December 17th, 2003, 11:49
IceWM anyone? This may not meet much of a need, but I wanted to show off....

IceWM with Sound
Ed Hurst
15 December 2003

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In previous articles, I've focused on helping users of older hardware
get the most from it. While most of the FOSS world uses one of the two
major desktop interfaces -- KDE or Gnome -- there are plenty of folks
using interfaces that are less resource hungry. While it's important to
note here that hogging resources is what one pays for all the nifty
automatic features found in KDE or Gnome, in reality there are few other
compelling reasons to use either. While XFce is a much lighter
competitor for them, the latest version (4.x) disappoints me with its lack of
a sound module.

If you have a sound card and speakers, there's no reason to neglect
that fuller experience that comes from a GUI that provides auditory
cues for various events. My real favorite desktop/window manager is
IceWM <http://www.icewm.org/>. If you've tried it, you already know
whether you like it or not. One complaint I've often heard about it is
that setting up the sounds associated with GUI events is really
difficult. In fact, many people aren't even aware that sound is
possible with IceWM. Some distributions of Open Source OSs are
notorious for excluding the sound module by default.

It's possible I've missed something, but so far I've never seen
instructions on this posted anywhere. In the past, my queries of the
good people maintaining IceWM, as well as postings on the various
forums devoted to its use, have brought a deafening silence on the
topic. There is a couple of utilities to help set up sound for IceWM,
but I've never gotten either of them to work on any system so far. As a
non-coder, I'll be glad to admit it's probably my fault. Still, I was
undeterred by this and kept searching. It's only by accident I pieced
together how to get sound in IceWM.

First, about the only way you can have sound is to have compiled in the
ESound interface. If your distro offers an "icewm-gnome" package,
there's a good chance this has been done for you. If not, you'll have to
compile it in as an option yourself. I've read discussions in the past
how the authors had considered working in an Alsa interface, but at that
point it was too big a chore, and they had other problems that took

Compiling from source isn't so difficult as it might seem. It took
about 5 minutes for me to download the 820KB for the current stable
release (1.2.13) over my glacially slow dialup connection, so it
shouldn't be too painful for most. I won't be giving detailed
instructions on compiling, but simply outline what's required. You'll
need to insure your system has the development libraries for whatever
version of Gcc you are using, of course, but a few others as well:

- Xlibs
- imlib and imlib-config
- png, jpeg, mng, and other graphics libs
- gtk or gtk2

and optionally some of the Gnome development packages if Gnome is
installed on your system. Since each distro tends to package Gnome
differently, it would be hard to specify them. When you run the
configuration script for IceWM, it will complain about what's missing.
Be sure to read the INSTALLATION file at the top of the source tree for
detailed instructions. When you run the configuration script, you will
have to include options for "guievents" and insure that you list "ESD"
as an option for the Icesound interface. Running "./configure --help"
will show you the options in good detail.

Now there are plenty of other ways to do this, but the above is likely
to cover most Open Source systems. I've never gotten sound to work in
IceWM without using the ESound server.

Next, you'll need to get your hands on some sounds. At one time a couple
of years ago, I knew where to get specific sound theme sets for IceWM,
but haven't been able to relocate them. It was in those tarballs that I
discovered what names the files had to have:

- launchApp.wav
- restart.wav
- shutdown.wav
- startup.wav
- windowClose.wav
- windowOpen.wav
- windowMax.wav
- windowMin.wav
- windowRolldown.wav
- windowRollup.wav
- workspaceChange.wav

It won't matter much if you don't have an official sound theme, just
gather some WAV files that suit you and name them appropriately for the
action indicated by the name.

Where to put them? In your home directory, as a folder in the IceWM
config folder:


You can load them from the command line, once you have started IceWM
and have the ESound server running (try "esd &" on the command line).
Now, I'm not smart enough to make all this work properly by starting
automatically when I login and run IceWM. I've tried creating an
.xinitrc with all the various startup commands I like, but it's never
worked for me. I simply make a command line script, and once IceWM is
running, run the script to set the mouse speed, start the screensaver
and ESound, load the sound events, and start the background server
(recently made a separate function for IceWM):

esd &
xset m 4 2
xscreensaver &
icewmbg &
icesound --interface=ESD --sample-dir=~/.icewm/sounds

I name this script "Iceup" and put it in my ~/bin directory. While
there are abbreviations for the Icesound options, at least once I've
compiled IceWM and only spelling them out in full would work. You can
learn more by typing in a terminal window:

icesound --help

It works as you might expect with most Open Source commands. Most
everything else you might want to do with IceWM is pretty well covered
in the documentation.