I took the plunge and, at the risk of bricking my Verdex, updated u-boot. I can only begin to describe the improvements! The process was not nearly as perilous as I anticipated (though I did hold my breath when I rebooted the first time). Noteworthy improvements are the ability to load the kernel directly into the U-Boot environment, and the inclusion of ymodem file transfers over the serial line. The former reduces my boot time to a breathtaking 23 seconds, while the latter reduces rootfs flash time via serial connection by more than half!
With a lot of grunting and groaning, a good amount of grepping through forum posts, and gallons of patience (coffee), I have finally got my verdex board to acknowledge my Belkin F5D7050 and bring the interface up. Due to a small bug in the zd1211rw drivers, the device needs to be brought up before an ESSID can be assigned to it. Without doing so, I would receive a permission denied error for a majority of the iwconfig options:
This weekend I spliced together a couple of USB cables to allow me to attach my USB-A devices to the USB-B port on the Console-VX. I have successfully connected my USB thumbdrive, 60Gb iPod, and Vimicro webcam to the tiny board. I still need to compile the video drivers for the camera, but it was quite exciting to see the Verdex mount and search my iPod's 60 gig hard drive.