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I've installed Pidgin 2.0.0 from the provided Slackware package (actually, I had to rebuild said package to include GStreamer support. Other than that, it's identical to the one Pat built). I had to install GStreamer 0.10 and plugins from source as there's no Slackware packages for these. If I set the environment variable GST_PLUGIN_PATH and then run Pidgin from a terminal, everything's great and sound works. However, if I run Pidgin from an icon, the sound doesn't work; the debug window says "sound: Unable to create GStreamer audiosink..". I don't know if this is a problem with how I've built Pidgin, or GStreamer or what :/.
Thanks for the suggestions, both of you. I reinstalled GStreamer and plugins with their default prefix (/usr/local), with the intention of trying reddazz's suggestion first. Strangely, Pidgin is now working fine (i.e. the sounds work when I use my panel icon), even without setting GST_PLUGIN_PATH anywhere. I'm not going to complain .