Hi Eric, and thanks for answering,
I tried tpb and xosd, and while it works great, my only concern is exactly that it works completely independently from KDE, and as such doesn't integrate with KDE's kmix mute/increase/decrease volume capabilities.
Thus you end up with two places to mute, two places to control volume, etc..
Since the PC will be used only with KDE, I figured I might as well get it fully integrated
Seems like all I need to do to get KMilo to work is to create a device /dev/nvram, and then I'll be all set. Will try tomorrow when I'm back home with my ThinkPad