I feel for you, my friend. I went through the same thing just over a year ago with a brand NEW computer with a very up-to-date sound card. I tried every single tip I could find on the Web to get Alsa to configure my sound card properly, but Nothing worked at all. Finally, I found something on the Arch Linux wiki that saved my bacon - beautifully. It's not a quick or simple solution, but if done properly, it should definitely do the trick.
You should visit the folllowing Wiki page & read it thoroughly:http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Open_Sound_System
If you decide to try OSS4, and you install a package for it, you WILL have to install the kernel SOURCE package for whatever kernel your installation has (their package has a shell script that works perfectly exactly as written). Install the kernel sources package 1st, THEN the OSS4 package, and then just run the shell script (it'll be /usr/lib/oss/build/install.sh). The script will install the OSS4 modules into your kernel (it will NOT work until you do that). Once you see that it works, if you're happy with it, you can remove the Alsa crap ( /lib/modules/2.6.* /kernel/sound) IF you want to (I did). Just realize one thing: if and when you should ever decide to upgrade the kernel to a newer version, you WILL have to do the same thing again (unless the OSS4 modules are included in your kernel-modules package).
Being new to Linux, it probably sounds a little complicated, naybe even "scary", but you have nothing to lose & everything to gain (it's not as hard as it probably sounds, but it does take some time and effort). Incidentally, the kernel-sources package (which is huge) can be removed after going through all of these steps. The one thing I can definitely tell you is this: after trying OSS4, I myself will NEVER go back to Alsa - period.
Arch's OSS4 package can be downloaded from:http://schlunix.org/archlinux/community/os/i686/
It's the "oss-4.2_2002-2-i686.pkg.tar.gz" package.
All you need to do to install it is just rename it to something like "oss-4.2_2002-i686-2arch.tgz", add an install directory with a brief "slack-desc" file, & then run installpkg.
Read all you can about it 1st. Then, if you want to try it and you get stumped, let me know.