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Sarge, kernel 2.4 versus 2.6, issues: random boot, sound, usb

I have a fresh install of Sarge, chose kernel 2.4.27 during install -
purpose is a home  computer for entertainment and fun, stationary PC
from about 2001 with debian linux OS, Sarge, only. This computer is
started and stopped say 1-2 times per day.

Everything functions OK with 2.4.27 - once a boot is obtained.

Issue 1:
    Boot success is *random* for my system using kernel 2.4.27, on the
average I must push the power button 3-4 times to obtain a successful
boot. The failure shows itself as kernel panic when the root cannot be
located- followed by an instruction to specify root location properly
within GRUB. Somewhat higher up on the screen I see in these instances
an error message from some previous uncompression activity. Due to this
and the random behaviour I believe that my GRUB setup is actually OK.
Thus - I would appreciate it if someone could tell if this is/was a
known software issue (or perhaps a hardware issue).

As a means to avoid this annoying random boot behaviour I have
installed a 2.6 kernel, 'apt-get install somekernel-2.6-386'. I have no
problems booting (out of the box experiences are so nice) using this
kernel-2.6  (have not booted so many times yet), but I have two issues.

Issue 2:
    I have an external memory card reader (external mouseshaped
Flashlink by SimpleTech (UCS-200)) attached to an USB port - sometimes
with/without a memory card at boot time. The boot process appears to
take an inordinate amount of time, doing something with USB, when this
device is plugged in. The boot process is as fast as expected when
unplugging this device prior to boot.

Issue 3:
   Using Gnome desktop (Sarge), with kernel 2.4 I have sound on all the
desktop sound applications, those that I have tried: rhythmbox, xmms,
totem and vcl, see the following sample output:

/home/torfinn# xmms  music/jazz/Kepics\,\ Nick-Walts\ Blues.mp3 &
[1] 4775
debian0:/home/torfinn# libmikmod.so.2: cannot open shared object file:
No such file or directory
Message: device: default

/home/torfinn# lsof /dev/dsp
xmms    4775 root    8w   CHR   14,3      3429 /dev/dsp   (hearing

   When using kernel 2.6 "totem" has lost its sound, it seems to be
playing but I cannot hear anything, neither as a regular user nor as
root, see the following:
/home/torfinn# totem  music/jazz/Kepics\,\ Nick-Walts\ Blues.mp3 &
[1] 4832
(totem:4832): GnomeUI-WARNING **: While connecting to session manager:
Authentication Rejected, reason : None of the authentication protocols
specified are supported and host-based authentication failed.

/home/torfinn# lsof /dev/dsp
/home/torfinn# lsof /dev/snd/*
totem   4832 root  mem    CHR 116,16      3766 /dev/snd/pcmC0D0p
totem   4832 root   19u   CHR  116,0      3548 /dev/snd/controlC0
totem   4832 root   22u   CHR 116,16      3766 /dev/snd/pcmC0D0p
(hearing nothing)


What are the reasons - and what are the proper fixes for these three
annoying issues:
1) random boot
2) slow boot
3) no sound for totem - but sound OK for the rest

Any guidance will be greatly appreciated,
Torfinn Ottesen

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