Define slow. I use 10k rpm discs - is it so slow it isn't any idea using those in RAID0? If that's so I think I'll stick to windows until linux has better RAID support. I am currently pondering my lightning-fast reboots with windows and overall great system performance.
LINUX software RAID works much better than Windows. Have you seen any utilities that comes with Windows to setup RAID. I do not think so. The problem with software RAID controllers on the motherboards is both the motherboard manufacture does not want to upgrade the firmware for the controller and the controller manufacture does not write very good drivers for their chips to be used with motherboards. You can use Highpoint controllers or 3ware controllers. Both will give you very good performance.
The word slow in computers is very general. You have to be more specific. If you really want to speed up Linux and your computer has a lot of memory, you can setup RAMDISK. RAMDISK will really speed up LINUX but it will take memory away from LINUX. You can modifiy the boot process by tweaking some scripts, so LINUX does not have to go through several scripts to boot up. You can increase the latency of the IDE controller and this will really speed up your computer.
I have an AMD Athlon 700 MHz with 512 megabytes of memory. It takes about 2 minutes from the time I power on and to boot into LINUX. Programs loads within 10 seconds and I'm able to record and playback video at the same time that I can never do in Windows. I would not say LINUX is slow compared to Windows because it runs a lot of scripts, filesystems have a huge overhead, and it has to force the chipset to send and recieve data. If chipset manufactures write drivers for their chipsets, LINUX will be much faster.
On my 300gb RAID we're talking DVD-R, ie very big files indeed (multiple 45 mb:ish rars). The RAIDed 10k rpm discs are just for the extreme performance they give when it comes to systemfiles. Or maybe I should say the extreme performance they should give?
You still do not understand when to use different kinds of RAID configurations. RAID 1 works great for accessing and reading files, so it should be used to store LINUX files like libraries, execution files, source code, fonts, simple sound effects, small graphic files, and web media. If you want high throughput or bandwidth speeds you can set up another RAID array like RAID 0 or RAID 5 to handle raw video, raw sound, raw graphics.
Hard drives with 10000 RPM do nothing to speed up acessing files for the operating system. The accessing time of the hard drive which is about 4.9 milliseconds reduces the time it takes to find the file and send it off to the processor. All what RPM do is keeping the sustain data rate high enough to play raw video, raw sound, and to transfer over a 1 Gb network.
BTW, did you try to install kernel 2.4.26 from the CD.