on the error messages i was receiving, it has to do with a setting on php.ini on my server.
this is the setting on php.ini on my local testing server that works for the eCart
; open_basedir, if set, limits all file operations to the defined directory
; and below. This directive makes most sense if used in a per-directory
; or per-virtualhost web server configuration file. This directive is
; *NOT* affected by whether Safe Mode is turned On or Off.
so, on my remote server the open_basedir = setting was enabled and it was causing problems for the shopping cart