Slackware sound mess
#345 Henry, Saturday, 04 June 2016 3:53 PM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: linux sound pulseaudio)

I had got myself into a big mess with Slackware and sound.

In January 2016, Slackware was forced to work with PulseAudio. I had been very grateful for years that Slackware had avoided working with PulseAudio and systemd. Anything involving Lennart Poettering is anathema. When I first experimented with PulseAudio years ago, it was awful and did not work with any of my gear. I was fine with ALSA, it worked on everything I had, I had no problems with it at all. And don't get me started on systemd. Its claim to fame seems to be that it speeds up bootup speeds. That's just fine and dandy, but I boot my systems several times a year, if that, so that's not a big enticement. What is worse for me is creeping featurism. There are a number of things I have read about systemd that make me want to avoid it. So far, Slackware has.

PulseAudio was made a dependency of bluez, the Bluetooth controller, and Slackware was forced to follow. In January, the first changes came down that included PulseAudio, and that started months of serious annoyances.

Since then, I keep thinking about one of my sayings about every app being upgraded until it is useless for its original purpose. I suspect that Slackware is going to go down this path too. Perhaps Linux in general. If it does, I will consider what I will do. I think Apple is going in directions I don't like either. Not sure where I will go. Perhaps I'll try BSD?

But in the meantime, I did my best to get along with PulseAudio. I followed instructions and had sound working on my main desktop with some things and not others. mplayer would work (and therefore aTunes would work), xmms would work, Firefox would work, but Chrome would not. That was good enough, and I left it at that.

Slackware is getting ready for the big jump to release 14.2. Big changes keep coming down the pipeline. I think when it's released, I'll get the DVDs and then do a clean install. It's okay to do incremental upgrades on a regular basis, but eventually you get too much cruft and you need to do a clean install. I think I'm at that stage.

Last week, a new version of Firefox came down, and it really irritated me. It would not play Youtube videos. No sound, no video. I could watch YouTube videos in Chrome but without sound, so I was stuck YouTube-less. I left it to the weekend to investigate.

A few days ago, another big Slackware update came down and things went bad. No sound anywhere.

So I was really stuck. I think much of the problem is cruft. Configuration cruft in Firefox and installation cruft in Slackware.

The weekend came and I made a determined effort to get things working again.

I started with Firefox.

My Firefox configuration is quite old. That was probably what was preventing me from playing YouTube. So first step there was to delete all the .mozilla configuration and start up Firefox as if new. I did that, making one mistake - I forgot to export my bookmarks first.

I set up Firefox again, configuring it to do things my way. I can recreate my bookmarks later. I don't use bookmarks much anyway, so it's no big loss. And once I did this, I could play YouTube videos again, but still without sound. That fixes the Firefox issue, and the sound issue is with Slackware, so I left Firefox and moved to the Slackware configuration.

I spent a few hours researching this online, reading documentation, experimenting, rebooting. I also went back to the original upgrade notes for Slackware in January when PulseAudio was first introduced.

In the end, I got sound working everywhere, with all my applications. I changed three things. I am unsure if all three were necessary, but at the end, I had sound everywhere again.

I tested all my usual sound apps again (mplayer, xmms, aTunes, Firefox, Chrome) and they all worked at extremely high volume.

How to control the volume with PulseAudio? More research and it's with a thing called pavucontrol. I could set the overall volume with that, and then use each application's fine controls to make smaller adjustments.

And after a day of frustration, I have my system working as well as it was back in January before PulseAudio was introduced. Six months of frustration, and a wasted day to cope with shit forced on me. This is why people move to Apple. Apple has a mediocre Unix at the core, but the consumer stuff just works (generally speaking). The more I have to fight this stuff, the less inclined I am to keep fighting with it and the more inclined I am to take the easy way out.