As previously stated, I do not currently have firewire ports. And exanding the walmart laptop to have firewire ports is probably not worth the cost.
Anyway, here's what I've acquired in the meantime.
PCI --- M-Audio Delta 44
USB --- M-Audio MobilePre
And in the process of acquiring these, I've learned that most computers provide a bias voltage to your computer mics. These devices do not provide this voltage. So that pair of headphones or 1/8" mic you've been using on your computer as a microphone will probably not work on these devices. With that being said, the devices do work in linux.
M-Audio Delta 44 - 24 bit @ 96kHz - 4 channels in & 4 channels out (all 1/4" plugs) - builtin 10 channel mixer (not that I've used that yet)
M-Audio MobilePre - 16 bit @ 48kHz - 2 channels in & 2 channels out - Various interfaces in and out, but they all tie into the same 2 channels - Phantom 48V power for XLR only.
The MobilePre isn't as beefy as I'd like it to be spec wise. And there is no bias voltage to power unpowered electret type mics. The noise ratio isn't as bad as the onboard sound, but it's not studio quality either IMO.
The Delta 44 only has 1/4" inputs and outputs. So I've spent as much on adapters as I did for the device.
The Delta 44 sounds soooooo good. Even though spec wise it's not as beefy as the onboard soundcard. I find myself rummaging through my CD collection to rediscover how good my CDs should have sounded all along. This device is full duplex, it says so on the box. Which means that I can record and playback completely different tracks without having them bleed into the other. What the mic picks up is what gets recorded.
The Mobile Pre is powered by the USB bus. So no extra cords. It works in linux so I guess it's class compliant. It has multiple interfaces so you can record from almost anything. Except from devices requiring a bias voltage.
I need to get some real microphones now. At the moment the only mic I have that works with the new hardware is an old optimus one that probably cost less than it did to fill my gas tank in 1995 when I probably got the mic. The optimus is powered by one AAA battery.
Craigslist rocks. I picked up both of these units used for less than 50% of the MSRP.