Just finished it again myself.
This was my second reading, though the first was about seven years, certain elements made more sense this time.
Prof. George has it on the Seed. It is a self-powered matter compiler, an MC and Feed all wrapped in one.
On #4... Robotguy pretty much has it. I don't think the Mouse Armies' primers were linked to the Drummers, at least not initially. The point is made that to keep costs down on those primers, parts that were ractive in the first three primers, would utilize Artificial Intelligence in the Mouse Army version. Since Hackworth was infected with nanosites by Dr. X before he joins the Drummers, I'm assuming the connection began there.
Nell was blessed/cursed with some singular elements in her rearing, which provided her the opportunity to make more out of her time with the primer, than any of the others who had one. The x-factor of an unsheltered early childhood, gave her a unique handle on the subversive element which Lord Finkle-McGraw sought, which seperated her from the other two girls in possession of "top-shelf" primers. And she was of course, the beneficiary of both a top-notch education, and a loving mother figure through the primer, which seperated her from the Mouse Army.
This book was recommended to me initially by the faculty of my first program when I returned to college, "Technology, Cognition, and Education." Those do seem to be some of the major themes of the book. A lot of it brings to mind a discussion a friend of mine had with a couple of those faculty members about the possibility of teaching genius. The professors believed that basically, you can lead a horse to wisdom, but you can't make it think. You can provide children with intellectual tools, some will use them, some won't, and some will tear them apart to see how they work and improve upon them. Genius is an inherent trait that can not be instilled, but only nurtured.
I didn't really agree with that at the time, and still don't. I think that personal nurturing is at least as important in education, as the transference of information. But personal nurturing is a highly unique and slippery thing....
Sorry for the rant. But I think wandering nomad's question #4 really cuts to the heart of the book, and there is good reason that the answer to this question is not directly spelled out. It is in the contemplation of this quandary, that we can uncover some of the true hidden gems of this tale...