wheel - 6:10 pm on Mar 12, 2010 (gmt 0)
Mack, thanks for a very interesting thread and a great read.
I find your experiences distinctly different from mine. As you noted, you're taking a windows approach. When I transitioned to linux, the gui, and the OS as a desktop, was rudimentary and full of problems that were beyond my novice ability to fix. I probably had a 6 month learning curve, and most stuff that was broken I left untouched. That's part of the reason I'm more command line driven, the tools just didn't exist. And despite having run linux on my desktop for years I suspect you're already way out of my league in terms of knowledge.
For your other questions, you might also consider joining a local lug (Linux users group). Their email lists in most cases are full of people just dying to assist a windows turncoat with their advanced tech issues :).