Even with the 2.6 kernel, and all it’s wonder, default swap settings are fairly liberal in my opinion. The good news is, vm.swappiness can be adjusted via the proc filesystem. More here
Several years ago, when the 2.4 kernel was all the rage. I noticed that Linux did not behave like FreeBSD in regards to swapping to the disk. FreeBSD would swap when available RAM was in short supply. Linux however, seemed to swap to disk, just for the sake of swapping. It always seemed silly to me, and definitely a hit to performance.