Tech Note: Ubuntu Linux 8.04 Hardy Heron Running Fine

I just installed Hardy, the brand new version of Ubuntu Linux, on the household's two Dell PCs. They're a Dimension 4550 mini-tower and an Inspiron 6000 laptop, and I'm happy to say that everything's running fine so far. (Almost.) The release is so new that Google hasn't even had time to update their toolbar for the new version of Firefox.

The irritating wake-up bug in Gutsy has been taken care of. Used to be, every time my laptop went into suspension or hibernation mode, it would have to wake up, immediately and spontaneously go back to sleep and wake up a second time before I could resume working.

The one problem that remains was introduced with the previous version, Gutsy: sound issues. When I installed it, sound died on the laptop after having worked under version Feisty. The only sound I can get out of the laptop now is when I plug in a USB headset: I'm treated to Ubuntu's mock-ethno login sound on both machines, but then I can't get any other sound out of the headset. The analog sound output on the mini-tower, meanwhile, works just fine.

Any ideas how to make the laptop sing under Ubuntu Hardy?

(Oh, and let me promote this thing: if you're running e.g. Windows and you're curious about Linux, you can download a CD image of Ubuntu, burn a disc and boot the whole operating system from it, no strings attached.)

Update 27 April: I'm lucky enough to have a number of very computer-literate friends. And David Kvarnberg is not just any computer professional: he works for an audio software firm. So, after a series of gruelling software tests conducted over ICQ, he managed to find the source of my audio problem. And it was remarkably easy to solve.

Ubuntu Linux has a master volume control in the screen-top control bar. Left-click on it to control your volume. Right-click on it, and a menu appears, including the option to "open" the volume control. This gives you a larger volume control panel with ten slider bars and six mute-buttons. When Ubuntu Gutsy and Hardy were configured for shipping, someone correctly decided that the master volume should be on and the PC speaker too. But the "PCM", line-in, CD and microphone were apparently best muted by default in this person's opinion.

PCM means "pulse-code modulation", which really leaves me no wiser. And apparently, it's important stuff. So, Dear Reader, if your Ubuntu machine is inexplicably silent, try unmuting the PCM. It worked for me!

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Great News!

Your sound problem is actually most likely a problem with the kernel. I don't know of a solution. The Hardy sound system is way superior to the older sound system and should overall work better, except for you of course.

I would not be surprised if there was a fix in the next update, maybe Sunday. That's just a guess, of course. Just keep up with the updates and suddenly everything will be perfect.

Hope you're right. My wife's had odd performance problems on her login only on the desktop machine, and I've been telling her for the past few weeks, "It'll be all right with the next major upgrade, baby". (-;

Did you make sure that your soundcard is properly selected in Gnome? Once you're on the desktop, right-click the volume icon in the upper right-hand corner and go to Preferences. You should see your soundcard selected by Alsa mixer (the sound architecture).

James, on the desktop machine, where sound works, that menu has "Dell Sound Blaster Live" as the top alternative. On the lap top, there is no such menu alternative. Ubuntu doesn't seem to be aware of the laptop's sound card.

Any idea how to switch the audio output to a USB headset?

Did you use the upgrade from 7.10? I tried but it never worked so I had to download the new version, which I haven't installed yet. I would be interested in knowing if others had a problem with the upgrade.

Check if pulseaudio is installed (search for it in synaptic).
If not, install it.

It's installed alright. I don't know what level it operates on, but I'm guessing that it can't do much if the lower-level configuration is unaware of the sound card.

Try running "pulseaudio" in a terminal, and check what the output says. If it is already running, kill that process with "killall pulseaudio" first.

Ok, it doesn't really say anything. One would think there would be an error message if no sound card was detected, but I'm not sure.
Try "sudo alsaconf" and see what it says.

The problem is probably due to an undetected sound card, or a muted sound (yes, that used to be a common problem). If you have "alsaunmute" you could try running that too.

If nothing else helps, try running "lspci" and look for the sound card there.

I've got alsa-base and alsa-utils installed in Synaptic, but neither alsaconf nor alsaunmute are available programs at the prompt.

martin@martin-laptop:~$ aplay -l
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: ICH6 [Intel ICH6], device 0: Intel ICH [Intel ICH6]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: ICH6 [Intel ICH6], device 4: Intel ICH - IEC958 [Intel ICH6 - IEC958]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: Modem [Intel ICH6 Modem], device 0: Intel ICH - Modem [Intel ICH6 Modem - Modem]
Subdevices: 0/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
martin@martin-laptop:~$ cat /proc/asound/cards
0 [ICH6 ]: ICH4 - Intel ICH6
Intel ICH6 with STAC9752,53 at irq 18
1 [Modem ]: ICH-MODEM - Intel ICH6 Modem
Intel ICH6 Modem at irq 17
martin@martin-laptop:~$ lspci | grep -i audio
00:1e.2 Multimedia audio controller: Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) AC'97 Audio Controller (rev 03)
martin@martin-laptop:~$ amixer info
Card default 'ICH6'/'Intel ICH6 with STAC9752,53 at irq 18'
Mixer name: 'SigmaTel STAC9752,53'
Components: 'AC97a:83847652'
Controls : 30
Simple ctrls : 20
martin@martin-laptop:~$

Well that looks good.
Now try running "paman" (Pulse Audio Manager) and make sure it's connected to the pulseaudio-daemon. If not, try to connect, if it still won't, then try running pulseaudio in another terminal.

