Okay, it appears the problem is that RetroPie isn't downloading the latest version. The version it grabs is v0.6.2. Maybe we're talking about two different things - a RPi running RetroPie (my setup) while others may be using it as a stand-alone program. I see in the what's new file for 0.6.2 it does state that the RPi version shows status messages (including the key codes shown by F7), but I see absolutely no status messages anywhere.
The results I get with jstest are in my first post: http://atariage.com/...19#entry3906168
...but maybe I didn't explain it clearly. So I'll try again.
You mention something about a joystick axis above. Is there a way to choose the axis? Because the XBOX 360's d-pad is mapped to axis 4 (Hat0X) for left & right and axis 5 (Hat0Y) for up & down. The directions do not correspond to any KEYS but instead if, for example, UP is pressed on the d-pad, axis 5's value changes from 0 to -32767. If I press the d-pad to the right, axis 4's value changes from 0 to 32767. My guess is there isn't a way to choose this. If there isn't, then I understand that it's an issue with the controller and I wouldn't expect you to go out of your way to program specifically for the XBOX 360 controller.
But what I'm not clear on is how the joystick is mapped to the ANALOG axis. The analog stick acts as the joystick, which is strange since the Coleco controller is digital (on/off as opposed to a value between -32767 and 32767). There are no options in the coolcv_mapping.txt that correspond to the analog stick (up, down, right, left are mapped to the keyboard arrow keys only in the mapping file) so I am guessing that is hard-coded into the emulator. If the analog stick worked better, I wouldn't be complaining, but just try to play Donkey Kong with it and see how far you get.
And so that I don't sound like an ingrate, I'd like to thank you immensely for the time and effort you've put into this emulator. It's so cool to see the machine I loved as a teenager on my modern HD screen!