The Debian/GNU Linux has most of the desired features for a laptop installation. The distribution has a quite flexible installation tool. The installation process is well documented, especially concerning the methods which are useful for laptops. All the binaries are tiny, because they are stripped. A mailing list debian-laptop including a searchable archive is provided. And Debian/GNU Linux is free.
At the end of August 1999 the Debian Laptop Distribution - Proposal was issued. And some more laptop related packages and a Debian meta-package dedicated to laptops are on the way.
Note: I know other Linux distributions work well with laptops, too. I even tried some of them, see my pages about certain laptops mentioned above.