Ubuntu 8.10 & PulseAudio

I recently installed Ubuntu 8.10 (The Intrepid Ibex) on my desktop computer and was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn’t have any problems loading the LiveCD.  I’ve been using Ubuntu since Gutsy (7.10) on my laptop, but the LiveCD would never boot on my desktop.  I’m not quite sure if it was the strange combination of two video cards, twin monitors, Nvidia and or SiI raid chips or what, but 8.10 was the first LiveCD that actually worked on my desktop.

After getting a chance to poke around and see what’s new, I’m pretty impressed.  Usability and stability is great.  All of my hardware worked right out of the box.  Installing Nvidia’s display drivers was so simple, just a couple clicks and a reboot, and now my multiple monitors work properly.  I was also surprised to see that my printer was installed without any interaction.  All I had to do was plug in the printer during install and the drivers were installed by default!

By far though, the one thing I’m the most impressed with is PulseAudio.  I currently have Hardy (8.04) on my laptop, and PulseAudio there is…. well for lack of a better word, complete and utter shit.  The only way I could get sound to work on my laptop at all was to completely remove anything remotely related to Pulse and set all applications to output directly to ALSA.  (Since doing that though, Hardy has been great for me.)

PulseAudio in 8.10 is quite a different story however.  It actually works!  By default, Ubuntu 8.10 does not ship with the auxilary PulseAudio controls and programs.  These include padevchooser, pavucontrol and pavumeter.  After installing these I was able to play around with the various features of PulseAudio.  I must say, I’m pretty excited about the future of GNOME and PulseAudio.  The ability to transfer streams to separate audio sinks and ‘per application’ volume control are pretty cool.

I’ve also read that now that much of the ground-work for implementing PulseAudio into GNOME is done we will start to actually see some of these cool features.  Now that most applications are using PulseAudio directly, it’s possible to get the actual metadata from the audio stream.  This allows for things like transfering all VOIP calls to your headset instead of desktop speakers, and also muting all other audio sources when a VOIP call comes through.

One thing I would like to see more though is a more PulseAudio integrated gnome volume control applet.  Currently, the gnome volume control applet only controls the overall system volume.  I was searching through Ubuntu’s brainstorm website and I stumbled upon this idea.  It would be great if something like that was planned.  Some of the mockups show what the future could hold as well.  This particular one is my favorite.

I haven’t found anything specific in the Gnome universe about what plans there are to further integrate PulseAudio, but hopefully something like the above can become a reality soon!

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