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A quick note to anybody else that's been struggling with the card. Those who've got it know about the choppy sound playback in Alsa 1.0.8. Some of us know that with 1.0.8, you can fix the choppy playback by using OSS for sound output.
That's all over. I'm using 1.0.9rc3 (downloaded from CVS yesterday), and it works perfectly. No need to tell my sound system to use OSS for sound output. Everything plays back perfectly and I didn't need to fiddle with any of the inner system settings.
(without going into detail, I'll say that something blew up, and I have an out-of-the-box Slackware system. The only things I've changed since 10.1 install from CD were updating to 18.104.22.168 kernel, installing FireGL, installing the printer, installing FireFox/Thunderbird, installing libdvdcss, and installing 1.0.9rc3.)
... now if only I can figure out how to tell the thing to use 5.1 surround. It's hooked up to a decoder, and it's clearly working because I'm getting stereo from it. I figure it's got something to do with telling ALSA what my speaker alignment is. Can anybody help with that?