Monday, September 21, 2009

Atlanta Linux Fest 2009 and Crowdsourcing

A couple months ago, upon reading the tentative speaker schedule for Atlanta Linux Fest 2009, I was surprised at the Canonical omnipresence. There was personal trepidation regarding how such a presence may be interpreted, and sure enough, I wasn't alone. Certainly in my talk, I kept the vast majority of the physical speech focused on current FOSS and mentioned Ubuntu only in the confines of what we've done poorly and how we're resolving those shortcomings.

For instance, one of the most difficult things to "get right" in a default (clean) install is configuring various audio settings. A great analogous post by Ed Felten really made me reconsider the command line as the preferable interface for troubleshooting.

Many parts of Ubuntu are contributed by volunteers (thank you!) like myself. There seems to be a considerable amount of bad blood in the Linux community regarding what Canonical "doesn't do". We all need to do a better job of thanking our fellow volunteers and remembering that corporate overlords do not drive everything.

That said, I enjoyed the brief moments spent at this year's ALF (had to leave early to return to work), particularly the thoughtfulness of all the organizers (please thank them!) and attendees.

See you this weekend at Ohio LinuxFest!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Limited liability, or how not to develop Karmic using Karmic

Karmic has been wonderfully jumpy these past few days. I must have some sick fascination with broken systems, as my presentation at this year's Ohio LinuxFest will focus on developing Karmic while running Karmic. Not just that, but this Saturday I'll briefly discuss Linux audio at Atlanta Linux Fest.

Now for the real meat in this post. For Karmic+1, I want Ubuntu to lead the charge in populating alsa-utils's init db.

Currently we do some pretty braindead things in alsa-utils's initscript, namely forcibly iterate over an entire set of static mixer element strings and values and attempt to set all detected audio devices to a specific state. Well, it's rather unlikely that my Logitech USB headset will have a Creative Audigy-specific "Audigy Analog/Digital Output Jack", yes?

Of course, that's just one badness, but the driving factor is to be able to conditionally set volumes on system start (for non-PulseAudio configurations) based on the machine's SSID. This approach largely resolves the "Gee, I have an Audigy X that requires the jack toggle to be muted to get audible analog output but person Y with an Audigy Z requires it to be unmuted" debacle.

So where do you come in? With current HDA codecs, using a static setting of 80% for PCM is pretty fragile. Some hardware sounds really overdriven at that setting, and others are barely audible. We need your SSID (lspci -nv|grep -A1 040[13]) and your preferred volumes! More in the following weeks.