Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Adventure Begins!

Linux now has its own blog, and I'll begin with the latest. My daughter Anne contributed her old laptop, in which son Thomas installed OpenSuSE. I thought it might be fun to install Amarok and see how a new user sees it, but to my surprise, it's part of the standard install. However, the version was ancient, so an upgrade was in the works. To my delight, Konversation was also installed, so I could hop right onto IRC and ask a few questions in #suse. Unfortunately, they were hating on KDE4 and Amarok2 in there, so not very helpful!

The #opensuse-kde channel (on Freenode IRC) was much more helpful and friendly. This is an old Compaq Windows XP machine, so it was a bit of a challenge to get current software up and running. One of helpful websites was, where you can search for any package name, and see what is available in all repositories, even private ones. I was able to find Amarok 2.3 in "unstable," but I'm happy to report that now that all parts are installed, it seems *very* stable. Just getting everything installed took quite awhile, as Open Office decided it wanted updating as well. Plus the Yast/Zypper system is enough like the apt-get system of K/ubuntu to cause me quite a bit of confusion. I tried to copy/paste as much as possible, so as not to mess up command structure.

I guess Kubuntu packagers have spoiled me, though. I found that the backend, which is the part of Amarok that allows the sound to come through the speakers, wasn't included in the base install! When I tried to configure Phonon and make sure the sound card was working, Amarok instantly crashed. So I located the newest Phonon I could find, and phonon-backend-xine, and installed them. What kind of laggard packaging system is this!

Now I could configure my sound system at last, but the sound card test gave no sound, and I recalled that I'd seen a notification on each startup that the sound card was giving up.

So, no sound. Install drivers? I checked the Nvidia website, but they don't have a driver for such an old sound card. The website explained that such drivers are part of the linux kernel, so I don't have to worry about it! OK -- helpful people in Linuxchix (irc:// helped me test Alsa. sudo alsamixer showed me the channels, and I unmuted the few channels which were muted, such as line, line jac, mic and mic boost. That seemed to make no difference, so the next thing to check was Alsaplayer (not installed) or aplay, but aplay never started.

Next, cat /etc/group. The only group I'm a member of is video, so I had to add myself, sudo vi /etc/group. I usually use Kate, but it wasn't installed, so vi it was. i to insert, arrow keys to move about, escape to return to command mode, :x to write (save) and exit.

Why wasn't I automatically added to these groups when I installed Pulseaudio? Good question. I've never had to edit groups before, and I've been using Linux for ..... over 10 years, I guess. Anyway.

To add myself to the necessary groups, I made the line audio:x:17:pulse into audio:x:17:pulse,valorie, and the same with pulse-access, then escape and :wq to write and quit. Finally, I closed all running programs and restarted the computer. Upon starting up Amarok, and testing Pulsaudio (the sound card no longer shows up as an entry), it worked! SOUND!

Since I've not transferred any of my music tracks to the laptop yet, I used Magnatune, and listened to some beautiful classical music, courtesy of the band Asteria. Thank you to Anne, to Thomas, to OpenSuSE and the fine folks in #opensuse-kde, Christoph Franzen (chf) and the rest of #linuxchix, and the fine developers of Amarok. Finally, thanks to Mackenzie Morgan (maco) for helping me make this entry vi-correct. Vi manpage online:

Ultimately, this old laptop will be available for my grandson Oscar to play Qimo on. I'll put on some of my favorite music too, so if we lug it up to the cabin, Amarok will be useful for more than learning and testing!