1.11. I Need to
Manage Sound Events
In this annoyance, I describe the elementary
utilities available to our major distributions for configuring
sound cards. I then describe the utilities that can help you manage
sound events. As this chapter is focused on the desktop, I focus on
sound events associated with the GNOME and KDE desktop
environments. I also focus on the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture
(ALSA), which was incorporated into the current Linux kernel (2.6).
If you need detailed information on support for your sound card,
refer to ALSA's web site at http://www.alsa-project.org.
When your distribution detects a sound card, it
may include commands for the appropriate modules in a file such as
I've broken this annoyance into
distribution-specific sections, followed by the tools associated
with the GNOME and KDE desktop environments. You can control the
sound environment for all users with the distribution-specific
tools. Your users can control their individual sound settings with
the GNOME and KDE-based tools.
All three distributions include the
utility. As you can run it from the
console, it's not associated with any particular desktop
environment. For more information, see the description of the
utility later in this annoyance.
Immediately after the installation process, Red
Hat/Fedora distributions normally test the sound card as part of
process calls the
utility. If it finds
an ALSA-compliant sound card, it
the card for you and
allows you to check the result with a standard set of musical
For more details on how you can configure
ALSA-compliant sound cards, refer to the commands associated with
RPM. This package
includes a number of utilities that can even help you configure and
coordinate multiple sound cards.
As with most systems, SUSE encourages hardware
configuration of sound cards with YaST. Sound configuration options
are available when you start YaST, under the Hardware section.
If SUSE detects a sound card, it's listed in the
YaST Sound Configuration menu. Alternatively, if the card wasn't
, you may be able to configure it from the
available database. In the YaST Sound Configuration menu, select
the Add Sound Card option. You'll be able to select from a wide
variety of sound-card
and associated hardware models.
YaST configures your sound card and adds the
result to the
Other important SUSE sound configuration files include
Debian includes the generic ALSA configuration
available for the distributions covered in this book, it's the
primary tool for Debianpart of the
package. Install it, and it can
help you configure just about any ALSA-compatible sound card. While
you're at the installation process, make sure to download and
, and the
packages. As the database of ALSA
important if you have a slightly obscure sound
tool is available as part of the
RPM in SUSE Linux; for Red Hat/Fedora,
it's been superseded by
When you start the ALSA configuration tool, take
the following steps:
Stop all currently running applications that
require sound, such as Real Player.
Start the ALSA configuration tool with the
you click OK, it unloads any currently running ALSA kernel modules
and loads the ALSA sound-card database.
The tool should find any ALSA-compatible cards.
If you're not satisfied with the results, refer to the
documentation and mailing lists at
If you have a legacy sound card, select the
legacy option. The steps that follow allow you to probe, using the
drivers, for several different
generic sound cards.
Any special sound-card settings are saved to the
If you want to make sure any changes to sound
settings are saved and reapplied the
time you boot Debian
Linux, take the following steps:
Stop the ALSA service with the following
command to reset the ALSA
You'll be able to select from three options: to
autosave once at next
, or to
If you select
Linux always saves your sound settings when it shuts down. The
setting is saved as the
directive in the
Now, you can adjust the default sound settings
for your system. To do so, run the
command, which opens a console-based
volume tool, as shown in Figure 1-9.
Figure 1-9. AlsaMixer
You can navigate among the options with the left
and right arrow keys, and change volume levels with the up and down
arrow keys. As shown in the figure, you can exit the utility with
the Esc key.
Once you make changes, you'll need to run the
following command to store the current sound level in
GNOME sound events are managed through the Sound
Preferences tool, which you can start with the
command. It's part of
package in Debian,
RPM on Red
Hat/Fedora, and the
RPM on SUSE.
When you start this utility, you'll immediately
see its value. As shown on the first tab, it determines whether the
sound server is started when you log in to the GNOME Desktop
Environment. It also allows you to activate Sounds For Events, as
defined under the Sound Events tab. Many of these events require
RPM or DEB
The System Bell tab allows you to activate a
sound for events such as errors. One standard is to activate the
Sound An Audible Bell option. For hearing-impaired users, you can
also activate visual feedback, which leads to a flash on the screen
for sound events.
Sound-event settings are saved in gconf (GNOME
Configuration) settings, described in the "Disabling Changes on
GNOME" annoyance earlier in this chapter.
1.11.5. KDE Sound
There are three tools associated with sound
management on the KDE desktop, at least if you're looking for tools
functionally equivalent to the GNOME Sound Preferences tool. They
include the following:
You can start the KDE Sound System Configuration
tool with the
command. It includes two tabs. The General tab allows you to enable
the sound system and manage its relative priority. The Hardware tab
allows you select and configure the audio and MIDI devices.
You can start the KDE System Bell Configuration
tool with the
command. If you activate the system bell, it supersedes settings in
the System Notifications Configuration tool.
If you haven't activated the KDE system bell in
the System Bell Configuration tool, you can customize sounds for
different events. You can start the KDE System Notifications
Configuration tool with the
command. It allows you to configure and customize
sounds in several categories.
These tools are straightforward; they directly
configure the sound settings on a per-user basis. Changes are
written to several files in each