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ALSA is the Advanced Linux Architecture. It consists of a system of device drivers for different sound-cards, a library API, utilities and of course programs that run on top of it. In general it is a set of software tools for manipulating high quality audio and MIDI inside the computer and the external world. ALSA has been in development for the past years and because of its “state of art” it was recently adopted as part of the standard Linus Torwalds Kernel.
Given this state of excitement you might get interested in getting into this group of developers and improve on existing drivers or even write your own driver for your favorite sound-card using the ALSA API. Otherwise you might get tempted on developing your own ALSA audio application and added to a growing collection of programs which include a full feature sound editor, MIDI sequencers, software synthesizers and certainly, algorithmic composition packages.
Extensive documentation can be found at various places including the Planet CCRMA @ Home page, the ALSA home page as well as the Agnula Project home page. A detailed description is a bit beyond the scope of this guide but the reader is encouraged also to read the mail archives of the planetCCRMA list as well as various Linux Audio lists and of course the ALSA users or developers list.
At CCRMA ALSA runs smoothly in the background and in theory all your favorite applications should run without much knowledge of it. However minimal information might prove helpful in case of troubleshooting audio in Linux. One of this situations might arise if for instance you are trying to plug in a MIDI-USB device to one of CCRMA's workstations (if this is the case please read the section on USB further on below and consult the USB devices section of Planet CCRMA @ Home ).