First, thanks to everyone for their quick responses! I feel I owe the forum a more in-depth explanation of the problem and the resulting solution.
Problem: I developed a Midlet which had a large number of 32K data files included for the application. No single datafile in the .cod can be much larger than that, or you get an error from rapc. I downloaded the .cod file using javaloader -usb load MyApp.cod This immediately corrupted the filesystem - in spite of the fact that there was 16MB free on the device. I had already tested my application on the BB on a smaller set of files and it worked perfectly. The ONLY difference was adding the extra files into the build.
Symptom: When the 6MB file was done downloading, my 7290 BlackBerry went "lights out". After removing and replacing the battery, it would spin the hourglass 3 times and freeze the hourglass on the 3rd try. Then, the red light would come on, and redo the cycle again for 8-10 times, and then stop trying. Taking out, and replacing the battery restarted the "no win" cycle.
Attempted Solution: I tried to do a "javaloader -usb wipe -f -a" on the command line and it returned, "Error: unable to open port". I got fancy and put this command in a loop in a batch file, hoping that during one of the cycles it would catch the port open. No such luck.
Solution: I ran across a post on another thread that suggested running the Desktop Manager, and during the rebooting cycle, clicking on the "Application Loader" icon. While I was dubious that it could catch the 7290 perpetual reboot in time, it did. It immediately recognized that the BB was dead and rebuilt the device. <Insert big smile here!>
Bonus Discovery: I decided since the 7290 was wiped, I would be brave enough to install the Hong Kong BlackBerry handheld version 4.0. After deleting the version.xml, it rebuilt my handheld with ease (I used the same application loader process). My carrier is ATT (now Cingular) and it works "perfectly". (Details on where and how to upgrade your 7290 to 4.0 using the HK build can be found elsewhere on the forum)
Hopefully there is enough detail here for someone else with a similar problem to have a search match.
Thanks to all of you who participate in this forum. I'm certain you're saving folks hours and a lot of hair
Kind regards, ljb