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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


How to configure an Old Sound Card in Xubuntu: The CMI 8330 Case

Xubuntu has very low system requirements compared to other modern linux distributions. So, it can be used to extend old hardware's life. However, despite of the great hardware recognition of the Ubuntu family (including Xubuntu, of course), it may result in some supported hardware not configured automatically. That's the case of my old isa CMI-8330 sound card. Here we'll see how configure that piece of hardware and maybe learn something in the process.

Testing the Hardware

First, you should test if the hardware can work fine. Although the sound card we're configuring is an isa card, it is plug and play, so we don't need to specify the hardware resources for it.

To load the kernel module (aka driver) for the sound card you have to open a terminal window and write:

sudo modprobe snd-cmi8330

These are really two commands: sudo runs another command in root mode (administrator privileges). The next command, modprobe, loads a kernel module (snd-cmi8330, in this case). If it seems that it does nothing then everything is ok. That's because modprobe says nothing unless there are errors.

Your sound card should be enabled if modprobe didn't complaint. Fire some media player (Xfmedia, for example) and start to enjoy your favorite music and videos. However, we're not finished yet.

Making Things Permanent

You won't have sound again the next time you start your computer and you'll need to run the modprobe command again. To load the module automatically at boot time you need to edit the /etc/modules file. Open mousepad or any other text editor and load the file. From the terminal it is done by typing:

sudo mousepad /etc/modules

sudo it's used again because configuration files can be changed by the administrator (root) only.

Then add this line to the file:


save the file and close the editor.

That's all! enjoy your music again. You will have the sound card enabled automatically in the next boot.

The MIDI Problem

I must admit that I can't get MIDI functionality from this card in linux. It seems that the module does not support this function. The CMI 8330 chip (it's not a real sound card) has very limited opl3 synthesis, though. If you know how to enable music synthesis in this card let me know, please. I loaded the snd-seq-oss module, by the way.

What if I Have a Different Sound Card?

You can follow a similar procedure using another module instead of snd-cmi8330. Available modules are in /lib/modules/2.6.15-23-386/ directory. Notice that 2.6.15-23-386 is the Xubuntu 6.06 kernel version and it may vary in other distributions/versions.

So, modules for sound cards are located in /lib/modules/2.6.15-23-386/kernel/sound/. Browse both the directory and the web and you'll find the right module for your hardware.

If you need some information about a module you can type this in a terminal window:

modinfo module_name

Where module_name is the name of the module you are interested in (i.e. snd-cmi8330).

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