My father's XP system is a decent 1.5 Ghz Athlon, a quarter gig of memory, and plenty of hard drive space.
There's your problem right there. XP doesn't fit in 256Mb. It's slow because it's swapping.
I personally think XP starts up amazingly quickly, given its gargantuan girth. I've sometimes wondered if Microsoft weren't doing horrible hacks like copying some DLLs straight into the page file, but surely even they wouldn't sink that low!
I too have played "Start Menu Roulette" on many an occasion. You've got to give Microsoft their props. The XP Start Menu is the only GUI widget that makes me laugh on a regular basis.
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