Pulseaudio: the more things change, the more they stay the same (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 20 Jul 2018

Pulseaudio: the more things change, the more they stay the same

Such a classic Linux story.

For a video I'll be showing during tonight's planetarium presentation (Sextants, Stars, and Satellites: Celestial Navigation Through the Ages, for anyone in the Los Alamos area), I wanted to get HDMI audio working from my laptop, running Debian Stretch. I'd done that once before on this laptop (HDMI Presentation Setup Part I and Part II) so I had some instructions to follow; but while aplay -l showed the HDMI audio device, aplay -D plughw:0,3 didn't play anything and alsamixer and alsamixergui only showed two devices, not the long list of devices I was used to seeing.

Web searches related to Linux HDMI audio all pointed to pulseaudio, which I don't use, and I was having trouble finding anything for plain ALSA without pulse. In the old days, removing pulseaudio used to be the cure for practically every Linux audio problem. But I thought to myself, It's been a couple years since I actually tried pulse, and people have told me it's better now. And it would be a relief to have pulseaudio working so things like Firefox would Just Work. Maybe I should try installing it and see what happens.

So I ran an aptitude search pulseaudio to find the package name I'd need to install. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that it was already installed!

So I did some more web searching to find out how to talk to pulse and figure out how to enable HDMI, or un-mute it, or whatever it was I needed. But to no avail: everything I found was stuff like "In the Ubuntu audio panel, do this". The few pages I found that listed commands to run didn't help -- the commands all gave errors.

Running short on time, I reverted to the old days: aptitude purge pulseaudio. Rebooted to make sure the audio system was reset, ran alsamixergui and sure enough, there were all my normal devices, including the IEC958 device for HDMI, which was indeed muted. I unmuted it, tried the video again -- and music blasted from my TV's speakers.

I'm sure there are machines where pulseaudio works. There are even a few people who have audio setups complicated enough to need something like pulseaudio. But in 2018, just as in 2006, aptitude purge pulseaudio is the easiest solution to a Linux sound problem.

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[ 14:17 Jul 20, 2018    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]
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