Holy <insert_string_of_rude_but_clearly_descriptive_and _thoroughly_stress_reducing_expletives_here>
Cable Coding Hell.
So I have been struggling for more than a month trying to get coding working on my E91. Tried *everything* listed here and on other sites and references - drivers, VM versions VM packages, timing the plug-key-button combo, .ini file settings... I can't even remember all the steps and cold nights sitting in my car trying to get this damn thing working.
The final kicker came when Rich shared his VM image with me. It worked for him... and did NOT work for me, so then I knew it MUST be the cable (or my car or me or my area of the planet...but probably the cable).
As luck would have it, there was a shipping problem with my cable from Tmart and they ended up sending me two cables, about 30 days apart. The first cable was as many have described having problems with - the dreaded "BLUE BOARD" version. I even tried the pin 7/8 linked/not linked which had me open the cable and saw HORRIFIC manufacturing and soldering technique on the blue-board unit. Absolute crap. The second cable they sent me however - same supplier, same product request - TOTALLY
Different housing, different USB connector, GREEN board vs BLUE board, different stickers in different spots, slightly different components layout - totally different. You'd think I bought it from another company in a different country, not just whatever came out of the bargain barrel next and got tossed in the mail to me. It almost looks to me like the BLUE board is a knock-off "counterfeit" of the GREEN board! Very odd. Look at the "CE" sticker alone - the blue one is poorly printed, on square-cut label vs. properly printed on die-cut label. hmmmm suspicious.
Anyway - as Monty Python once remarked - It was... THE SALMON MOUSSE!!
The new green-boarded cable worked FIRST TRY (on Rich's VM - thanks Rich), no changes to my setup or technique whatsoever. INPA - airbag response successful. Shut it down opened NCSExpert - VIN response successful. First try, immediate and without hesitation or screwing around whatsoever.
So there you have it - if you're having problems and feel you've "tried everything" and still can't even get INPA or NCS to even open a channel to your car... it could be your cable as many have also noted.
MANY THANKS to everyone who offered and tried to help me out.
(esp: rich123321, phil.harlow and cn55ic)
Now to finally go back and read everything over again to try my first coding.