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!


  1. Glad to hear you are trying openSUSE ... here are some links that would probably have helped
    For upgrading amarok (and explaining the repository layout):
    Using Unstable is generally not recommended, Backports is probably what you wanted.

    The bug with the missing audio group is known, a suggestion to the casual user is to use YaST's User and Groups configuration instead of editing /etc/groups by hand to avoid accidentally messing it up.

    YaST is extremely powerful, you should try it :)

    Also pulseaudio is by default not enabled on SuSE11.2/KDE4, which explains some of the trouble you had, have a look at this page on the "standard" way to enable it.

  2. The problem most new users seem to have with openSUSE is the installation of updated packages. If you want to install KDE SC 4.4.2 and recent versions of amarok and other software, you have to add the KDE:/KDE4:/Factory/Desktop repository, not the unstable one, as that has a snapshot of KDE SC's trunk. Factory contains the latest stable KDE SC release most of the time. There are the playground and community KDE4 repos, which may be added in the correct flavour, in this case openSUSE 11.2 with KDE Factory. As to pulse: in a fresh install with KDE, pulse is not installed by default. that does not explain your group problem, but maybe doing an update uncoverd some kind of bug there. Maybe it's worth to report it to the bugtracker...

    Kate should be installed, however. if not, a simple "zypper in kate" will do it.

    There is the next problem: using packages found by the search page is not an ideal solution. One should always add the repo and install packages afterwards. as there are multiple KDE4 repos, as mentioned above, mixing them is a sure way to get in trouble. My advice would be to check your repositories for duplicates and make sure you only have one of the KDE flavours in there. "zypper lr" lists the repos and "zypper rr alias|number" removes the specified one. of course, this can be done in yast as well.

    On a personal note: the guys in #suse are not that bad. maybe, you were there on the wrong day. generally, as is to be expected in a distribution with KDE as the default DE, most people in there use KDE. Some bickering happens, but mostly in good humour.

  3. Don't take it the wrong, way, I'm just curious: you have really been using Linux for 10 years, or this was just an exaggeration?

  4. You might also want to check out:

    They have good guides for getting multi-media set up on a default install. I'm currently using 11.2 (w/ Factory and Backports, as the other comments mentioned), but I never had to set up pulse audio or add myself to the audio group even w/ the default install. I do agree that getting multimedia for "restricted formats" on opensuse is far harder than I would like it to be.

    Also, as already mentioned, Yast pretty much rocks. It might take a bit if you're used to *buntu, but I rarely head down to the command line for basic configs anymore.

    And yes, Kate is not part of the default install, but Kwrite is, and I'm guessing it could have worked too (I cut my teeth on emacs and vi has always scared me).

  5. Time using Linux -- I started using free/open alternatives while still using Windows, because I knew eventually I would be moving to Linux. So OpenOffice, Mozilla and such were second nature by the time my son installed Mandrake alongside Win2K on my laptop. The only time I ever booted into Windows after that was to retrieve data I had forgotten to bring across, or test something such as wireless or sound. I've been using Linux ever since. When I first joined the Linuxchix, I was still using Windows, using mIRC for IRC. :-)
    So it might not be quite 10 years, but getting close!

  6. This is the place to start looking if help is needed:

    No anti-KDE4 attitude, open to everybody, friendly for both new and experienced users. Be welcome.

    Gertjan, a.k.a. Knurpht