I have to give the debian/ubuntu folks some credit for their packaging of nagios. While the mandriva configuration was pretty straight forward, you had to normalize things a lot yourself, otherwise you were adding 20 new lines for each service and/or host.
The configuration that is default in ubuntu uses hostgroups very effectively, so you setup a host group for every type of service. If you want to monitor a webserver on a host, you just add it to http_servers. In about an hour I had completely rebuilt my monitoring setup for home and offsite servers, and was getting alert emails again when things go funny.
Nicely done folks, nicely done.