I've read the patent standing in my way, and its full of stuff that is clearly old hat. How can they patent that?

Did you look in the right section? A patent has several parts. Some background material, a catalogue of prior art, and some chatty stuff about what the inventor has done that is new and original. All that stuff it totally irrelevant to the patent itself. The actual patent consists of a list of claims. Infringe one of those, and you are in trouble. Find prior art on them, and the patent might eventually be amended, or completely invalidated. However, don't bet on that happening.