OK, I thought I'd just do a followup for historical purposes.
Yesterday, I 'fixed' the video problems, and now I have almost a new machine (comparatively).
I mistakenly booted up in the compressed video mode, and said to myself, 'let me see if I can
change the video mode again' (this had failed all previous times).
So I went into PCC while in compressed video (half the screen) and noticed the video card was
now stating Intel 810 or greater. So I changed the video resolution from 1024x768 to 1336x768,
(the native screen resolution), rebooted without selecting the NO ACPI option form F3, and voila,
it booted into full screen full resolution video mode with all 4 cores detected and accessible!
Somehow, the video driver got updated, because it absolutely hadn't been an 810 driver in the
video card list (only up to 710). So that WAS the initial video problem.
Now that I don't have to turn off ACPI in order to get full screen video, the laptop has a significant
increase in speed and power management. Before, the battery monitor didn't monitor the battery,
but now it does.
The USB bootdrive issue still exists, but at least now I have a fully hardware functioning laptop.
Almost like Xmas in March.