It was a bit lazy of me not to check the voltages on the board but the other evidence of a fault was overwhelming in the end. When the Ethernet wouldn't come up with the eLinux recommended supply and the USB cable from ModMyPi with no other load that was the last straw. The device was totally incommunicado headless. Useless.
I do have numerous PSUs and regulators lying around here, but once you plug in a homebuilt supply you're on shaky ground as far as warranty claims are concerned. I just want to get a benchmark for the thing's reliable performance before I move on.
Linux is actually a PITA in many respects. The Squeeze distro wouldn't even let me drag and drop files from the USB stick to the SD card when logged in as pi. Permission denied. You had to open the file manager as root. What kind of nonsense is that? A computer where you log on as a user who can't do anything other than on the command line if you prefix everything with 'sudo'. Text editors that run in character mode with a bunch of cryptic keystroke combinations to run commands. I gave up stuff like that years ago with Wordstar and DOS programming. I don't need to be an expert in gobbledygook to feel good about myself (anymore), and stuff like that is going to piss off naiive users quick time.