1. will updating it at least let me boot with a DVD?
Booting from a DVD shouldn't require a BIOS update, just making the CD first in the boot priority will take care of that. Now if the Distro doesn't recognize the DVD drive that another story.

What is a controller card and how much does it cost?
HighPoint Rocket133 $34.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16816115008

PROMISE ULTRA133 TX2 $38.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16816102007