That darn startup sound (Knoppix vs Vista)

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Imagine you are in the boardroom, asked by the president of the company to fix his laptop during a critical presentation. You reach for your handy knoppix on a flash, and set it off to boot, so ready to proudly display the power of freedom during this critical presentation, when, already too late, you remember; that darn startup sound!

While Microsoft claims a startup sound you cannot disable is a "feature" in its one day to be released Vista operating system, and perhaps even has a patent on the idea, we in the free software community have had to contend with this "feature" for a long time now. I can tell you, it is not pleasant. What is even more amazing is that in Knoppix they came up with a whole new means of playing sounds just to get that annoying bugger in!

While most sounds are part of the desktop event/sound system, the Knoppix startup (and shutdown) audio is not. In fact, someone wisely chose to disable event sounds by default in KDE on Knoppix so it would be silent by default. Why then did anyone think it would be smart to have a special startup sound you cannot disable?

Digging through Knoppix a little, one finds the startup sound is actually played from the xinit scripts themselves directly! It is played with a script that runs command line audio utilities. No provision exists to disable Knoppix startup sound other than editing the script or removing the .ogg file itself, a neat trick on a read-only burned media.

One thing that can be said for Knoppix is that the startup sound is a file, and one can remaster an image without it. There is still power of choice and control, even if there was such poor judgement exercised upstream. The difference then is that with Microsoft Vista, the user is never trusted or enabled to do what is right.



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

There are a lot of workarounds for this. Here's one: Create an audio file of just silence. Save it over the offending item with the same filename. Viola...or maybe another string instrument.

David Sugar's picture

You mean on the CD-R filesystem image? :) Actually you can remove the .ogg in question entirely, and it will be silent also. But again, a clever trick to accomplish for the average user who has it on a r/o media and just wants the sound of silence during boot.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I haven't used Knoppix since Ubuntu came into the scene so I'm not sure what sound knoppix may have right now. However I'm pretty sure that knoppix' start up sound is much better than Ubuntu's.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I find the rather subdued voice not annoying at all. But, then, I'm rarely booting in a crowded room. ;-)

Most of the time I want to know if KNOPPIX configured the sound on the system in question and the voice file confirms it to me. When I am demonstrating KNOPPIX, the sound adds to the impression of the completeness of the Linux system.

Otherwise, use the laptop's sound buttons to mute the audio output.

David Sugar's picture

You are assuming of course there is one, and that it works. The sound is played BEFORE the desktop environment is actually started, so if there is special audio keys that are recognized in the desktop environment rather than in the bios, they will not be processed until after the sound is already playing. Rather subdued is also relative; try it on a laptop with rather large speakers. Since I do not boot Knoppix except to recover a damaged filesystem (extremely rare of course) or otherwise prep a laptop for free software use, I personally do not care that much about the issue, but I would find it very annoying under most conditions, and it gives me a good idea of how annoying and frustrating using a system (like Vista) where you can never disable startup sounds would likely be.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

A file on the flash root, IIRC, will execute before the sound/xinit is run and with the new mergefs filesystem, you should be able to copy a blank.ogg file over the existing startup and shutdown ogg files with simple commands in the script.

You'd want to copy the blank.ogg file over to the standard Linux filesystem and not the /cdrom/... filesystem since, as you mentioned, /cdrom/... is read-only.

Fun with Knoppix. :-) Klaus made a VERY flexible and capable system. Unlike MS Vista( a distant view ).

Laurie Langham's picture

I expect a programme to go about its business in silence unless I invite it to do otherwise. Another reason why I won't have Micro*!$#
on my computer at any price.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Or even plug in some fully functional headphones before you boot...

The un-invited sound is the same problem that so many Myspace pages suffer from.

oznoz's picture
Submitted by oznoz (not verified) on


Just below it appears a similar instruction about the shutdown sound.

They seem to have left out the call to the function in the instructions, which appears in the function "startkde".

Author information

David Sugar's picture


David Sugar is an active maintainer for a number of packages that are part of the GNU project, including GNU Bayonne. He has served as the voluntary chairman of the FSF’s DotGNU steering committee, as a founder and CTO for Open Source Telecomm Corporation, and currently owns and operates Tycho Softworks.