Let’s give PulseAudio a chance

Rodney Gedda

Rodney Gedda is the former deputy editor of CIO and former editor of Techworld.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lennart Poettering of PulseAudio fame. Like most open source people, Lennart is way too busy to be courting the media for interviews, so for him to spare some time after this year’s Linux Plumbers Conference was very generous.

The unfortunate thing for Lennart and PulseAudio is there are no shortage of critics that take the slightest opportunity to bash the open source sound server.

After my interview, Lennart posted a blog entry expressing his frustration at how a popular distribution like Ubuntu is shipping a sub-optimal PulseAudio package.

“Ubuntu doesn't get it”, Poettering wrote. “I thought they'd gotten around fixing things since then. Turns out they didn't.”

Poettering is concerned the in the upcoming Ubuntu release Canonical has “again” done “some genius thing” to make PulseAudio on Ubuntu perform worse than it could.

“The Ubuntu kernel contains all kind of closed-source and other crap to no limits, but backporting a tiny patch that is blessed and merged upstream and in Fedora for ages, that they won't do. Gah.”

Poettering went on to say patches Ubuntu does include are an “insult” and “disappointing”.

The moral of Lennart’s PulseAudio story is “and I'll get all the complaints. Thanks!”

To that end I can only express sympathy for Lennart and his visionary work.

There’s no doubt PulseAudio has its merits, but if the downstream distributions are shipping it (or anything else) without enough testing and integration work then it immediately defeats the purpose of shipping new software.

And the finger immediately gets pointed at the upstream developers. The Linux distros have a lot to answer for here.

That leads us back to the original source, PulseAudio itself.

The critics haven’t stopped at usability problems, and many people claim PulseAudio isn’t needed at all and is poorly designed.

I say chill out and wait for it to mature before passing judgment. Does the world need another sound server? Possibly not, but that doesn’t mean the world won’t benefit from another sound server. There is a difference.

The next few generations of Linux distribution releases – specifically the main ones of Fedora, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE – will show the world how useful a modern sound server like PulseAudio can be.

When sound on Linux “just works” thanks to technologies like PulseAudio, then we can start finding things to really complain about.

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