I think Creative Sound Cards are okay. But you might be right she's getting arrogant for such a marketing tactic and share.
Still the thing is I think the price of OEM SB Live! is really hard to beat (around US$20-30), with soundfont support and the full utility installation CD (for Windows) no other soundcards can manage to squeeze so many functions and tools with such a low price point. Of course Linux support is another question.
To me ALSA 0.9rc3 has been doing fine. Just check out the latest ALSA Soundcard database and click on the "Install" link right besides the soundcard model you have, you should be able to locate the install info and get thru the complete installation without much trouble, just like I did with my SB Live.
ALSA Soundcard PHP database
Also to support MIDI playback you need awesfx package, which is bundled with Mandrake Linux 8.2: use software manager to locate the RPM by alphabetical list and install the package.
Once that is installed, copy the soundfont *.sf2 files from the SB Live! Installation CD to your harddrive and load your favorite soundfont with "sfxload abc.sf2", where "abc.sf2" is the soundfont file you have copied/downloaded in your harddrive. Use "playmidi -a" or "drvmidi" to play your favorite MIDI music and enjoy! (I am trying to get XMMS playmidi/drvmidi plugin working, hopefully it will be done soon :) ).
Note: you have to remove/rename the line for the OSS/Free driver for SB Live in the modules.conf to stop the OSS module working before installing the ALSA driver yourself.