After being so happy about getting the framerate up a bit last night, I decided to finally get around to updating the BIOS to the last version issued by ECS (it's a K7VZA v1.0 motherboard, if anyone's curious). Seeing as it's been out since 2000, I figured, "What could possibly go wrong?"
I ended up with a brick.
Enter the Willem EPROM burner I bought a few months back for flashing ECU chips for Erica's Laser. I finally set up a machine for doing nothing but burner duty, and pulled the image off the chip. As suspected, it was corrupt, so I tried writing the image out again with the burner...no dice, it would fail after a random number of sectors. After a LOT of searching, I turned up a bit of information: first, BIOS chips (in this case, an ASD AE29F2008) seem to have a defence mechanism against just blatting a new image onto them, and you need to disable this before you can write your image (which is the real "magic" of the flash update software that motherboard manufacturers issue you). Second, version 0.97ja of the Willem software (the most recent version available) can't actually disable it; you have to backdate your version to 0.97g. Tried out the older version, clicked the button that magically appeared to disable software protection, and viola: the image burned perfectly.
Shouting triumphantly (and waking Erica up, doh!), I rushed downstairs with my freshly flashed BIOS, plugged it in, powered the machine back up, and...BEEEEEEEEEEEP*crackle*. Same thing, just powered down. Dammit. Okay, back upstairs, downloaded and burned the older version that we were running before, ran back down, plugged it in, powered it up, and all was well again. I have no idea why the new image isn't working, but I'm perfectly happy with the BIOS revision I have now, thankyouverymuch. :-)
I also took a second to slap another 30GB drive I had lying around into it for my ogg collection and various other multimedia goodies for sharing with the rest of the machines here. A quick fdisk and pvcreate /dev/hdd1 (etc), and I think I'm about ready to call it a night.
So, on the upside, I now have a decent station to burn chips at; this eliminates the last of my reasons for waffling on getting a new chip made for the Laser, so I'll probably play with that next.