Great programmers are the wizards of this era, and you sir, are in the same league with Merlin himself!!!
Kudos to you and your team!!! I am absolutely, completely and totally ecstatic!
Since I copied the files directly from the svn, my config.php wasn't updated as the svn site only has a config.php.default. Once I added the use_alt_update statement to my config and set it true, my world changed for the better.
The log info now only says it is selecting the group, rather than giving information regarding the number of articles and where it will start and where it will end. And then it gets quiet and goes about it's business. The ETA for update completion was still huge, I think it said it would be finished in 1:18:32:02 or something else crazy like it had been doing before, but I gave it a chance and wouldn't you know it, about an hour or so later, BOOM!!!, it says it's finished. I checked the article ages and none of them were more than a day old and since that's what I had set my expiration for BINGO!!! this baby is working like pure magic!
Thanks for your help, your patience while helping me and most of all for this entirely and completely awesome application.
p.s. I'm going to look around and see what I can do to support you and your efforts here.