Thanks for your tenacious attempts to help and advise....
I didn't mention it before but 2.4.20 with rml's preempt patch is one kernel variant I've tried -just before trying -ac2.
[jazbo@wheel jazbo]$ ll /boot/vmlinuz*
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 21 Dec 27 15:56 /boot/vmlinuz -> vmlinuz-2.4.18-19.8.0
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1114125 Sep 4 12:27 /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.18-14
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1109334 Dec 12 04:56 /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.18-19.8.0
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 992790 Jan 1 01:45 /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.20-ac2
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 983201 Dec 28 01:33 /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.20-preempt
I have a plan to get some tech support from a local store that specializes in workstations and actually includes mentions of Linux in its self-promotion. I bought the mboard, cpu and ram from them. I'm hoping that for a nominal bench fee, they will help me substitute some different GF4 cards into this rig and possibly come up with a different result.
In my gut though, I know there is an answer in an improved future version of Nvidia's Linux driver and GLX. People with this mboard have no trouble running their GF4 cards -which won't run opengl for them under linux- with Nvidia's WIndows drivers. I have seen my own GF4 card running 3d games fine on Windose98 w/ a sis735 --only to crash on the same board when running Nvidia's Linux GLX .
GF4 ti4200 is supposedly a tightly controlled (by Nvidia) hardware specification-- aside from the heatsink&fan, all ti4200 boards look alike right down the position and type of capacitors you see sticking out of the board.
I am at the point where I have to get a definitely supported hardware configuration (like an Intel chipset mobo and cpu ) donate my not-really-supported VIA/Amd hardware to a relative and just move on. I got this stuff as a Xmas gift and here it is nearly Valentine's Day. I should be billing/sueing Nvidia for my lost time, spent sorting out the lies of their Linux support propaganda, but that would be like expecting to get a refund check from Microsoft for an unused Windose installation you wipe from a newly purchased laptop.
Even if a different GF4 board magically works for me, the problem is the slipshod character of Nvidia's support for Linux and the Via chipsets. They're letting this stuff run out the door without much testing it truly appears to me.
Nvidia's WINDOWS drivers for this Nvidia spec approved board WORK (because they did their testing there), and their Linux driver DOES NOT - (because --whatever reason-- but they haven't caught on to the fact that there are tons of problems or don't care) that's what it comes to in the end.
I believed them, and now I am out the money.