Thursday, October 29, 2009

Caveats for audio in 9.10

Here follows an update for 9.10 to this month's earlier caveats:

If you use Ubuntu:
  • Use Karmic's kernel, not Jaunty's. A lot of you with Realtek and IDT/Sigmatel HDA codecs are being bitten by /boot/grub/grub.cfg not being updated properly, resulting in Jaunty's 2.6.28 kernel being used instead of Karmic's 2.6.31. Jaunty's kernel has pretty subpar performance for PulseAudio, and you should not incorrectly blame PulseAudio.
  • Check that slmodemd is not running if you're seeing a dummy/null sink in the volume control applet. Arguably PulseAudio's module-udev-detect should allow the device instead of bailing when detecting it, and an approach is under discussion for future versions. In the meantime, you can either instead load module-detect in /etc/pulse/ (or ~/.pulse/ or kill slmodemd.
  • Install linux-backports-modules-alsa-karmic (then reboot) if you have a very new computer, because that package enables audio on quite a few very new laptop models and contains much improved support for microphone auto-switching.
  • Use a temporary alternate channel mapping for PulseAudio if you have an ice17xx-based sound card. Please be aware that the fault lies with alsa-lib not PulseAudio and will be addressed in 10.04 LTS.
  • Configure PulseAudio to ignore your sound driver's misreported dB information if you experience "overdriven" sound.
  • Attach a verbose PulseAudio runtime log to your PulseAudio bug report.
  • Attach an ALSA codec dump to your linux bug report if jack sense (e.g., connecting headphones mutes internal laptop speakers) does not seem to function properly.
As always, thank you for helping improve Ubuntu!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The perils of saving sound card state; and why apologizing is good.

Bad news: I broke alsa-utils in Karmic.

Good news: I fixed it tonight. Please report your results.

Honestly, I tested the previous upload on Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu before committing to bzr -- even on different hardware! It just goes to show that I make dumb mistakes, so, sorry about that.

Mo' bett' news: many thanks to the awesome Tim Gardner, who imported alsa-driver stable (snapshot from 20091012) into ubuntu-karmic-lbm.git, which means that all you poor saps with eeePCs and HP dvs and Dell Studios will finally have less suck for audio. Granted, it will require installing linux-backports-modules-karmic in a week or so...

In other news (what?! there're more kinds?!), it really is decent to apologize when I make mistakes. This guy is a real gem, that is all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Caveats for audio in Ubuntu Karmic Beta

In the wake of the Ubuntu Karmic Beta release, here are some audio gotchas on my radar:

* Volumes being erroneously set to 0 and/or muted upon reboot/shutdown
** We'll address this in Lucid by altering how alsactl store is called. For Ubuntu, there's arguably no need to actually call alsactl restore; PulseAudio handles volume state on its own. Granted, the approach will take some fleshing out, as we need to handle Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, ...

* Default PulseAudio behaviour causes overdriven audio due to hardware inanity
** Thanks to some wonderful (sarcasm) hardware integration, we can work around this issue by using the patch mentioned in the comment. Please note that this patch will not be turned on for Karmic, because doing so will result in a very poor user experience for many more HDA users whose hardware are not quite so craptastic.

* Internal/External microphone selection is broken for many HDA users
** Well-known upstream, being addressed for Lucid, patches too invasive for Karmic, etc.

* Extremely high CPU usage by PulseAudio with third-party applications (Skype, I'm looking at you)
** Use the PulseAudio-aware beta of Skype

Finally, last post I described populating the alsactl init database. There are a few things of which one should be aware:

* Too quiet or too loud is usually a driver (i.e., linux) bug
** We can work around this in alsa-kernel/linux, so the first place we check is linux, not alsa-utils. In the rare case it is not a driver bug, we resort to alsactl init patches.

* You can clone the upstream alsa-utils git tree and submit patches directly
** (Next post, I'll cover how to do it.)