I just recently swithced a setting for apache and my wordpress is running way better.
I had always had apache suexec turned on but did not have phpsuexec (also called cgi-mode). I turned it on and now everything works that was problematic before. For example, the uploads directory no longer need special permissions or ownership. (755 on the dir and 644 on all files, and no need to assign 'nobody' as the group id)
Also, the automatic updates work with both the wordpress installation and the plugin updates. And if that's not enough, it seems to run faster!
Why doesn't the wordpress community recommend more strongly that you should have apache configured to run phpsuexec? Am I missing the catch-22?