In today's article, I'd like to continue configuring a multimedia workstation by concentrating on sound. First, I'll quickly demonstrate how to get sound working, then I'll move on to some of the sound-related ports in the ports collection.
If you haven't read the multimedia section of the FreeBSD handbook lately, you'll be pleasantly surprised. It has been totally revamped and is definitely the first place to go to see if your sound card is supported, and if so, how to get it working under FreeBSD.
My system has a SoundBlaster PCI 128, so I simply need to add the
device to my kernel configuration file in order to enable that soundcard.
Since I also plan on using a DVD player, I'll include the option to
optimize the CPU for multimedia applications. Multimedia applications also
use something known as
LDT, which may or may not already be in your kernel
configuration file; if it isn't, add it. These are the three lines I added
to my kernel configuration file:
options CPU_ENABLE_SSE #used by DVD options USER_LDT #used by many apps device pcm #used by SoundBlaster
I then rebuilt my kernel using the instructions found at http://www.freebsd.org/handbook/kernelconfig-building.html.
There are several
sysctl values that can be tweaked to improve
multimedia performance. Two of them are read-only, meaning that you must
place these values in the file /boot/loader.conf, like so:
The other four values are placed in the file /etc/sysctl.conf. Note that, unlike the previous file, you don't use quotations around the values in this file:
kern.ipc.shmmax=67108864 kern.ipc.shmall=32768 hw.snd.pcm0.vchans=4 hw.snd.maxautovchans=4
If your soundcard doesn't use the
pcm device, don't include that third
sysctl value dealing with
pcm0. If you use
pcm1 instead of
pcm0, change the
0 to a
1 when you add that
sysctl value. Also note that you will need to reboot in order for all of your changes to take effect.
The first time I rebooted into my new kernel, I noticed something odd when I tried to mount a data CD-ROM: I kept getting this error message:
cd9660: /dev/acd0c: Device not configured
Normally, this error message indicates that there isn't a data CD in the
CD-ROM bay. Since this wasn't the case, a search through the mailing lists
revealed that this also occurs if you use
cvsup to upgrade from FreeBSD
4.5 to 4.6, which I had. To update the necessary device drivers, I
became the superuser and:
cd /dev cp /usr/src/etc/MAKEDEV . rm acd* ./MAKEDEV acd0
While I'm in this directory, I'll also change the permissions to the CD-ROM device file, so I'll be able to play audio CD-ROMs as a regular user, instead of having to become the superuser:
chmod 666 /dev/acd0c
Now I can start building some sound applications. I've tried most of the
applications in the audio section of the ports collection, and I can
honestly say that you'll be hard pressed to find a sweeter sound-playing
xmms. It is skinnable, even though it looks great by
default; it has dozens of audio, visualization, and other plugins; it
plays MP3s, MPEGs, WAVs, and Shoutcast, as well as CDs, and supports the use of
CDDB servers. Thorough documentation of how to use its features can be
found at www.xmms.org, along with screenshots, plugins, and skins.
To install this utility:
cd /usr/ports/audio/xmms make install clean
I also installed all of the available plugins from the ports collection.
