Large update - slow machine

So i noticed a new icon on my status bar tonight.  Nestled between the GAIM status icon and the Network status icon was a completely unidentifiable blob.  When i hovered over it i saw "There are 173 Updates available".   A-ha!  I'd now dicovered the "synaptic package manager".  The centralized authority on the system that deals with keeping software up to date.

I said "show updates" and saw the list of 173 programs and libraries that was available and was informed that it would take about 213 MB of download to get all that.  Wowsa.  Well, XP SP2 could be able that much if you had a bare XP machine; and OSX updates are commonly huge (especially those printer driver packages), so i guess there isn't anything wrong with this.  Although, i do have the latest Ubuntu and if it needs 200 MB of updates only one week after it's release, then what does that mean for the future?  Should i expect this much each week?

Actually, i wouldn't care much even if that was the case, except for the fact that i can't seem to figure out how to make synaptic install these patches automatically.  I don't want to be managing this stuff myself (especially if i go on vacation and security updates come out) and i'd prefer the system be set up by default to just take care of itself.

I've also noticed something unpleasant about the system.  Whenever i seem to hit the disk for anything (loading a program, saving a file, paging in an app), *everything* slows down to a crawl.  The hour it took to download all those packages basically made the system completely unusable since everything was just sooo slow.  Even updating the mouse sometimes completely stopped.  This worried me at first since i though the OS or window manager had hung.  But i gave it 30 seconds (since i could feel the HD spinning on my lap) and it eventually came back.

It's really aggravating though, and i'm wondering if there's something i can tweak to make this better.  Maybe when the final release is brought out this will be better.