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I have speakers attached to my front panel sound output that I switch to frequently. Currently the process is to open Terminal, type "alsamixer", scroll over to "Front Panel", and press "M" to activate it. Although this doesn't seem like much, it's a hassle when switching between outputs frequently.

Are there any faster alternatives, such as a button that can be placed on the GNOME panel or a shortcut key that can be used?

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alsamixer is meant to be used interactively. If you want to script volume changes then you should use amixer instead. Although, it seems strange that your audio card can't detect the jack status. You may want to examine the model parameter of the sound driver in use, e.g. snd-hda-intel and see if setting it appropriately causes it to autosense.

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