Or is there another live cd distro anyone can recommend for general diag/repair, on low end systems, with ntfs, ext4, wifi and partitioning tools as standard?
Many here would recommend Puppy Linux for this. It's much more hardware-generic; for installation and true glue-to-hardware I strongly prefer VL, but a couple of brief looks at Puppy and advice from others in this forum suggest Puppy is better to tote across several machines, as it's designed specifically for that. Ntfs and ext4 have to be added, but I'm told that one just adds the packages, then menu-setup-remaster to create a new live cd that includes what you've added.
FWIW, as the signature says, I'm running AR2413 on a VIA-based board. It was detected and set up easily as I recall, but this is an installation version of 6 Light. Wicd is an easy way to connect, but some of the live cd's failed to fill in "Wireless interface" under wicd's preferences-general settings. In the past, it's usually been wlan0 -- my info may be (ok, is) old, so ignore that if anyone tells you differently.