Well, for what its worth, I loaded 5.9 on the HP NC6000. I did not touch /hda3 in the load process and when I added it all my files were there. Perhaps there is a way to upgrade to 5.9. I don't know. I only know that installing 5.9 over 5.8 on my home directory left my data on hda3 intact. That is great. I might add, again for what its worth, that once I added hda3 with my old files on it, I lost the pretty 5.9 screen in favor of the xfce screen. But if I remove hda3, I get the pretty screen back. Some Sherlock Holmes stuff here indicates that I am probably forcing 5.9 to inherit some of my 5.8 problems. So I adjusted SimpleBackup to just backup particular directories, rather than my home, and I suspect, when next Monday comes around and SimpleBackup makes its complete backup of the Omnibook (and I then replace the data files on the NC6000 with those files), this problem will disappear too. I hope so. I still don't have SimpleBackup working right, and think there may be some problems with it.
I will play with 5.9 a while longer before putting it on the Omnibook, but am impressed initially and believe I will load it on the Omnibook in a week or so. I will then report back on whether it seems sluggish. It is certainly not sluggish on the Nc6000.