I'm not thrilled about dashboard being force fed. As an admin, I don't mind seeing it, but for my regular authors, it's not really their concern, and it takes too long to load a lot of the time.
I cruised the various hacks etc. and didn't find something I really liked. Some of the plugins weren't available to event test. So i did a quick hack of my own, which is as follows:
I changed line 7 in wp-admin/menu.php to read:
$menu = array(__('Dashboard'),8,'dashboard.php');
I then moved wp-admin/index.php to wp-admin/dashboard.php
and then I made a symbolic link to the page I wanted to load by default when you went to .../wp-admin/
ln -s post.php index.php
this is for linux of course.
Now, when someone calls up wordpress/wp-admin/ they will get post.php. You could make any of your pages show up there. Perhaps you prefer profile.php. post.php copies the old behaviour of wordpress that my authors are used to. Also, only authors of level 8 or higher can see the dashboard in the menu.
What I'd really like is to have the dashboard visibility defined as a user level in a plugin/admin config. I haven't found that anywhere yet.