currently only using 7.5 GB of its root partition. My X40, which I use for casual surfing, IRC, etc. is only using about 1GB. 8GB can be plenty, depending on your needs.
Need help with Linux or FreeBSD? Catch me on IRC: I'm ThinkRob on FreeNode and EFnet.
Current laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad T420 (running Debian Wheezy) - kestrel [pending retirement]
Current workstation: IBM Intellistation 9228 (running FreeBSD 9.1) - blackbird