Sound problems

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Before you get fancy

Avoid the Root Account

The root account, accessibly from recovery mode does not have default access to sound. This poses a problem when attempting to diagnose issues that should not happen and are often due to user error.

Be one with the User

Use the root account to backup the "/etc/shadow" file. Then change the users password to "freegeek" and reboot. This will allow you to view and manipulate any relevant settings the user has changed.

Things to Check

Check the Obvious

Sound is something that seems to break when its actually working perfectly well. Check the volume. Check the Mute checkbox. Check in sound preferences that it is set to use "Stereo Duplex Mode"

It would also be a good idea to check that the user does have speakers.

Gateway laptop with no sound


This is a problem that seems to be related to Gateway laptop computers not producing sound.


Open up "Volume Control" and click "Preferences." Find and check the selection called "External Amplifier." Return to "Volume Control" and go to the "Switches" tab. Uncheck the new "External Amplifier" selection and test the audio.

/dev/dsp can't be opened (debian sarge)


When KDE starts, an error message pops up saying "Error while initializing the sound driver: device /dev/dsp can't be opened (no such device)". Then sound no work. Wah.


In a FreekBox, this is generally a hardware problem with your sound card. But if you're working on a non-freekbox system, here's a method for troubleshooting this error:

  • make sure /dev/dsp exists, and that the group has write access:
guest@freekbox:~$ ls -l /dev/dsp
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root 9 May  3 17:37 /dev/dsp -> /dev/dsp0

the lrwxlrwxlrwx bit means everyone in the world has read/write/execute permission on the file, which is a link to /dev/dsp0.

  • If /dev/dsp doesn't exist, you can use ln to create it (as root)
freekbox:~# ln -s /dev/dsp0 /dev/dsp
  • But you need to make sure /dev/dsp0 exists too:
guest@freekbox:~$ ls -l /dev/dsp
crw-rw-rw-  1 root audio 14, 3 Mar 23 12:28 /dev/dsp0
  • You can make /dev/dsp0 with MAKEDEV if it doesn't exist.
freekbox:/dev# ./MAKEDEV audio
  • Finally, make sure the user is in the audio group:
guest@freekbox:~$ groups
guest dialout cdrom floppy audio dip video games users

On a FreekBox-type computer, it's rare that users will be added improperly and not be in the audio group.

The last set of possibilities are all hardware problems, so if you've gotten this far, try a different sound card. User:Dave says that the AE Vortex PCI sound card is a frequent culprit, so if you've got one of these, offer it to Dave to see if it will help him.

--ideath 12:46, 5 Aug 2005 (PDT) Jeff 03:09, 6 Aug 2005 (PDT)