Get in the mix, the Kmix…

What is all this K stuff? That’s often the question when people that have never used Linux and KDE ask when logging in to the environment for the first time. The K naming convention is often portrayed as confusing and cheesy, lacking professionalism. Despite these sentiments and harsh feelings, KDE still flexes its muscle as the desktop of choice for most Linux users. For those of you who have just gotten your start in Linux and perhaps for some of you that just haven’t had the time to investigate application Kxxx in KDE, Yet Another Linux Blog seeks to Ktantalize your KDE Ktastebuds and Ksupplement your Knowledge.

This week’s application is one that is often the first that shows itself when KDE initializes at login. A pop up window greets you with a bunch of adjustable sliders…that’s right, it’s Kmix.

NOTE: You can open up Kmix differently in each distribution. It is usually easy to find and is named ‘Sound Mixer’ or ‘Kmix’ by most distributions of Linux. In Kubuntu, it is located under the ‘Multimedia’ section of the Kmenu.

What is Kmix?

Kmix is pretty much what it sounds like. K for KDE and Mix for Mixer. Kmix is the default sound mixing program for KDE. It allows you to control your soundcard. It is used and supported by ALSA (The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) driver, HP-UX, Solaris, Irix, and all BSD varieties of operating systems. So Kmix allows you to control the volumes, panning(moving sound to the right or left), and which sound card you’d like to have enabled. Y

Multiple Sound Cards? What For?

Many people have the need for two sound cards. For instance, they may want to save music or sound effects at a higher quality and one of their soundcards will do this. Kmix provides a quick and easy way to shift back and forth between the cards and allows access to settings for each. You can select sound cards by toggling the pull down menu under “Current Mixer”.

What are the Settings For?

You can access the settings for Kmix by pulling down the “settings” menu. After that, select “configure Kmix” and a window similar to this will popup:

As you can see, it’s a no brainer thus far to operate…but what do these settings actually tell us? Let’s go through some of the more common settings. We’ll start by explaining all those in the image to the left and then we’ll branch out into some that might be present for only certain types of soundcards.

  1. Dock to Panel – Very handy. This allows you to dock Kmix to the System Tray when using the close button
  2. Enable System tray volume control – Does exactly what it sounds like it does…it allows control of the volume when Kmix has been minimized to the system tray by the previous setting.
  3. Show Tickmarks – this setting displays hash marks on your slider for volume control and panning.
  4. Show Labels – This setting displays labels for each sound device when enabled.
  5. Restore Volumes on Login – This also does what it sounds like it does…your volumes remain constant through logoff and login. Very handy as well.
  6. Orientation – supposedly a setting for the applet to go horizontal or vertical but I’m not sure if this feature is enabled yet. Some mailing list traffic suggests that it hasn’t been enabled yet in KDE 3.4.2. If anyone has corrections to this, please post them in the forum and I’ll correct it and give you a nod here.

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Nope...we're getting just the basics out of the way. Please remember the different colors of LEDs listed above...they're imperative to know so that you can tell whether something is muted or unmuted...on or off. Now we begin to get into the good stuff. Hover your mouse pointer over the top of a volume slider and right click (see picture). In this menu you can split channels (show two sliders instead of one), mute, hide, configure shortcuts (keyboard shortcuts), and channels which gives you a dialog box to confirm what you want on/off.

Enlightenment 17 Review

My first Linux experiences came through Knoppix and Mandrake, which send you to the KDE desktop by default. I used KDE at first, but I wanted to experiment with other less Windowsesque environments. The first one I installed was Enlightenment 16, which I must confess I had first heard of in Neal Stephenson’s essay “In The Beginning There Was the Command Line.” In that essay he said Enlightenment “may be the hippest single technology product I have ever seen” and that “it looks amazingly cool.” Since these sentiments were written in 1999, plenty of rivals have emerged for the title of “hippest tech.”

Once I had Enlightenment installed on my laptop there was no going back. I tried out a few other window managers, but the efficiency of E16 was hard to beat. My only complaints were that Enlightenment seemed a bit short on conveniences such as launchers, so I ended up running GNOME stripped down to one panel and the main menu with E16 as the window manager. Meanwhile, I read the descriptions of the new “desktop shell” that the Enlightenment crew was working on, dubbed Enlightenment DR17 (or E17, as I’ll refer to it from here on) and thought it sounded like exactly what I wanted.

I should mention that “window manager” isn’t quite the right term for E17. The developers call it a desktop shell, intending it to fill in the space between a simple window manager like the original Enlightenment and a full-featured desktop environment like GNOME. In other words, they were setting out to create a desktop not unlike my own E16/GNOME hybrid. In this respect it does not disappoint.

In creating E17 the Enlightenment crew have created a set of shared libraries (the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries) with the goal of building a complete set of applications to create an integrated environment where all files and programs are readily available that remains fast and non-resource-intensive. Essentially, E17 breaks down a desktop environment into its essential components (window manager, file manager, launcher, main menu, etc.) and offers them as a completely customizable package, where the user chooses which elements to use at any time.

Early Impressions

When I started using E17 back in early May, I had already been a regular user of E16 for a while. My first impressions were that E17 sported some neat features, but configuring the menus (by making all those damn eapp files, E17’s special icon format — read on for more details) was a hassle, plus E17 was missing many of the small features, such as edge-flipping or icon boxes, that I liked in E16. But I stuck

run command

with it, updating it on a regular basis and reading the continually updated user guide at Get-E.org, and usability has steadily increased. Also, a number of the features I had been missing were added (like

window list

edge-flipping) or had been there all along (turns out there is an icon box module called ibox, which is disabled by default). A graphical eap creator and other additions like a run command, alt-tab window switching (complete with a well designed display) and, for those who use sloppy or mouse focus, automatic placement of the cursor in the newly selected window have improved general usability.

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create an integrated environment where all files and programs are readily available that remains fast and non-resource-intensive. Essentially, E17 breaks down a desktop environment into its essential components (window manager, file manager, launcher, main menu, etc.) and offers them as a completely customizable package, where the user chooses which elements to use at any time.

Early Impressions