Sigh. Sounds like it's lean everywhere. If you aren't using stock airbox and exhaust that would likely lean it out. THe popping is ok, the other stuff can take a toll on the engine.
The weather is colder now. Does it start better with your hand or arm over the, oh wait that's injected isn't it? One less fun thing to do. I remember watching a guy trying to start an old F1 car that showed up one day for time trials. He was drapped all over the rear end of the car using a squirt oil can full of gas on the 8 intakes to keep it firing. He clearly thought the car was female
. The sound the car made was so horrifying from 30 feet away that my girlfriend went slack jawed and was unable to move her feet, despite her very obvious desire to be absolutely anywhere else in the world... It was kinda hilarious, but I was enjoying it too much.
So try squirting gas in the intakes while it warms up. You'll look pro. Then try to think of something that might make it run lean or maybe a little restriction on the intake or exhaust, just for debugging? Maybe an extension on the inlet or an elbow on the exhaust - just a little change.
Sounds like you'll need to do as you say, get a programmable unit... Looks like your off to a good or fast start though!