aw, nuts . . .
opened it up, reset the BIOS successfully, redefined all BIOS options using a CF card in the slot, and it just doesn't like the CF-to-PCCARD adapter with the 2GB HDD card inserted. it seems to lock up the keyboard input, which sounds suspiciously like a voltage/current issue.
looks like an opportunity for a single-pole double-throw toggle switch, with one pole at 3.3V, the other pole at 5V, and the common/center pole connected to the voltage pin of the CF slot. with my fat fingers and no caffeine, i might be able to successfully get it working. . .
wish me luck!