Configuring Applications for OSSv4

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Revision as of 11:13, 26 July 2012 by RobertColeman88 (Talk | contribs) (minor updates)

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Most applications should work with OSSv4 out of the box. However, sometimes distributions separate the OSS output plugins to another package, patch the software to use another sound API or neglect to compile OSS output support. This page will show how to tell some common applications to use the OSS API. There's no need to use any of these tips unless there's a problem. Headings prefixed with a distro name(s) are meant only for the named distro(s), though it may help other cases as well (e.g. most of the Debian advice is applicable to Ubuntu as well).

General issues

Getting system sounds

  • KDE 3.x: Open the "Control Center". Select "Sound & MultiMedia", "Sound System" and set up arts to use "Open Sound System".
    Alternatively, Open the "Contol Center". Select "Sound & MultiMedia", "System Notifications" and "Player Settings". Check "Use an external player", and select an OSS supporting player which support ogg files (ogg123 for example. In OSS 4.2 and above, ossplay supports Ogg/Vorbis files if libvorbis is installed in the system).
  • KDE 4.x: See instructions for Phonon below.
    Alternatively, you can set an external player program (Select "Notification" panel in system settings and then select "Player settings"). Same conditions as in KDE 3.x apply.
  • Gnome: This depends on version.
    • Older Gnome <= 2.22 outputs system sounds via esd, so install esound (e.g. apt-get install libesd0 esound on Ubuntu), and restart Gnome. Running esd under vmix is known to be buggy (esd is known to be buggy).
    • Newer Gnome >= 2.23 uses libcanberra. See: libcanberra
    • In Ubuntu 8.10, the desktop manager (gdm) uses an ALSA-only player (aplay) to play the startup/failed login sound. To fix this, edit /usr/lib/gdmplay and replace "aplay -N" with ossplay. For example:
 /usr/bin/ossplay -q $@ 2> /dev/null
  • All the quoted names may be different on other systems due to localization.
  • XFCE : xfce4-mixer and applet are based on gstreamer. See above Gstreamer.

Midi applications

  • To merely play MIDI files, software synthesizers (like timidity and fluidsynth) will work fine (They can play MIDI files directory to OSS output.)
  • Other applications wishing to play MIDI which are not synthesizers themselves (like scummvm or tuxguitar) should be set to use (lib)fluidsynth or timidity.
  • You may decide to load ALSA's sequencer modules. As long as modules which touch the hardware or modules which emulate oss (snd-mixer-oss, snd-pcm-oss) are not loaded, this is safe. Than you could load timidity or fluidsynth as ALSA midi sequencers, and have the apps use these. This is not needed to make libfluidsynth or timidity's server mode work though. errors

  • OSSv4.0 replaces with libsalsa, in order to allow some ALSA emulation. This may make some applications refuse to start with an " undefined symbol errors" error. (OSSv4.1 doesn't do this by default, and such errors probably have a different cause there). This can be fixed as follows:
    • Often, applications link to via a sound plugin. Thus, installing the respective OSS compatible plugin for the app may fix this (e.g. libesd0 instead of libesd-alsa0 on Debian/Ubuntu), as the application doesn't depend on libasound anymore.
    • If the method above doesn't help, you could just move libsalsa out of the way. It's rarely needed as the vast majority of apps can use OSS directly. This may require root permissions ("su" or "sudo").
      • mv /usr/lib/oss/lib/ /usr/lib/oss/lib/
      • ldconfig
      • Note that installing OSSv4.0 will recreate libsalsa, so if you removed it you may wish to do this again. This only applies to the v4.0 versions.

ALSA Emulation

  • Another error which may happen is "ALSA lib pcm_hw.c:1240:(_snd_pcm_hw_open) Invalid value for card". This is emanating from the real libasound, and likely means that the program tried to use ALSA on a system with OSS installed. Unsurprisingly, the attempt failed.
  • Making the application use OSS (per instructions in this page) is always the best fix. However, there are ways to emulate ALSA if there's no other choice, see Tips_And_Tricks#ALSA_Emulation.

Multimedia Keys

General OSS problems

Specific applications


  • Gajim use "aplay -q" by default. Go to preferences -> advanced -> open the configuration editor, and edit the key "soundplayer" : replace "aplay -q" by "ossplay -q".


  • Cmus' oss output plugin doesn't work with OSSv4, change to libao.
In cmus, type ":" to activate commandline, and "set output_plugin=ao"
Edit ~/libao or /etc/libao.conf to "default_driver=oss"
  • Optional: Enable cmus' software volume control:
Type ":" then "set softvol=true". Use + and - on the keyboard to change volume.


  • Debian: install libpt OSS plugin (e.g. libpt2.6.1-plugins-oss).
  • If Ekiga doesn't display the OSS device in the listing, you can add it manually using gconf-editor. The following keys should be changed:
to a value of the form
'/dev/dsp (PTLIB/OSS)'
/dev/dsp can be replaced by other output nodes.
The following terminal commands can be used to set up Ekiga:
$ gconftool-2 --set /apps/ekiga/devices/audio/input_device --type string "/dev/dsp (PTLIB/OSS)"
$ gconftool-2 --set /apps/ekiga/devices/audio/output_device --type string "/dev/dsp (PTLIB/OSS)"
$ gconftool-2 --set /apps/ekiga/general/sound_events/output_device --type string "/dev/dsp (PTLIB/OSS)"

Enemy Territory - Quake Wars

  • ETQW: Edit ~/.etqwcl/base/etqwconfig.cfg and change
seta s_driver "alsa"
seta s_driver "oss"
  • Also, Command line parameter "+set s_driver oss" will make Quake engines use OSS driver, overriding setting in config files.


  • Debian: install libesd0 instead of libesd0-alsa.

Adobe Flash

  • Flash V7 uses OSS natively, so no special setup is needed.
  • Flash V9 and V10 require libflashsupport to output sound via OSS. Typically a 32-bit version of the library is required.
  • Flash V10 has a 64-bit version which requires a 64 bit libflashsupport.
  • OSSv4.1 tries to install a fitting libflashsupport automatically. However, some distros prefer removing libflashsupport from the package, using a separate package for it.

getting libflashsupport

  • Debian/Ubuntu:
    • Do not install libflashsupport package from apt-get. That packages only supports Pulseaudio, and should ... \n

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