it seems that i cannot get alsa working in gnome
Are you getting an error when you start your windows mgr? Are you getting an error when you open a media player? Or is there just no sound comming from your speakers?
What kind of media files or sounds are you trying to listen to?
If your playing media and you hear no sound,
as root run alsaconfig I think it is, and turn all the volumes up.
If you are getting errors post them.
Here are 2 media players for Linux that will play everthing.
Don't forget the codecs
There are mplayer plugins for Mozilla-Firefox for embedded media.
And Real Player
It comes with its own plugins.
Xmms is nice for mp3s
Xine and Totem work well for media files too, don't forget the win32 and real media codecs.