The Realtek patch isn't against an "image" per se; it's only in the kernel. I just made a kernel based on 2.4.18 with both the pre-emptible and the realtek patches. Works great.
It's in the jukebox image I mentioned, as well.
Anybody who wants to use it either needs to make their own kernel, or use one of the images with the newer kernel. I can provide my kernel/config for download, if people are interested.
By the way, there have been some USB nics at Tiger Direct for $5 now and then. I got a couple of 3com ones, which are chiefly nice because they have really short USB cables. There is a Zoom one now, but I don't know what kind of chipset that has. We can probably find out at linux-usb.org.