Looks like Windbringer's on the ropes.

I think the USB v2.0 chipset in Windbringer is failing - all USB v1.0 and v1.1 devices I've used work fine, but now the bottommost jack is acting flaky. All storage devices plugged into the bottom are unreliable, and vanish (from the OS' point of view) randomly, leaving stale file handles and hung processes all over the place. I've seen this pattern of behavior before: Once USB fails completely, everything else tends to collapse like a house of cards during flu season.

Stopgap measure: Purchase a USB v2.0 PCMCIA card. Going to do that tonight.

Solution #1: Purchase a new mainboard for Windbringer on the open market because he's out of warranty. Far cheaper than a new laptop.

Solution #2: Purchase a new laptop. I don't have the cash for that right now, though.