I recall one teacher whose six-month-old iBook G4 was taking five minutes to get a usable desktop. It was struggling in 128MB of RAM, but somebody had helpfully dropped Microsoft Office into the Startup Items, so it was trying to load those concurrently, too.
RAM upgrade: the time-honoured performance enhancer is not an option on many ultraportables today
So although the modern OS sucks up memory, adding more has been a relatively cheap fix for a very long time.
But a modern OS also gratuitously accesses the hard disk much of the time. Mac OS X sprays thousands of XML files around the disk. Meanwhile the last two versions of Windows like to keep themselves busy by doing a lot of housekeeping.
I'd say two thirds of these improvements to Windows come from what I'd call the "Palm reset button" school of design. Palm had a very usable but very flakey handheld, but the device couldn't multitask, and frequently required a hard reset.
Instead of fixing the underlying flaw, a great deal of thought was put into accessing the reset button. Palm designed the stylus to unscrew easily and quickly, just so you could reset it. So Windows has dozens of housekeeping tasks going on in the background.
Naturally the sprawl has also extended to applications.
Next page: Who needs to sleep?
You've miss-understood your roll
You, or I, as a consumer exist purely to put money into the pockets of the manufactures.
Allowing us to upgrade our systems means that we do not buy new systems as fast as they need us too. If you run the standard spec on the kit you will probably be forced to upgrade within 2 years.
If they let you upgrade the memory (2 generations on my experience) and the hard drive (I seem to do this 3 times in the life of a laptop) then your might not fulfil your primary - ney Only, function for as long as 7 or even 8 years.
Where's the point in that?
How are these poor people going to make a decent living?
For desktop users, there's a nice trick you can do with (at least) Linux software raid - "write-mostly" mode. Put an SSD and an old-fashioned hard drive together in a mirrored pair (RAID1), and set the conventional drive to "write-mostly". Then, all reads happen from the SSD, but all writes are made to both disks. You get the read speed of SSD without the reliability worries. Write speed takes a hit, obviously, but, you know, it's a trade-off.
To Answer the questions....
1) Yes and No. SSD awareness is more of an operating system feature. Windows Vista/7, newer Linux versions (don't remember the kernel version number), and yes, even MacOSX (to some extent) recognize SSDs and behave differently (ie: pass TRIM commands to the drive). As far as MBR and the like, yes, works the same.
2) Read my #1 response.
3) It's not imperative, but definitely SSD-debilitating if your OS "defrags" your SSD regularly. Debilitating, meaning reduces lifespan (unnecessary writes) and can cause your drive to run in a "dirty" state, like an unTRIMed drive.
Best bet is to run a TRIM-capable SSD and OS, or at least have garbage collection capabilities for the SSD.
A few other notes:
1) Glad the author used a V+100 Kingston drive. Their older counterparts (the SSDNow 64GB and such non-V+100 drives) are horrific performers compared to other like-priced SSDs.
2) "There's just one fly in the ointment – the age of the upgradeable computer is vanishing." - I would just like to refute this concept outright. Most PC laptops come with easy component bays for hard drives and RAM. They're even making it /easier/ to access such components. It's the world of Apple that you are seeing the "upgradable computer" vanish. They go so far as to (attempt to) require Apple-branded marked-up SSDs (via drivers) to support TRIM. This quote is from the skewed perspective of an Apple user.