Protecting Audio Configuration in Ubuntu during Real Player Install
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Best of all would of course be not to install real player, it being proprietary and all.
However, I'm not here to talk you out of it. Given that you're not providing your readers with much information, the only "bulletproof" suggestion I can come up with is to set up a chroot jail in which you install the piece of software in question, then see if it has broken anything. However, setting up a chroot jail can be tedious work.
Now, a few probing questions: exactly what do you mean by "the installation broke everything"? I assume it didn't break your ming vase sitting next to your computer. I also assume it didn't break your monitor, keyboard nor pointing device. So, a bit more verbosity here will allow me (well, us) to give better suggestions.
Did it break the file association between certain audio file types and your favorite player? Did it mess with the alsa configuration? Did it mess with your mixer settings?
Also, exactly what do you mean by "Real Player didn't work"? Did it crash? Did it not start up? Did it not load files? Did it not produce any sound? Did it emit any error messages?
Read "Asking questions the smart way" by Eric Steven Raymond, and "How to report bugs effectively" by Simon Tatham. Both are easy to find with a little help from your favorite web search engine.
I apologize for being so vague; I was only wondering how to make some sort of "restore" point (ala XP) that I could return to if things went awry -- what had happened in the past seemed irrelevant at the time.
However, if doing something like this is as difficult as you suggest, then I will have to come to grips with the problem itself.
All this happened several weeks ago, so my memories are indistinct. By "the installation broke everything" I meant simply that the audio system went dead. XMMS, Totem, and Audacity no longer created output at the line-out jack. Audacity, Gramofile, and sound-recorder created files, but they contained only silence. Real Player may have been decoding audio streams from the web, but again, there was nothing on the line-out jack. I don't remember it issuing any warning messages, but I'm old and forgetful ...
I've since learned that Debian's esd is incompatible with my sound card, and that changing to Alsa allows me to actually use the sound system, but I'm still afraid of Real Player. I wouldn't use it at all except for the fact that so much classical music from Europe is provided only in that format.
Thanks for taking the time to answer, and thanks for the article suggestion. I shall take its advice to heart next time.
Random thought: install tripwire, and use it to see which files are altered during the installation of RealPlayer. Then look at the contents of those files and see if it's reasonable (to the best of your ability, at least). If not, use `dpkg -S' to find out in which package the file belongs; a simple reinstall of the package should do restore the file to how it looked before realplayer messed with it.
Also, I wouldn't say setting up a chroot jail is difficult; it's just tedious. However, there are packages which might make it easier; I'd probably look into jailer, schroot and dchroot. Also, do an apt-cache search chroot to see what's available on ubuntu.