Illegitimi non carborundum


Sound in Mandriva 2009.0

As some people know, I seem to have managed to get myself into the situation where I am responsible for the sound system in Mandriva.... I'm not quite sure how this happened but it was probably a result of me opening my big mouth and spouting my opinion and someone else basically daring me to live up to my talk.... Anyway, 2008.1 went well and the decision to default to using PulseAudio turned out to be pretty good all in all. I made it my mission to ensure that we had as smooth as possible an integration and have continued to follow up as many bug reports as my time permits. I've actually been pretty surprised that there were not more issues and it all seemed to go surprisingly smoothly! Mandriva were given specific mention when the PulseAudio author, Lennart Pottering, talked about distro roll out of pulseaudio: "Some distributions did a better job adopting PulseAudio than others. On the good side I certainly have to list Mandriva, Debian, and Fedora. OTOH Ubuntu didn't exactly do a stellar job.". I'm very glad to say that Ubuntu has learned from this mistake and I've spoken several times to the guy who is now looking after pulse integration and things will definitely be better for them!

Anyway, what about 2009? Well not a huge amount has changed with pulse to be honest. We're not going to be shipping the 0.9.12 version of pulse this time round. It's still too unstable at the moment (as Lennart himself admits!) but I provide it in the cooker testing repository for those that want to play with it. So we're going with 0.9.10 (0.9.11 was when "glitch free" landed which is why things are not yet rock solid). This is not actually much different to our 0.9.9 version which I had patched fairly heavily. I have included my own experimental support for Apple Airtunes devices in the Mandriva packages. paprefs allows you to tick a box. It's not perfect yet by any means but some users may find it useful!

And what about the sound in KDE? Well as poor Helio was struggling under the weight of things, I helped out and took a look at some of the phonon related issues. Firstly, the design of the phonon device selector and how it integrates with the KDE4 platform plugin is a little stupid IMO. It uses solid to always list hardware sound cards and presents these before any backend provided outputs. If you've chosen to use PulseAudio as your sound layer this is not really what you want (alsa will by default go through PulseAudio but that's not really the ideal method: both xine and gstreamer backends have dedicated PulseAudio output which is the preferred option). So I hacked kderuntime to not dish out it's list of hardware devices if PulseAudio has been chosen as the output system by the user and so that xine does not hide the pulse plugin. It should be the default option on new installs if you use the xine backend. And the gstreamer backend is much nicer too now. I put in some icons and general eye candy. I even hacked about a bit with gstreamer to make sure that shoutcast streams in Amarok get their metadata. Xine is still a bit better at extracting inline metadata from AAC streams, but I've managed to get some good results from interpreting the StreamTitle header... it's a little hacky but it'll do for now! I also made sure that the application name finds it's way through to pavucontrol. The only problem that now vexes me is the fact that the fadeout feature in Amarok is broken with gstreamer.... I'll take a look at this tho'.

In other sound news, the ALSA plugin that redirect ALSA output to pulse has also been substantially rewritten by Lennart and is now much more stable.

So that's about it for the state of sound in Mandriva 2009.0. I hope it pleases your ears!

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