Section 9.4. Desktop Environments

This section discusses multimedia support offered by two major desktop environments, KDE and GNOME, discussed in Chapter 3. Note that these desktops are not mutually exclusive you can run GNOME applications under KDE and vice versa. There are of course other desktop environments and window managers that offer unique features, KDE and GNOME are just the largest and most commonly offered by the major Linux distributions.

9.4.1. KDE

KDE is the K Desktop Environment, covered in Chapter 3. In the area of multimedia , KDE offers the following:

  • A sound mixer (KMix )

  • A sound recorder (Krec )

  • Various media players supporting sound and video (Noatun, Juk, Kaboodle, Kaffeine, and others)

  • A CD player (KsCD )

  • A MIDI player (KMid )

  • An audio CD ripping and encoding utility (KAudioCreator )

  • A sound effects construction tool (artsbuilder )

Because the applications are all part of the same desktop environment, there is tight integration between applications. For example, the KDE web browser, Konqueror, can play audio and video files, and KDE applications can play sounds to notify the user of important events.

The multimedia support in KDE is based on aRts, the analog real-time synthesizer. Part of aRts is the sound server, artsd, which manages all sound output so that multiple applications can play sounds simultaneously. The sound server communicates with the underlying operating system's sound drivers, either OSS or ALSA on Linux.

There are also many KDE multimedia applications that are not officially part of the KDE release either because they are not yet of release quality or they are maintained as separate projects. The former can often be found in the kdenonbeta area of the KDE project. The latter can usually be found by using an index site such as or

9.4.2. GNOME

GNOME is another free desktop project, covered in Chapter 3. Like KDE, GNOME offers a sound mixer, sound recorder, CD player, and various media player applications. Multimedia support is integrated into Nautilus, the GNOME file manager. GNOME uses the esd sound server to share sound resources among applications.

A problem when running a mixed environment of KDE and GNOME applications is that the sound servers can conflict when using sound resources. At the time of writing, both the KDE and GNOME projects were not totally satisfied with their sound server implementation and were having discussions to develop a replacement that could be shared between KDE and GNOME. This would finally make it possible to run KDE and GNOME multimedia applications at the same time without resource conflicts.

Part I: Enjoying and Being Productive on Linux
Part II: System Administration