Dave Berlind at ZDNet had a disk failure on his Thinkpad T42 and worked magic with Knoppix.
Read the blog entry here
By the end of the day, close to 15.5 GB finished transferring to the USB drive. The copying stopped on some obviously corrupted files. I'll live. None of them were mission critical and most of them were ones I had backed up already. All things considered, it wasn't a bad Saturday. Thanks to Knoppix.