Since there are several dozen, I'll list where they are located in
the ports collection, along with a brief description and where they can
be configured in
These plugins, once installed, can be configured in the Audio I/O Plugins tab of Preferences:
/usr/ports/audio/xmms-a52dec #a52/a53 decoder /usr/ports/audio/xmms-bonk #plays bonk files /usr/ports/audio/xmms-crossfade #allows crossfading /usr/ports/audio/xmms-fc #future composer input /usr/ports/audio/xmms-mad #uses libmad /usr/ports/audio/xmms-musepack #mpegplus /usr/ports/audio/xmms-osssurround #surround sound /usr/ports/audio/xmms-shn #shorten compressed audio /usr/ports/audio/xmms-sid #plays sid files /usr/ports/graphics/smpeg-xmms #mpeg video support /usr/ports/audio/xmms-sndfile #libsndfile files /usr/ports/audio/xmms-tfmx #plays tfmx tunes
These plugins, once installed, can be configured in the Effect/General Plugins tab of Preferences:
/usr/ports/x11-clocks/xmms-alarm #alarm /usr/ports/audio/xmms-crystality #remasters mp3 sound /usr/ports/audio/xmms-ladspa #provides ladspa /usr/ports/audio/xmms-liveice #icecast streaming audio /usr/ports/audio/xmms-pipe #named pipe control /usr/ports/audio/xmms-quix3dn #3-d sound effect /usr/ports/audio/xmms-sndstretch #change pitch or speed /usr/ports/audio/xmms-volnorm #volume normalizer
These plugins, once installed, can be configured in the Visualization Plugins tab of Preferences:
/usr/ports/graphics/xmms-blursk #blur scope /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-finespectrum #fine grain spectrum /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-gforce #music visualization /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-goom #cool music visualization /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-infinity #full screen interactive /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-jess #awesome music visualization /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-paranormal #spectrum analyzer
As of the writing of this article, all of the
xmms-related ports installed
flawlessly, with the following exceptions:
/usr/ports/graphics/xmms-avi is currently marked as broken with a fix being worked on by the maintainer.
/usr/ports/graphics/xmms-xvs gave me a
The source for /usr/ports/misc/xosd no longer appears to be available.
I was able to install /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-iris but it killed
whenever I tried to enable the
I was able to install both /usr/ports/graphics/xmms-fishmatic and /usr/ports/audio/xmms-gdancer, but neither showed any fishies or dancing comic book heroes. If you've had success with either port, email me the necessary magic and I'll include it in the next article.
Finally, I didn't bother installing /usr/ports/audio/xmms-kde, as it is for KDE2 and I'm using KDE3. Besides, I prefer to add shortcuts directly to my panel rather than using the KDE menu.
Now, let's take a quick tour of
xmms. Instead of repeating the basic
usage that is already well-documented at the
xmms Web site, I'll instead
give some first-hand tips to get you started. I'll assume that your CD-ROM
and sound card are installed properly and that you were successful in
getting FreeBSD to recognize your particular sound card.
Let's start with a music CD-ROM. From your Window Manager, start
press Ctrl-P to bring up the Preferences screen. You'll note the
various plugins tabs that I referred to earlier, and you'll recognize the
plugins that you chose to install from the ports collection.
In the Audio I/O Plugins tab, click on CD Audio Player, then the Configure button. Under the Device tab, ensure your device is set to /dev/acd0c and the directory to /cdrom. Then, click on the CD Info tab if you would like to configure a CDDB server. CDDB servers are great, as they contain information regarding audio CDs, such as the names of the CD and artist, and the names of the songs on the CD. However, they do require you to be attached to the Internet when you first load an audio CD so that you can download that information. If you'd like that feature, click on Use CDDB and type in the name of your favorite CDDB server in the CDDB server type-in section. I use freedb.freedb.org.
Save your changes, insert an audio CD into your CD_ROM drive, and wait for
the light to stop flashing. Then, click on the eject icon in
Instead of ejecting the CD,
xmms will give you a pop-up window, where you
can choose which files to load. Navigate to /cdrom and you should see
all of the CD's tracks in the file section. (If you don't, you probably
forgot to change the permissions on /dev/acd0c.) Click on "Add all files
in directory." If you chose to use a CDDB server and this is the first
time you've played this CD, be patient; it takes a minute or two to download
the details. Once the files are added, click on Close and you should see
the name of each track in your Playlist. If you don't see a Playlist,
click on the PL button to open up the Playlist window. If the various
xmms icons for playing, stopping, and moving through the tracks aren't
intuitive to you, spend a bit of time at www.xmms.org/documentation.html to familiarize yourself with the available features.
xmms utility can play more than CDs. I tend to have eclectic music
tastes, which means the CDs I like are rarely in stock in my community.
Fortunately, the Internet is a great resource for discovering new artists. How
else would I have known that I enjoy Jewish reggae, Middle Eastern pop, East
Indian blues, electronica remixes of the classics, and even the occasional
gothic rock? My spare time is usually spent finding and listening to new MP3s,
so I always have a list of CDs to order when I visit my favorite music shop.
