As the owner of a nice laptop running Hardy, I had a huge performance degradation when accessing USB storage devices. Speed could reach 1MB/s at most, and usually, half that speed.
The trick that solved my problem was suggested in this post, and after I have tested it, I was happy with the results.
The trick is to backup the old ehci_hcd.ko module aside, and to replace it with the one from kernel 2.6.24-19-generic. Following that action, you need to make sure this module can force load, else version mismatch whill prevent it from loading.
To do so, I have added the following line to /etc/modprobe.d/options:
install ehci_hcd /sbin/modprobe –ignore-install –force ehci_hcd
This solves the force load issues.