esp8266 - getting desperate

I have a bare bones v1 ESP8266 running AT version:0.21.0.0 firmware. It shows up as COM27 at 115200 baud on my PC. I have tried every utility I can find to try to upgrade the firmware so I can (presumably) get the board to work with IDE 1.6.3 using Adafruit's ESP8266 Generic Board Support. (Their $10 breakout board with FCC certification, regulator, level shifting and the appropriate firmware is out of stock and the last time it came in it sold out in hours, so I'm kind of chomping at the bit to get started.) I've read all the guides (I think). I can get the board to go into d/l mode (1 flash of the on-board led), and I see various utilities trying to connect to the board, but they always fail. Can someone hold my hand and help me get this thing working?

BTW, the AT command set works fine, it joins my WLAN, shows up as a hotspot, etc.