Well I'm feeling pretty dumb about now. In order to configure a new wireless print server, I went to the Network Connections dialogue to temporarily adjust the TCP/IP settings on my WNIC so that it would connect directly to the print server for configuration. I was surprised when there was no TCP/IP protocol listed for the WNIC. I know it was there in the recent past. I found the 1394 connection is now active and shows as connected. This is also new, as I don't even know what the 1394 connection is, or is intended for. But apparently it is now working in conjunction with the WNIC in my laptop. It surfs and browses normally. I attempted to edit the TCP/IP settings on the 1394 connection but am unable to do so. Likewise I am unable to add the TCP/IP protocol back to the WNIC.
I don't when or how this configuration came about. I never noticed any change in the networking performance of the laptop. How do I put this back to the original setup where the 1394 connection is not part of the connection picture? I can't even figure that out.