Totem any time soon?

Eric Dunbar eric.dunbar at
Wed Feb 22 10:58:07 GMT 2006

On 2/21/06, Lee Revell <rlrevell at> wrote:
> On Tue, 2006-02-21 at 23:08 -0500, Eric Dunbar wrote:
> > So far, the only app that has worked for me "nicely", out of the box
> > under Ubuntu has been VLC Player.
> >
> > Yeah, if I tried and read the various "Sound doesn't work, how do I
> > fix it?" wikis, I'm quite sure I could figure out how to fix it, but,
> > given that I've got a perfectly functional Mac OS X install, why
> > bother? The same will probably apply to a lot of other people out
> > there. GNU/Linux works for 95% of their apps, but, for audio they'll
> > just hop back into Windows <shudder> or Mac OS X.
> >
> > Anyway, that's my oh-so-helpful two cents.
> The basic issue with the "audio device busy" is that sound cards used to
> do hardware mixing of multiple streams.  Multiple apps could open the
> audio device and it would Just Work.  At some point vendors and/or
> Microsoft decided that they weren't making enough money so they moved
> the mixing off the audio device and into the Windows kernel.  This made
> sound cards much cheaper but made it a serious PITA to handle multiple
> audio streams.  This was first solved on Linux by sound servers but this
> was also not optimal.  Later ALSA got a "dmix" plugin that transparently
> handles mixes multiple audio streams.  This only recently (ALSA 1.0.9)
> became the default mode of operation on many cards and it's still not
> the default on some (USB audio devices) because there's no easy way to
> detect the supported audio formats.  And it won't work if the app
> insists on using a "hw" ALSA device rather than "default", because this
> tells ALSA to bypass any software processing and deliver the data
> directly to the sound card, or if the app uses the deprecated OSS API
> (eg cat file.wav > /dev/dsp) as the mixing is done in userspace.
> It's a huge mess, similar to the Winmodem problem, that also could have
> been avoided if vendors weren't so damn cheap.

Of course, it is quite a pointless exercise to have specialised
hardware doing a job that generalised hardware can also do. Modems and
audio cards are quite redundant (and, are the same device anyway ;-)
so why put in additional hardware when the CPU can handle the task
just fine.

Just because a few GNU/Linux or BSDers want to use an alternate OS
with their computers _and_ use modem to access the web/fax/(heaven
forbid)direct connect or listen to audio (<<1% of total users) isn't
enough justification for _everyone_ to spend umpteen extra
dollars/euros/whatevers on extra hardware. If they really want a modem
or audio device they can always get themselves a PC(MCIA) or PCI card
(and, of course, this argument isn't even relevant anymore since many
Winmodem and Winsoundcards are now supported by non-vendor supported


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