Afetr couple of upgrades my system version is now 10.4 - lynx, and here's the list of all things not working any more:
1. No automatic FSCK at boot (I am long over 20 boots without fsck)
2. Graphic server crashes at boot
3. Xsane stopped working
4. USB module is not inserted at boot - therefore I cannot mount usb devices
5. Cannot mount CDROM either. The device seems not to be listed under /dev

I have tried to manually fsck but in vain: Trying to boot from a livecd (tried several - knoppix, ubuntu etc.) - I get system error. So I have tried to boot as single user - but no matter what I select from Grub menu - I get the same result as the default boot.

I cannot write Ubuntu's disk image to a livecd to start from scratch.

So at the moment - it really looks like a dead end. Any idea how to work around all that mess?

Many thanks in advance,