Andrew, thinking a little bit ahead here, I'd be very interested in having HBase 0.96 in the Bigtop 0.8 release by the end of this year. Hence any work towards that goal will be very much appreciated. So far it looks like it may actually be slightly involved, since my very cursory test builds spotted a Flume issue already (haven't had time to dig deeper at this point).
I guess what I'm saying is that if you could drive that effort (in a separate branch, perhaps?) that would be very much appreciated.