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open a terminal window then type aumix
when aumix opens adjust your PCM and PCM2 volume levels up press S then press Q and try running xmms or other sound program. next time sound doesn't load at command line type aumix -L to reload your mixer settings. Hope this helps, had about same problem under Fedora with a VIA sound chip and aumix solved it for me.
alsaconf gives me the option to configure 'legacy', but it also gives a warning about Pnp cards or something being damaged if I do so. Should I try configuring sound that way, or is it playing with fire?
I couldn't tell you about the damaging PnP cards thing - I've never heard of that - but OSS stands for Open Sound System. It's kinda like ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) - they're both meant for playing sound. Not sure how to set it up - my PC works fine with ALSA - but try searching the Web for "OSS configure" or something if you want to give it a try. Or just use the onboard sound.