Last time I checked, mknod in /dev still works if you want it. udev is just a glorified automated mknod in /dev which the kernel invokes from time to time. devfs had a lot of kernel-side bureaucracy that you could only get rid of by removing it from the kernel, which as of 2.6.13 has now been done permanently. Your distro vendor may give you some trouble, if they've built the system to rely on devfs or udev.
I experienced significant slowdowns on my laptop running 2.6 after upgrading from 2.4, until I configured the I/O scheduler to use cfq instead of the anticipatory scheduler. The defaults seem to be tuned for systems with a pair of high-performance SCSI disks arranged in RAID0 or RAID1...but on a laptop hard drive they multiply boot times by 10.
Measuring memory usage is different in 2.6. There are some new statistics, and statistics with old names are calculated differently, so it's hard to do a 1:1 comparison--and that in and of itself is annoying. It's hard to tell if there are more programs waiting for disk I/O because of increased RAM usage, or due to a new block I/O scheduler or some new kind of lazy or preemptive swapping scheme.
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