Ubuntu and Multimedia (audio, in particular)

Carroll Grigsby cgrigs at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 11 01:36:35 UTC 2006

Michael Richter wrote:
> I've just found with the "killer app" for Ubuntu.  And by "killer app" I
> mean "the app that kills any chance of widespread adoption".  That
> application is multimedia.
> Let me first explain my setup.  I have a laptop -- a Sony -- with a built-in
> sound system.  It stinks, so I also have an external Sound Blaster (USB).
> Ubuntu recognises both sound systems and loads drivers for them.  It then
> plays setup games so damned frustrating that it basically renders my system
> completely worthless as a multimedia platform.  Here's what happens.
> 1) Despite my setting the default sound card in System->Preferences->Sound
> to my Sound Blaster, the only thing that reliably plays sounds out to the
> Sound Blaster are the system event notifications.  I get nice, loud, clear
> sound events going out to my speakers for GAIM and for menus opening and
> closing, not to mention sporadically (yes, sporadically) getting sounds when
> windows open and close.
> 2) Totem, in particular, will play at random to my Sound Blaster or to my
> internal sound card (and crappy laptop speakers, of course.)  There doesn't
> seem to be any rhyme nor reason to which one it chooses.  I can click on the
> same movie file a dozen times and half the time it will play to the Sound
> Blaster and half the time it will play to the crappy system.  And it's not
> alternating either.  It may play to one three times in succession and then
> play to the other once and back again.  It's ridiculous.
> 3) This point #2 applies only, of course, when Totem bothers to play sounds at
> all.  Because on some files it will complain that the audio device is "busy"
> and ask me if another application is using it.  Here it is reliably on
> individual files.  I can play one file, get the random switching behaviour
> described above and then click on one of the "death" files and have it
> complain that the audio device -- note: the audio device it was just
> using!-- is "busy" and "in use by another application".  Needless to
> say I can't
> persuade it that the device in question is not, in fact, busy.  It just pops
> up the dialog and refuses... well, dialogue.  And what is the difference
> between the movies that it can't play and the movies that it can (at random,
> albeit)?  Well, you got me.  They're all -- every single one -- AVIs encoded
> in Xvid.  No tools I have access to show any kind of difference between
> them.
> Now for comparison, let me explain to you how these files worked under
> Windows -- going all the way back to Windows 98.  (Yes,  back to an OS that
> was released seven years ago.)
> 1)  I set up my system by installing the appropriate codecs (just like I had
> to in Ubuntu) and telling it which sound card is used by default.
> 2)  I play the movies.
> 3)  The audio invariably goes out the correct sound card and never complains
> about the device being busy.
> When I demonstrate Ubuntu to people I'm hoping to persuade to use, how
> persuasive do you think that dialog that claims the sound card is busy is
> going to be?  Or the random switch between sound systems?
> Now some practical questions:
>    - How do I tell Ubuntu to ignore the damned internal sound card once
>    and for all?  You know, to pretend the thing isn't even there?  To not even
>    load the drivers for it?  I suspect that would save me from the "randomly
>    switching between sound cards" problem.
>    - How do I persuade Totem that the sound card it just used a few
>    seconds ago without any difficulties isn't suddenly unavailable?
>    - How do I find out what the big difference is between the files that
>    make Totem choke and the files which only make Totem randomly switch between
>    sound cards?
>    - Where can I get multimedia players for Linux that work without the
>    headaches and hassles -- kind of like I've been finding under Windows since
>    Win98?  (I thought the bazaar was supposed to be more responsive and
>    flexible than the cathedral!)

Does your BIOS allow you to disable the onboard sound?

BTW -- please lose the HTML; it's inappropriate for mail lists.
-- cmg

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