I just realized yesterday that I’ve been doing one small thing wrong with my ext3 file systems.
jdong suggested a tip for optimizing the directories, and I mistakenly have been applying it before the system was installed, while the directories were empty.
I was rereading his post yesterday, realized I had it backwards, and booted to a live CD. It took a few minutes (it’s a 1Ghz system), but when it was done I rebooted and lost another 10 seconds on my start time. Fantastic!
So in short: Build file system. Install system. Reoptimize directories. Excellent!