Yes - Andrew definitely deserves the kudos he gets.
(1) isn't really bug since "make oldconfig" is "expected behavior". Try "make menuconfig" and
see if a menu driven config tool works better for you. Too often, I find the "Help" text
useless and I'm not a kernel newbie. Updating those to be meaningful (e.g. spelling out
uncommon acronyms) would help alot of people.
(2) is a regression and sounds like it's bisect'able. In fact, recent bug on linux-scsi sounds
similar to this though might not be the same:
So reporting the problem to linux-ide and/or linux-scsi might be a good starting point. You
don't have to report problems to LKML since there are plenty of topic specific mailing lists
that have less traffic. See linux-2.6.25/MAINTAINERS file for the various mailing lists. If
you post to the wrong list, people generally will redirect you to the right one. As Andrew
suggests, be persistent.
Lastly, regarding "being a new newbie" try http://kernelnewbies.org which is one of many
starting points. Usually any help with documentation, code review, or testing is something
anyone with a computer can do - especially if you are finding bugs, willing to report them and
test out (likely bad) theories on the bug. This interaction will lead to learning lots of new