FInally got the wireless working on what is to become the ‘always on’ box. This involved building the serialmonkey rt61 driver, blacklisting and otherwise disabling a number of other driver modules (including the drivers I had previously set up and built for the aborted attempt to install the usb wireless). Take-home points:
lsmod to list kernel modules currently loaded
/etc/modprobe.d is where all the module action seems to happen (although not where they are all kept).
The blacklist file in this directory is how you prevent a module from loading.
modprobe -r module_name to remove a module
depmod to to something important concerning module dependencies.
So I have moved on to getting a little more serious about the security of the box. Firestarter, changing the ssh port and disabling root ssh login. Snort might be a little overkill. Probably time the router firmware was updated, and I chose more than the bare minimum level of security. Although I never get close to my download cap, so what do I really care if some kid is surfing the web from time to time on my connection?