A simple Python mixer (to solve a problem with sound in Natty) (Shallow Thoughts)

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

Mon, 18 Apr 2011

A simple Python mixer (to solve a problem with sound in Natty)

I had to buy a new hard drive recently, and figured as long as I had a new install ahead of me, why not try the latest Ubuntu 11.04 beta, "Natty Narwhal"?

One of the things I noticed right away was that sound was really LOUD! -- and my usual volume keys weren't working to change that.

I have a simple setup under openbox: Meta-F7 and Meta-F8 call a shell script called "louder" and "softer" (two links to the same script), and depending on how it's invoked, the script calls aumix -v +4 or aumix -v -4.

Great, except it turns out aumix doesn't work -- at all -- under Natty (bug 684416). Rumor has it that Natty has dropped all support for OSS sound, though I don't know if that's actually true -- the bug has been sitting for four months without anyone commenting on it. (Ubuntu never seems terribly concerned about having programs in their repositories that completely fail to do anything; sadly, programs can persist that way for years.)

The command-line replacement for aumix seems to be amixer, but its documentation is sketchy at best. After a bit of experimentation, I found if I set the Master volume to 100% using alsamixergui, I could call amixer set PCM 4- or 4-. But I couldn't use amixer set Master 4+ -- sometimes it would work but most of the time it wouldn't.

That all seemed a bit too flaky for me -- surely there must be a better way? Some magic Python library? Sure enough, there's python-alsaaudio, and learning how to use it took a lot less time than I'd already wasted trying random amixer commands to see what worked. Here's the program:

#!/usr/bin/env python
# Set the volume louder or softer, depending on program name.

import alsaaudio, sys, os

increment = 4

# First find a mixer. Use the first one.
try :
    mixer = alsaaudio.Mixer('Master', 0)
except alsaaudio.ALSAAudioError :
    sys.stderr.write("No such mixer\n")

cur = mixer.getvolume()[0]
if os.path.basename(sys.argv[0]).startswith("louder") :
    mixer.setvolume(cur + increment, alsaaudio.MIXER_CHANNEL_ALL)
else :
    mixer.setvolume(cur - increment, alsaaudio.MIXER_CHANNEL_ALL)
print "Volume from", cur, "to", mixer.getvolume()[0]

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[ 21:13 Apr 18, 2011    More programming | permalink to this entry | ]

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