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Gaim somehow managed to start spawning a zillion copies of itself, and I had to kill it (I have since upgraded Gaim to 0.80 to make sure it won't happen again). Unfortunately, it had /dev/dsp open when I killed it, and sound stopped working on my system. Rebooting does not fix things. Looking with lsmod, my system is not even loading drivers any more for sound.
Trying to modprobe the appropriate module results in the following error:
/lib/modules/2.4.26/kernel/drivers/sound/via82cxxx_audio.o.gz: init_module: No such device
/lib/modules/2.4.26/kernel/drivers/sound/via82cxxx_audio.o.gz: Hint: insmod errors can be caused by incorrect module parameters, including invalid IO or IRQ parameters.
You may find more information in syslog or the output from dmesg
/lib/modules/2.4.26/kernel/drivers/sound/via82cxxx_audio.o.gz: insmod /lib/modules/2.4.26/kernel/drivers/sound/via82cxxx_audio.o.gz failed
/lib/modules/2.4.26/kernel/drivers/sound/via82cxxx_audio.o.gz: insmod via82cxxx_audio failed
/dev/dsp exists, and is a symlink to /dev/dsp0, which also exists. The sound was working fine earlier this afternoon, and I have not made any configuration changes. All I can think of that could have caused this problem would be Gaim crashing.
I'd already found the problem ran deeper... it wasn't the Gaim crash that caused the problem, it was the problem that caused the Gaim crash. Onboard sound on my motherboard has totally died, no matter what OS I'm up under. I've already got a "real" sound card now.