Also start "pavucontrol" and check that no output devices are muted. While pavucontrol is running, try starting some music playing program and see what happens.

Paman steadfastly reports "connection refused".

Pulseaudio goves the following output (and does not terminate out to the prompt):

ALSA lib control.c:909:(snd_ctl_open_noupdate) Invalid CTL front:0
ALSA lib control.c:909:(snd_ctl_open_noupdate) Invalid CTL front:0

Pavucontrol reports "No streams available" even when I run a YouTube clip.

Pulseaudio shouldn't terminate. It's supposed to run as a daemon. Start is with "pulseaudio -D" to let it daemonize directly and then try to connect to it using paman. If it still can't connect there's some other problem. If you're able to connect go on to check pavucontrol.

Another thing to check is "lsmod | grep snd" to see if the sound modules are loaded properly.

Oh, and youtube-support (i.e. flash) is probably not the best way to check for properly working sound, since flash can have it's own issues. Use a dedicated audio player instead (whatever player you use for music for example).

Here's an interesting error message.

martin@martin-laptop:~$ pulseaudio -D
E: main.c: daemon startup failed.
martin@martin-laptop:~$

And:

martin@martin-laptop:~$ lsmod | grep snd
snd_atiixp_modem 17544 0
snd_via82xx_modem 16264 0
snd_intel8x0m 18956 5
snd_intel8x0 35356 3
snd_ac97_codec 101028 4 snd_atiixp_modem,snd_via82xx_modem,snd_intel8x0m,snd_intel8x0
ac97_bus 3072 1 snd_ac97_codec
snd_pcm_oss 42144 0
snd_mixer_oss 17920 1 snd_pcm_oss
snd_pcm 78596 8 snd_atiixp_modem,snd_via82xx_modem,snd_intel8x0m,snd_intel8x0,snd_ac97_codec,snd_pcm_oss
snd_seq_dummy 4868 0
snd_seq_oss 35584 0
snd_seq_midi 9376 0
snd_rawmidi 25760 1 snd_seq_midi
snd_seq_midi_event 8320 2 snd_seq_oss,snd_seq_midi
snd_seq 54224 6 snd_seq_dummy,snd_seq_oss,snd_seq_midi,snd_seq_midi_event
snd_timer 24836 2 snd_pcm,snd_seq
snd_seq_device 9612 5 snd_seq_dummy,snd_seq_oss,snd_seq_midi,snd_rawmidi,snd_seq
snd 56996 28 snd_atiixp_modem,snd_via82xx_modem,snd_intel8x0m,snd_intel8x0,snd_ac97_codec,snd_pcm_oss,snd_mixer_oss,snd_pcm,snd_seq_dummy,snd_seq_oss,snd_rawmidi,snd_seq,snd_timer,snd_seq_device
soundcore 8800 1 snd
snd_page_alloc 11400 5 snd_atiixp_modem,snd_via82xx_modem,snd_intel8x0m,snd_intel8x0,snd_pcm
martin@martin-laptop:~$

Everything but Pulseaudio seems to be in order. Try "sudo gedit /etc/pulse/default.pa" and comment out the line ".fail" by putting a "#" at the start of the line. Save, then try starting "pulseaudio -D" again.

martin@martin-laptop:~$ pulseaudio -D -vv
I: main.c: Called SUID root and real-time/high-priority scheduling was requested in the configuration. However, we lack the necessary priviliges:
I: main.c: We are not in group 'pulse-rt' and PolicyKit refuse to grant us priviliges. Dropping SUID again.
I: main.c: For enabling real-time scheduling please acquire the appropriate PolicyKit priviliges, or become a member of 'pulse-rt', or increase the RLIMIT_NICE/RLIMIT_RTPRIO resource limits for this user.
I: main.c: Note that real-time/high-priority scheduling is NOT normally required. If you experience crackling or other sound anomalies, consider one or more of the above solutions.
I: main.c: High-priority scheduling enabled in configuration but now allowed by policy. Disabling forcibly.
E: main.c: daemon startup failed.
martin@martin-laptop:~$