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From the Desktop: Good Vibrations - page 2

Nudging Your Linux System to Support Sound

  • July 7, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

The sndconfig application is used by some Linux distributions to configure sound cards. sndconfig is a command-line, text-based program, and needs to run independently of X. You cannot reliably run it from a terminal-emulation window, so don't try.

That said, it's a straightforward process to get your sound card configured. You also need to get the IRQ and port settings for the card. These can be found by checking /proc/interrupts and /proc/ioports or using the Device Manager if you are running a Windows partition on the same machine.

Information in hand, here's how to get your sound card up and running. Before using sndconfig you must make sure that the sound server component of X is on. In the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, there is the ubiquitous Control Center. Each version of the Control Center has a Sound section and within that section is an option to enable the sound server. As root, make sure this is checked and click OK to apply the change.

This may seem rudimentary, but lots of people forget to do this, since the documentation out there tends to focus on sndconfig.

Since you have to run sndconfig from the command line, press Ctrl+Alt+F1 to get a new tty screen. (To return to X from the command line, press Alt+F7.) Log in as root again and type sndconfig.

Depending on what distribution you are using, you are either going to get a quick-running app that spits out three or four lines of output before stopping (such as what happens in Corel Linux) or (in the case of Red Hat and its related applications) a big multi-screen application. I'll focus on the Red Hat version of sndconfig in this article, since it's the more complicated of the two.

After the introduction screen, the second screen should display the results of a probe of all of your computer's PCI devices. If any sound cards are displayed, the probe was successful. If none are displayed, you can press Enter and be taken to the manual configuration section of the program.

Pressing Enter when a card is detected will get you a message will appear advising that the conf.modules file will be overwritten. After you hit Enter again, sndconfig will inform you that it is will now test the sound card by playing a sound sample.

Once you press Enter again, a sample sound will be played. (If you successfully heard the sample, you will know the right way to pronounce "Linux," from the man himself, Linus Torvalds.) If you heard the sound sample, press Enter to accept the highlighted Yes button and end the application.

If you did not hear the sample, select the No and press Enter. A message appears stating that autoconfiguration has failed. Press Enter to clear the message and get to the manual configuration process.

The first screen of the manual configuration section is the Card Type window. Scroll though the list to select your card. When selected, press Tab to select OK and then press Enter to continue.

The next screen enables you to select the port and IRQ settings for the card, which you should have acquired beforehand. Select the proper IRQ and port settings, highlight OK, and press Enter to continue.

This will bring you back to the sound sample section of sndconfig. Try running the sample again. If this does not work, try the manual configuration section again. If this still does not work, here are some things to try.

The safest way around any compatibility issues is to pull out the checkbook and get a compatible card that was on the hardware compatibility list (HCL) for your distribution. But this is a rather painful option.

Be very sure of your card's name as it compares to your HCL. Just because the names are similar does not mean the card will work. If there are similarly named cards on the HCL list, you might try hunting through the newsgroups for your distribution to see if anyone has compiled a driver for your specific card.

Finally, the longest shot solution would be to check the manufacturer's Web site. Slowly but surely, more manufacturers are getting wise to this Linux thing and are posting Linux drivers. Not a lot, but they're there.

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