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On Woody: (No) Sound with VIA 686a Southbridge, AC 97

'ello, this is my first time to the list.  "Sorry" ahead of time if I step on any toes.
I've had this large tangle with getting my sound to work.  I know it works, I had it working before with support compiled into the kernel... but I recompiled the kernel, and forgot the working settings and didn't save the config, so it's as good as gone.  All I know is what doesn't work, and that _it can_.
My arrangement:
I have the 2.4.18-i686 kernel.  Woody is my package set. 
snip of lspci -v:
00:07.0 ISA bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82C686 [Apollo Super South] (rev 1b)
        Subsystem: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82686/A PCI to ISA Bridge
        Flags: bus master, stepping, medium devsel, latency 0
00:07.5 Multimedia audio controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. AC97 Audio Controller (rev 21)
        Subsystem: VIA Technologies, Inc. AC97 Audio Controller
        Flags: medium devsel, IRQ 10
        I/O ports at cc00 [size=256]
        I/O ports at d000 [size=4]
        I/O ports at d400 [size=4]
        Capabilities: [c0] Power Management version 2
My indicator of success/failure:
Everytime KDE logs in an account, I get the message that /dev/dsp cannot be opened, no such device.  The file exists (it's /dev/dsp --> /dev/dsp0).  I've already chmod 775'd /devdsp, and I'm assigned to the "audio" group.  If this message doesn't show up, I've succeeded.
Here's what's happened as best I can recount:
In kernel compiling, I've attempted using:
    Sound card support (obviously)
        Creative SBLive! (EMU10K1)
        Creative Ensoniq AudioPCI 97 (ES1371)
        VIA 82C686 Audio Codec
        VIA 82C686 MIDI
        OSS Sound Modules:
            100% Sound Blaster compatibles (SB16/32/64, ESS, Jazz16) support (NEW)
Sometime, I decided to give ALSA a shot, but when I installed, configured, and compiled, for "via686a -- PCI: VIA 82C686A South Bridge", it told me that the corresponding source for the VIA686 driver didn't exist.  However, make doesn't say where from.
find /usr/src/modules/alsa-driver/ -name *via*     returns:
Am I missing something?
The ALSA package in Woody is marked beta.  I'm still slightly new to Debian; is it possible that the Stable package set can still have problems, and I should be looking forward to the Testing set?
VIA also supports drivers for their southbridge, but when I attempt to install the 2.4 drivers, it won't let me for any kernel other than 2.4.0.  I can override the installation script.  Good idea, bad idea?
Please!  I'm desperate!  Anything that pushes me in the right direction would be ambrosia.  (New) Kernel, ALSA, something else, I don't care!
Thanks for reading this far!!

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