well just after i posted my message, i decided to go to www.tyan.com
and check out bios upgrades.
found one that took it from 3.03 to 5.01 or something like that. flashed my bios (no problems), rebooted and went into bios settings.
i know have support for booting to the cd (and scsi, zip, etc).
sweet. and i tested it with a bootable win xp cd and sure enough, it booted fine to it.
so that takes care of a big pain in the butt issue.
i am curious, sure 8.1 should be good for this machine, but what about mandrake 9.1?? would that just be too slow? i am downlaoding the iso's anyways..