so, it only took an afternoon for it to dawn on me that i should install a new kernel to get the 1394 stuff to work. sure enough, it behaved much nicer afterwards.
camera seems to be doing well, execept the lens has some serious radial distortions going on. ended up spending friday trying to compensate for them. it's not quite there yet; i'm still using a fixed center and was too lazy to write the 5 lines to do interpolation, but it is looking better.