Fedora-7 rant #3: Sound

Les hlhowell at pacbell.net
Sat Jun 16 17:03:02 UTC 2007

On Sat, 2007-06-16 at 17:08 +0100, Timothy Murphy wrote:
> Andy Green wrote:
> >> When I try the CLI command "alsamixer" instead
> >> I get 19 (yes, 19) controls,
> >> none of them properly labelled.
> ...
> >> Is there a simple introduction to Fedora sound somewhere?
> > 
> > You're ranting about Alsa, not Fedora.  All the other modern distros use
> > Alsa too.
> That's no excuse.
> I'm sure ALSA is technically far better than OSS,
> but the user interface is unbelievably bad.
> How can people put up with this?
> > The core trick to recording stuff is to understand that the default pane
> > of controls in Alsamixer and kmix is only to do with playback.  If in
> > that pane you unmute Mic and turn it up, it will loop back the mic data
> > from the mic channel to the output without recording anything.  The
> > usual result of that is howling feedback.
> > 
> > What you want is in the second pane of alsamixer, which you get to with
> > a Tab key, this deals with the input sources.  You need to select a
> > recording source by using the left/right arrow keys to navigate to it a
> > space to enable it as an input source.  In kMix its the same deal with a
> > second tab pane having these controls and a circle above each source you
> > click on to select.
> > 
> > Sometimes what the driver reports about the mixer controls doesn't
> > reflect reality.  In these cases the wrong buttons and sliders do the
> > wrong job.  Most of the time though it does work after some meddling on
> > your part.
> You fill me with hope,
> but not with respect for ALSA.
> If Fedora, or any other distribution, choose to use ALSA
> (without any alternative, as far as I can see)
> then Fedora or whoever is responsible for the ensuing mess.
> Why should sound under Fedora be a hundred times more difficult
> than setting up a DVD player, or a mobile phone?
> If Fedora is to have the slightest chance of success in the real world
> then it must ensure that simple things like sound and printing
> just work "out of the box.

Hi, Tim,
	I see you are a mathematician.  And that means you truly understand
combinatorial issues, and exponential growth.  Both of these impact the
development of complex audio on PC's, and added to that is the
combinatorial contribution of all the various interfaces.  Your DVD
player may be simple, but internally it has lots of options, and it only
deals with the designers original choice of circuitry.  That simplifies
his task, reduces the impact that combinations of components, and
combinations of use options adds to the mix.  Moreover, his marketing
input is to "Simplify the interface and give a good experience from
pre-recorded media."  Further simplifying his choices are the agreed
upon standards for the media choices made.  In addition, most of the
programming is internal to the devices chosen.  None of this reflects in
your complaint about the interface, but it all should provide some

	Moreover, Fedora is "design edge" or "Bleeding Edge" development.  It
is intentionally an unrestricted environment, to empower users,
developers and artists of the digital realm to explore and expand our
experience.  There are other Linux distributions with other goals.  You,
the user can choose the one which you feel best fits your needs.
Moreover the choice has no cash costs associated.  If you don't like
one, download another.  It's a choice.

	Alsa is a separate entity.  Its interface is driven by its users and
created by its designers and programmers.  You can speak to them via
their chosen list or website.  They may even offer a different
interface, or some new software that you can help evaluate and
contribute to the community.

	We welcome your comments, and I am sure that others will hear of the
issues you describe.  But in reality this is an ALSA issue.  There are
many many documents on line and in books about Linux.  Audio has many
followers, from those creating new environments (check out Croquet), to
those working to create virtual instruments, and some running on line
"Jam sessions".  You may find some of that interesting as well.  It
depends on your interests and perspective.

Les H

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