done more tests. Burned another SD (remember, the first SD came with the kit) with the same image (LNA-BYPASS ANT), freshly downloaded, and the symptoms are the same, no change whatsoever..
I also notice something else in TUNER, with both/either SD's, the FREQ OFFSET is continuously varying by +/- a few Hz, occasionally though, it will jump to + or - 1000, 1500, 1700Hz and more for a few seconds and, when this happens, the LOCK STATE goes from SEARCH to SIGNAL DETECT, again with or without antenna connected..
I've also been able to connect via UART1 to PuTTY on another laptop and had a look around while booting. Mind you, I'm not a Linux person and I couldn't do much with it but at least I could follow suggestions based on linux access.
I can't see how I'm doing anything wrong to cause these symptoms hence, I'm more and more convinced it is a problem with the antenna.
Now, if there is anyone in Melb/VIC/OZ with this kit willing to test my antenna, please let me know.