Originally Published: Thursday, 20 September 2001 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: learn_articles_support/Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Sound Card Graveyard

Linux.com editor Matt Michie takes us back to 1996 and takes a look at how much Linux has changed in one area: sound cards, since then.

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Yesterday, I said goodbye to one of the oldest components still sitting on my motherboard. After eight years of service, I finally replaced my Sound Blaster 16 ASP with a Sound Blaster Live! Value.

When I first purchased my SB16, I had upgraded from a Sound Blaster Pro. At the time, I was firmly entrenched in using and advocating IBM's OS/2. Luckily, Sound Blaster cards were one of the supported sound cards. Though the SB16 was only an incremental improvement over the Pro, it provided me with everything I could demand from a Sound Card. It was supported in all my games, in my OS of choice, and had some great features for the time.

Around 1996, I very much wanted to learn the C language. I looked through all kinds of newsgroups trying to find a good C compiler. Since I was still in High School, I couldn't afford to spend $500 on software. Sooner than later, I was led to Linux and gcc. So I headed to the local bookstore, picked up a copy of The Waite Group's New C Primer and a Linux book which had a Slackware CD in the back.

Back then, Slackware wasn't the easiest software to install. Partitioning and such were somewhat of a challenge, but luckily I had become familiar with some of these steps in OS/2. After I began to tinker with Linux, I noticed that it even included support for certain sound cards.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised, but the Sound Blaster cards were one of the best supported. As I recall, there was no official support from Creative, all the drivers were reverse engineered. Plug 'N Play was beginning to take over, and was not at all well supported in Linux. I was never happier to have an older jumpered card. Linux loved it and so did I.

I never felt the need to upgrade. As I built new machines, I always made sure that there was at least one ISA slot on the motherboard so I could plug in my trusty SB16. I always knew what IRQ and addresses it was set to, and it was easy to work around. I could depend on it being well supported by any of the kernels I wanted to use.

It wasn't completely blissful. As I became more demanding of my audio and had better headphones and speakers, I began to notice pops and static in my MP3s. Scrolling in Netscape or accessing the hard drive would cause interference in the card, and having one ISA card in a completely PCI system was starting to become a drag.

The final straw was when I saw that the chip set in the Sound Blaster Live was now officially supported in the latest kernels by Creative. It was finally time to give my card its well deserved rest. I am happy to report that the Sound Blaster Live! was auto detected by Red Hat 7.1 on install, and after a quick recompile of 2.4.9, I also had it working on my customized ext3-patched kernel.

I can't imagine leaving the SB16 in its static bag for too long. I have too many other older machines running Linux and older kernels who would love to get a well supported sound card. This guy still has some life in him yet!

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