So I decided to reinstall the system. And of the 5 or so times I tried, each had at least some kind of panic -- couldn't read a file, or *click* reboot. Some of the hardware is a bit exotic, the drivers having been somewhat tricky to all track down, but now I was unable to reproduce stuff I did a couple of days ago. On a blank system. Hmmm.
Burned an ISO of memtest86+ and ran it last night. Yes indeed, that brand new Kingston 512Mb stick seems to be not so fresh, to the tune of over 12.6K errors found. Lovely. Fortunately, it is a brand new Kingston stick that I bought a week ago at BestBuy, so I have local recourse.
Because otherwise, the system as spec'd has a 128Mb DIMM for which 32Mb is claimed by the video system. Yay. Linux ran ok on it, and I may just go back there, but having access to an idiotbox at home is nice. Less essential, for my home theatre dreams are farther now than before. Maybe it really is time to consider a mac mini or the like. Eww. I was so close to having everything done.