Howto: Fix low system volume on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid
I recently installed Ubuntu 8.10 (the Intrepid Ibex) on my laptop. I’m happy to say that the upgrade process from 8.04 to 8.10 went very well. When I first installed 8.04 I created a separate partition for /home (there’s a great howto guide here). This made the upgrade process so incredibly painless.
After spending some time reinstalling some programs, I discovered that PulseAudio finally worked on my laptop. Even though Pulse was included in 8.04, it didn’t work on my laptop and I had to switch everything back to ALSA. I played around with Pulse for a couple of minutes, setting everything up and then I started to notice something strange. Even though my system volume was turned up to 100%, everything still seemed too quiet. I tried changing the device in System > Preferences > Sound, but nothing seemed to help.
Running alsamixer in terminal only showed one mixer track — as it should if PulseAudio was enabled, and this read 100%. After quite a bit of searching I found out what was wrong. It turned out that one of the tracks (front) on the alsa hardware mixer was turned down to about 50%. There’s no way to see this through the gui. The only way to fix this is to run alsamixer in a terminal like this:
$ alsamixer -D hw:0
This will bring up a bunch of bars representing all of the mixer tracks available on the hardware device. After turning all of these up to 100% and exiting alsamixer (press ESC), everything was working perfectly again.
Hopefully this will save someone stuck in a similar situation from a few hours of headbanging.