I did do an lspci, and it told me that the second radeon was on 1:0:1 and the primary radeon was 1:0:0. so i tried that, and it didn't work. So then I put them both on the same PCI and that is not logical, i will admit, but for some reason it does work.

ctrl alt bksp
works! infact i could do that all day if i wanted. which makes this quit a bit weirder, because i can get a glimpse at the console before it auto-starts X. i guess the problem is running X alongside the consoles.

as for trying to simplify the rig -- inorder to generate all the stuff for the conf i tried each monitor separately and got its vert sync, etc. and in doing so i did try the two likely combinations (left and center pci and radeon primary) and (center and right - both on radeon) and those were working dandily.

i like the way you guys are thinking though, thanks for the replies! got any more ideas?

btw, here's a screenshot of the beast if you're interested. http://www.mindspring.com/~jimmyhwilliams/screen.png
the 1024x768 lcd on the right looks even shittier in this logical "screen" construct here, but i dont have another decent lcd lying around. maybe ill sacrifice some space for the sake of taking more handsome screenshots.