I’d like to thank the Academy. …

It’s been more than a year since I brought home the first of two closely related Pentium laptops, with the goal of really wringing through some of the distributions that claim to be “lightweight.” And in that time, no matter what I did, I never heard a peep out of either machine.

Until today.

Yes, today I solved a puzzle that has confounded and distressed me for well over a year: How to configure an ISA sound card in the 2.6.xx-series kernels. And here is the magic ingredient, for all the world to share.

modprobe snd-sb8 irq=5 dma8=1

One simple string of letters and numbers, and suddenly a world of music is opened to me ... at 120Mhz. :roll:

Honestly it was never a question of whether or not the sound card worked; I could hear AC feedback from the speakers and soft pops when the machine turned on. It was simply a question of arranging the right module out of the 30 or so for a mysterious "Creative SoundBlaster-compatible" card, then figuring out that you could pass options to modprobe, then picking the right irq, and realizing when modprobe told you it wanted the dma8 number, it really meant it wanted a dma8 number.

Perhaps I exaggerate, but it was rather like picking a combination lock. So long as the right module was inserted, along with any of a range of irq numbers and a corresponding dma8 number, it would produce sound. Of course the irq and dma number were openly visible and available in the BIOS, and I had seen them any number of times in the past.

And perhaps a real wizard would have had those numbers picked and in place, and figured out what card it was and gotten it working within 15 minutes of turning it on. Be kind, this is the first time I've ever needed to figure out ISA hardware in Linux.

So I apologize if I am somewhat self-congratulatory in this post. It's just that this time, I feel like I solved a puzzle that took me a year to assemble. :mrgreen:

P.S., credit where credit is due: If it hadn't been for Debian and the verbose messages kicked back from modprobe and ALSA, I doubt I would be listening to Revolution Void right now. Ubuntu wasn't as helpful and has issues with sound when I install it in a command-line system, no matter the hardware. So all you red-swirly fans out there can pat yourselves on the back too. ... ;)

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12 Responses to “I’d like to thank the Academy. …”


  1. 1 steve 2010/01/21 at 8:46 AM

    Patting myself as I type ;) I definitely agree with your assessment of debian, not too heavy, not too light

  2. 2 Gusar 2010/01/22 at 5:05 AM

    OMG, setting irq and dma numbers… I feel like being back in the DOS days… When every game asked you for these numbers. There was another one in addition to those two, “base address” or something similar, that needed to be set to 220 or 240. Those were the days… of 386 processors with 33MHz…

    Anyway, congrats on getting sound working.

    • 3 K.Mandla 2010/01/22 at 9:50 PM

      Yup. I can remember the first game of Quake I ever played I had to give it the irq and dma settings for the sound card. Those were the days … and still can be, I guess. …

  3. 4 Peter 2010/01/22 at 5:25 PM

    I don’t suppose you would consider posting the information your sound support to http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=48341 ?


  1. 1 Links 21/1/2010: GNU/Linux at NZ Government, Haiku+KDE, Firefox 3.6 Out | Boycott Novell Trackback on 2010/01/22 at 1:16 AM
  2. 2 Sound at 120Mhz: The good, the bad … « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/01/22 at 8:32 AM
  3. 3 Thank you, Debian « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/02/18 at 8:50 AM
  4. 4 Sound’s ironic « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/04/05 at 10:04 AM
  5. 5 Arch Linux on a 150Mhz Pentium MMX « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/06/23 at 8:50 AM
  6. 6 Some audio success « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/11/14 at 5:16 PM

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