After few more attempts, the issue with my laptop and CentOS5.0 seems to be a known issue with linux 2.6.x kernels on AMD 64 processors. Some hints here and here. May be this bug is related. Anyway, I got the CentOS install to work smoothly through out the day, with the hack of booting with options “noapci irqpoll irqdebug”. However, I have no way to check any performance impact.
Now my biggest wonder is, how and why do I see a similar issue with OpenSolaris? How do I get it fixed?