It has been two weeks since I finally gave up and went back to XP Professional on my laptop, so here is a short update. I could not possibly be more pleased! How is that, short enough?
This laptop never came anywhere close to working this well when I was running Vista Home Premium on it. I have not had a USB bus hang once, and that was happening several times a day with Vista. In fact, I have not had any kind of unexpected shutdown or reboot. It is so nice to have the various peripherals and programs working completely and properly, as well. Little things matter, and when there are a lot of little things, they matter a lot.
This Cisco VPN client connects and disconnects much more quickly, cleanly and reliably under XP than it did under Vista. SightSpeed works very well, no more problem with choppy audio. All of the webcams that I have work well, and don't interfere with each other as the two Philips cams seemed to be doing under Vista.
I'm actually pretty demanding of my laptop in terms of using it on the road, too. On a typical day, I use it at home with a WiFi connection, then suspend it while I go to catch the train; use it on the train with a cellular data connection (Swisscom Unlimited Data HSDPA / UMTS / EDGE / GPRS), then suspend again and walk to the office, then use it all day in the office on wired ethernet behind the corporate firewall. Then I reverse the sequence on the way home. All that without a reboot, and it's working just great. When I was running Vista, it had acquired a nasty habit of crashing when I tried to turn it on when I was on the train, after suspending at home. Instead of resuming, it would boot, and then produce the "Windows has recovered from an unexpected shutdown" dialog.
So, I am very pleased that I made the switch.