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16 July 2009 10:37:37 rant, software

This rant was originally going to be part of previous multi-rant, but it has then grown in size to be fully self-sufficient.

I'm not exactly the biggest fan of PulseAudio and based on my past encounters with it I tend to blame PulseAudio for all audio issues on GNU/Linux until proven otherwise. Take that in account when you read this. Technically I think PulseAudio is neat and it has some ambitious goals but right now it simply doesn't work for me.

rant mode on

If you ask me, PulseAudio is the source of all evil. Well, maybe not the source of all evil, but to me it has done more bad than good.

First of all PulseAudio hides real hardware mixers behind its shiny shell. That would be mostly ok if the real ALSA mixer would not be muted on default on most new computers we install. I can blame Ubuntu/ALSA for that, but as far as I can remember, Debian's ALSA init.d-scripts take care of that. ALSA mixers can be used even when PulseAudio is running (if you know how) but that's not the point.

Second, many (GNOME/Cubbli) users here at university who want to use their wireless USB headphones come to ask for help. They can't seem to figure it out themself -- and I'm not blaming them. Since I've only configured ALSA to use those headphones, someone had to teach me how to do it with PulseAudio. Here's how I was told to do it.

If I get this right, PulseAudio remember which output is used for each application. This way music and movie players can use your stereo system for sound, and your VoIP application can use the headphones. That's great and all, but if I never touch those settings, but then select different device as default output device, I'd expect the sounds to go to that device. Apparently PulseAudio does not only remember user's choices, but also remember what device was used when the application was started for the first time. I can imagine why people made it this way, but part of me is still wondering "what were they thinking!?"

Third, PulseAudio constantly crashes on me. When I started working here last year didn't know anything about PulseAudio. When I first launched alsamixer I noticed that strange audio device called PulseAudio. I then started playing SIDs with my ALSA-enabled sidplay2 only to find out that after an hour or two the sound was no longer working. Applications didn't compain about the device, the volume was set properly, but there was simply no sound. Eventually I killed and restarted PulseAudio and suddenly everything started working again. After a few days I grew tired of this, killed PulseAudio but never restarted it. Only then I realized what PulseAudio was. I realized PulseAudio was unnecessary source of trouble.

rant mode off

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Miscellaneous rant

16 July 2009 09:31:16 maemo, non-military service, rant

26 (or 2**6 or 2^6) days to go

64 days to go. That's about two months. Or taking my holidays in account, seven Mondays. Then I'm done with my non-military service for good. I have absolutely no regrets working here at University of Helsinki and I have no doubt I've been more useful to the society here than I would've been serving Finnish defence forces.

Hight Voltage SID Collection

I saw this coming. Not too long ago, I finished listening High Voltage SID Collection 44, and to some degree I tried to steer clear of newer release. Well, as expected, it didn't work out. I now have some 2500 songs behind and another 4500 to go. Talking of which, can you recognise some of these songs? Your help is well appreciated. Chip-o-phobics beware.


As you may have already figured out I'm not the biggest Ubuntu fan out there. I'm into Debian because I think those folks are doing things right™. Lately I have had trouble upgrading Ubuntu 8.10 to 9.04. Things go smoothly but there are several cases where package A depends on package B while both packages contain file C, which in turn makes packages unupgradeable. I know Ubuntu snatches most of their packages from Debian, but for whatever reason I haven't had similar problems with Debian stable/unstable/experimental for ages. On the other hand, while I have 1850 packages installed the Ubuntu system has 3300.


If you ask me, PulseAudio is the source of all evil. Well, maybe not the source of all evil, but to me it has done more bad than good. Since this rant grew much longer than expected, I split it as separate entry. Go ahead, it's all there. :-)


We are making progress with Common UBuntu Based LInux (Cubbli). It's already deployed on some 200 computers. There are some missing features still, and a few rough edges, but at least it has already been put in use. The biggest concern I have is this massive collection of packages installed. Sooner or later it's going to get us in trouble. Only if package maintainers did their work...

Nokia N810

My new Nokia N810 is behaving badly. Too often after waking up from idle state the hardware keys (among other things) stop functioning, and after awhile the system reboots. Interestingly enough while my old device has never done this, the new one did that almost right after I got it out the box. There exists a bug report about this but I suspect hardware issue. Obviously my device is still covered by warranty but the trick is in (reliably) reproducing the issue.

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