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I've installed Debian Sarge onto my laptop, everything seems to work except for the sound. I installed alsa and ran alsaconf, and it seemed to detect my soundcard OK. There was even a 'pop' noise from the speakers. Here's the output it gave me: (thought I'd use two colors to distinguish my post from command-line output)
This sort of problem has been beaten to death on these forums. Do a forum search for something like 'debian sound alsa' and you'll come up with a ton of suggestions. Here's a thread to get you started. That's certainly not the only one, or perhaps even the best for your situation. It's just one that I know where to look for.
As far as I can tell, the i810 driver isn't being loaded. I've made sure I'm in group audio. As I understand it, the modules that start with snd_ are from alsa? Perhaps my sound card simply isn't supported... in lsmod, I have:
For alsaconf output, see first post. I don't think it's a problem with XMMS, surely /dev/dsp needs to exist before any program can access sound? I found a bug report that says alsa's atiixp drivers won't load + create /dev/dsp with kernel 2.6.8 - my problem exactly. Also, alsa just has a big question mark next to atiixp on their compatibility page.
I'm going to try compiling alsa from source, rather than using the debian package. If that doesn't work, I'll try upgrading my kernel version.