I use Mozilla, and since I have already installed the
plugger port (see
previous article), I simply have to click on the "play" hyperlink when I
find an interesting MP3 on the Internet. You can also tell Mozilla to use
xmms to play MP3s by going to Mozilla's Edit menu -> Preferences ->
Helper Applications -> New Type. Type in "mp3" in the first three fields
and "/usr/X11R6/bin/xmms" in the "Application to use" field.
In my home directory, I've created a directory called mp3s to store the
MP3s I'd like to listen to while my CDs are on order. To tell
play these mp3s, I press Shift-L and double-click on the directory where
the MP3s are stored.
If you've installed the
xmms-liveice plugin, you can also listen to
Shoutcast. Head over to www.shoutcast.com, find something interesting, and click on the Tune In! button. When your browser asks you what to do with
this type of file, choose to "Open using an application" and use
/usr/X11R6/bin/xmms. When you get tired of listening, use the stop icon
xmms. If you don't want to be asked every time, go into Mozilla's
Preferences -> Helper Applications -> New Type. Give the type a
description, a file extension of "pls", a MIME type of "audio/x-scpls" and
the application to use, "/usr/X11R6/bin/xmms." Hmmm, I may never need to
turn on a radio again.
You'll find more stations at www.icecast.org. Most of these stations use a different MIME type, so go back into Helper Applications. This time, use an extension of "mpu" and a MIME type of "audio/x-mpegurl." I've had less luck with this MIME type; some stations come in fine, some sound like chipmunks on speed. If you know the workaround for this, let me know and I'll include it in the next article.
If you like to be visually entertained while listening to music, press
Ctrl-P to open up the Preferences and click on Visualization
Plugins. Highlight one of the plugins you installed, then click on "Enable
plugin". I liked
xmms-jess the best, with
xmms-goom a close second. If you
get tired of being entertained, re-click the enable button to toggle off
the plugin. I've found that my screen freezes if I try to enable more than
two visualization plugins at once.
While we're on visualization, let's take a look at skins. The first time
xmms a skins directory called .xmms/Skins was created for you
in your home directory. Head over to www.xmms.org/skins.html and if you see a skin you like, download it to your Skins directory. To apply the new skin,
press Alt-S and highlight the new skin to get an instant preview.
I also found that www.spacefem.com/xmms.shtml had a very nice collection of skins. If you're into skins, you'll find that most of the skins on
the Internet are advertised as Winamp skins. Don't let that deter you;
save them to your Skins directory and like magic they'll work on
For example, I did an Internet search for the popular "mooamp" skin and now my
xmms has its own "ecowlizer." Don't let the extension of the skin scare
you off; my Skins directory has
png files all coexisting nicely together. So, feel free to spend some time browsing
If you've installed
smpeg-xmms, you can also watch movies with the "mpg"
extension. Simply press
l (the letter ell) to select the previously-
saved movie file. This plugin can be configured to display the movie in a
centered window, in doublesize mode, or in fullscreen mode. To get you
started, the Library of Congress has an extensive movie collection at
One of my favorite features is the alarm that gets installed with the
xmms-alarm plugin. Use Ctrl-P to open up Preferences and click on
the Effect/General Plugins tab. Highlight Alarm and go into the
Configure button to set the alarm time and days. Unless you like to be
jolted out of bed, don't set the volume to 100%. If you don't set a
Playlist in the Options tab, you'll wake up to whatever song happens to
be selected on your Playlist. Just make sure
xmms is started before
going to bed, if you want it to wake you up in the morning.
This should get you started on using
xmms. In the next article, I'll
finish the multimedia series by taking a look at DVD players, RealPlayer,
and some miscellaneous ports to enhance your multimedia desktop.
Dru Lavigne is a network and systems administrator, IT instructor, author and international speaker. She has over a decade of experience administering and teaching Netware, Microsoft, Cisco, Checkpoint, SCO, Solaris, Linux, and BSD systems. A prolific author, she pens the popular FreeBSD Basics column for O'Reilly and is author of BSD Hacks and The Best of FreeBSD Basics.
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