it gets easier
I got the nforce2 audio working for cd's by compiling a new kernel, linux-2.6.0-test6, with the alsa audio options including "emulate oss"
gnome-alsamixer and grip work with cd's
grip works with esd
I'm choosing esd-compatbile packages that have esd in the package name or mention esd.
realplayer8 with 9(One) codecs has a checkbox for esd-compatibility in the options
so far I'm not hearing anything in realplayer
Some apps including realplayer look for /dev/dsp so to get that to show up I installed alsautils. That sucked in alsa-modules and alsa-base since debconfig can't tell I have alsa in the kernel, so I just said no to questions about running alsa modules at startup, and ended up with two things I wanted. One, I got the /dev/dsp, and two, I got alsactl, an app that automatically(as debian installs it in /etc/init.d/alsa startup script) stores
my mixer settings on shutdown.
Since I use devfs, if you don't know you don't need to know, I had to make the following entries in /etc/devfs/compat_symlinks--
REGISTER ^sound/.* MKOLDCOMPAT
REGISTER ^snd/.* MKOLDCOMPAT
I still don't have sound in realplayer, which says "can't find host unix"