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Old 11-26-2008, 05:26 AM   #1
Registered: Dec 2001
Location: /mnt/UNV/Mlkway/Earth/USA/California/Silicon Valley
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Wink How does Pulse Audio compare to Jackd / ALSA?

Hi all

I am having some trouble of judging who and what the new kid on the block is, pulse audio.

I have just gotten comfy with the jack audio system, because it just does more than any other.

Now I wonder what pulse audio is, how it compares with jack and how to alsa and what its aims are. To replace ALSA or jack?

What are the strenghts of pulse audio over the above mentioned? Is there a good reason why it is pushed in all distros right now?

Can it coexists with others?

thanks for any pointers

Old 11-26-2008, 06:23 AM   #2
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There is actually little point in comparing Pulseaudio and ALSA for the simple reason that they are different things. Pulseaudio is a sound server - like ARTS and ESD - while ALSA/OSS are more low-level and interact more directly with hardware. As it is, Pulseaudio relies on ALSA to do its job BUT part of this is still unimplemented, which has been causing headaches for some while as people who had a perfectly functioning system suddenly find that their hardware does not work anymore. This should be fixed in time but for now, using Pulseaudio is still a bet. It has been working fine for me ever since I found it as a default in Fedora 8 - but as I said, this is not the universal experience.

Last edited by jay73; 11-26-2008 at 07:34 AM.
Old 11-26-2008, 07:26 AM   #3
Registered: Dec 2001
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Ok, I see. Thanks for the clarification.

I always thought that ALSA was enabling for several sound applications to use the soundcard at the same time, but was dissapointed several times that a program couldn't open ALSA, because it was busy. Old problems die hard (like this one of OSS).
So pulse audio acts as a soundserver above ALSA, the same as Jack basically. I know that ESD has become aged somewhat, great that there is a replacement for it finally.
Especially audio sending data over the network is a important thing.

Does anybody know if pulse audio logs properly, so it is troubleshootable? ALSA is a real P.I.T.A. because it logs absolutely nothing anywhere. If things go wrong, it is impossible to troubleshoot.

jack does a wonderful task in logging, so you can always know what the thing is doing and when it fails, WHAT is failing and why.

I know that pulse audio has gotten enormous flak for fouling audio in Ubuntu Hardy and I think it was a very bad move to put unfinished code and more importantly, switch to a new sound server in a Ubuntu LTS release. These should come out a little more robust and stable and the opposite was true. I guess many got burned while upgrading and found their audio broken.
I wish pulse audio all the success that it can get in the future. Linux audio is (unfortunately) a gigantic mess and every step in bettering it is appreciated.

Old 11-26-2008, 07:31 AM   #4
Registered: Dec 2001
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>I shall be telling this with a sigh
>Somewhere ages and ages hence:
>Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
>I took the one less traveled by,
>And that has made all the difference.

>--Robert Frost

I like that quote very much. I live totally by it.
Being an individualist carries more freedom and rewards than being a conformist and do what everybody else does. Hiding in the masses is maybe comfy, but makes you exchangeable and redundant.

Old 12-05-2008, 01:07 PM   #5
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to be honest, i'm not really confortable with pulse audio thingy i'm just a linux end user. most of the time i get this pulse things messing with my sound while playing a game or watching a movie or playing a music... i don't knoww why but i prefere the jack plugin which works prefectly and enable my 5.1 surround without headaches...



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