The $7 antenna was exactly what I needed to get my new wireless card rolling. It plugged in immediately, and the signal falloff I was getting before is no longer an issue. Access speeds seem to be better than the WPC11, and Ubuntu hardly notices the card swap. So all around, K.Mandla is a happy customer.
In case you’re wondering, this is the model of MiniPCI card I bought, and this is the antenna I bought. If you have an 8000-series laptop, or if you have a machine that can use MiniPCI cards (because they’re not unique to Dell Inspiron 8000s), I would heartily recommend this combo as an affordable, Linux-friendly way of getting your laptop online. (And both sellers were reputable, which is important. )
So now, with a proper integrated wireless card in place, perhaps I can go back to my original goal — seeing what kind of performance I can get on this 1Ghz machine under Arch. And as an added bonus, I can look into PCMCIA USB 2.0 cards, and speed up some transfers I’ve been suffering through with USB 1.1 ports.