Okay. I've played with the drive a little and come up with some interesting results. On reflection, I realised I've written a lot here, so feel free to skim/skip most of it... There isn't a question here, its just more of a log of what's going on... I'll post a question later if I can't get it working...
First, I acquired a USB hub over the weekend (plug it into a USB slot, then up to four USB devices can be plugged into the hub). The thing is, it is only compatible with earlier versions of USB (i.e. not USB 2.0). What makes this so interesting is that I was trying to install windows on the drive, and I found that the windows installer could not see the drive if it was connected directly, but it could see it if it was connected through the hub...
I also played with the Ubuntu live/install and have had mixed success. First, it does recognise the drive (both through the hub and not... I must not have had it plugged in properly the first time I tried). However, there are some interesting problems.
First, the maximum screen resolution for my laptop is 1024x768. This is fine for most things, but when you are looking at 10+ partitions in the Ubuntu installer, it does not shrink the space they take up, nor allow scrolling. The upshot of this is if I have too many partitions, the list goes off the top/bottom of the screen, and I cannot see them all (however, I can work around it, because I don't need all those partitions... yet...).
Second, I went through the setup part of the installation no problems, but had problems in the actual installing of Ubuntu. The first time I tried setting the boot partition for the installation to both the USB's boot partition and the HD's boot partition. It would allow that, so I decided for safety to install it using the HD's boot partition and figure the rest out later.
Following that, I'd set it to format the partition it was set to use for root before installing, and it didn't like the partition (I believe it said "Error formatting partition" or something to that effect). I figured since I'd just formatted the partition using the Gnome partitoning tool, I could just install straight onto it instead, but it didn't like that either... It quit after trying to install some files stating there was an error in the installation.
It occurs to me now that the drives were visible on the desktop, which may mean they were mounted through this procedure (and somehow GParted didn't notice/care)... With that being the case, I've now "Ejected" the drives from the desktop and am trying another installation on the drive (once again using a 20GB USB partition under ext3 for root, a 512MB HD partiton for swap, and a 100MB HD partition for boot).
I've set the USB drive up with a smaller number of larger partitions (and left about half of it unpartitioned) so I shouldn't run into problems installing it.
Interestingly, I decided to remove one partition before installing, and after GParted removed the partition and was scanning the USB, it decided to open all the USB partitions in the Nautilus file browser. I've "Ejected" it again and am now trying a new install of Ubuntu on the drive.
I'd just like to point out two other things that I found interesting. First, when installing windows, if you select free space for the install, it will try to use all of the available space for the install as opposed to letting you choose how much of the space to use. Second, when you try and install windows, even if it decides it doesn't like you, it'll still bugger up your boot sequence so you can't get into other OSes anymore... That's not too friendly-like
Still I've had that problem before, so I'll just use the Ubuntu installer to update the MBR and GRUB so we're all set
I'll post back with more details after I've played with it some more.