Acer, kubuntu and pulseaudio

So having got the sound to work on my Acer Aspire 8920 there was one small annoyance left and that is that I can only use one sound application at the time. It does not sound as a very bad thing, but its annoying. Like when i playing my game and someone sends me a msn message, kde tries to sound a audible warning or notification and I cant here then – all will pop up when the game closes down.

When reading about pulseaudio it seems to promise to solve all the problems, multiple applications and even individual volume controls for each application, so it seems promising. The only problem is that kde is not handling pulseaudio direct so there might be some work necessary to get the kde notifications going.

First thing ofcuase was to get the sound to work at all. Without ALSA working i dont think this would have succeeded at all. I did found 2 notes/links to information about how to do this so i followed that and added some things of my own.

Install pulseaudio

Started of with backing up important configuration files (don’t worry if you see “no such file or directory” warnings):

Then we install some packages to ensure that all the pulsaudio will work right. I also added the pulseaudio package to this (all on on line):

Create a new “~/.libao” file and set the default driver to “pulse” for libao applications:

Create a new “~/.asoundrc” file:

And add the following to the file:

This should have set everything up and so. The only thing left is to go into sound and hardware and set the sound system up to ALSA.

And still no sound.

So reading some more and found another guide, so I followed that to. This will probably be some overlaps but lets try it also.

Install additional packages:

Edit /etc/asound.conf and set the following content:

Edit  /etc/libao.conf and have the content sat to:

If the files dont exists, create them..

Install more packages and packaged for the default libSDL:

The last install will warn about conflicting installs but that as it should be. Allow it to install.

Now add the following lines to /etc/apt/sources.list (this will add a new repository, from zman0900 so that we can install the patched SDL driver):

Then run the following to get the patched DSL driver installed:

You will get a warning about installing from an unknown source but I went ahead and did it anyway.

Last thing to do now is setup one environment variable for the patched SDL driver and you do that by editing your .profile and add the following 2 lines to the end of the file:

This should be it and we can now reboot the machine and see if it works. And guess what, It did not. Hum more googeling and a bit of searching and I found out that for some reason the pulseaudion daemon did not start up as it should. First I tried to start it up manually with:

And now the pulseaudio things works. Well kind of. I still don’t have any notifications from KDE but all other applications i start works so this is kind of on its way at least.

Configure kde

So KDE is not playing along so far. More sufring and checking for answers. Apparently KDE (and kde3 as I’m using) is using the artsd to play sounds. This daemon is not ready to work with pulseaudion, but it can be configured to work to esd (Enlightened Sound Daemon) and that one is OK with pulseaudio. So i reconfigured sound hardware and wolla I got it to work.

Sound from kopete when someone pings me, at the same time as i play music via amarok. Nice.

If you whant to do this you can edit the .kde/share/config/kcmartsrc

No its the only thing lft to test and thats to reboot the system and se that it works after that. So I reboot again and no sound – dam.

More checks and the sound daemon is not running. One suggestion is to make a small Autostart file in .kde/Autostart and that did start-up the pulseaudio daemon but there is still problem with the kde notifications and I think its due to the fact that Autostart starts up the pulseaudio deamon long after the time when the artsd has started and tried to access the sound already. Have to find a way to start the pulseaudio daemon earlier. After reading some manuals i found the way and its to configure Xsession (the program that normally start up Xsession in the X11 world). It has a number of config files and you can add new things in /etc/X11Xsession.d. So I created a new file /etc/X11/Xsession.d/99-pulseaudio withthe content:

And tested and rebooted the system (after removing the Autostart file first) and now the sound works perfectly as it should.

I did have a bit of a problem getting skype to work so you need to configure the daemon to get away with some of the stuttering. Se next part under skype for that config also.


So now the basics things in the system will work as it should and I can even adjust individual application sounds levels with the pulsaudio volume control – very nice. But not all applications are that well-behaved.


Amarok is using xine as a backend to play sounds and its fully integrated into the pulseaudio system so thats just works out of the box. Very nice.


When reding the notes about wine it seems to be a problem but it also said that the latest version should work with padsp that emulates the oss layer onto pulseaudio.

So I started up winecfg and selected oss as the sound device. I then started up my EVE client with padsp:

And it works prefectly. I changed my desktop icons to do the same and this is now working.


Skype has some problems with pulseaudio it seems. There are some cases of stuttering an you can get that out of the way by changing the priority of the pulseaudio daemon.

Add your user to the groups “pulse-access” and “pulse-rt”:

Edit ~/.pulse/daemon.conf:

Add the following lines to the end of the file, and save:

As I’m using my USB headset for sound for my phone, I could set the output and input of the skype client to the USB plughw device, and set the ring device to pulse. This made my skype work.


ekiga and my other softphone (sjphone) has a bit of a problem with pulseaudio, but the same thing as I did with skype, can be done with these to. As they do release the audio hardware after a call, and you really only can talk to one person at the same time, its not a big deal. Ekiga uses arts for its ring signal and that goes over the pulseaudio without any problem. So I can use it as it is now.


Audacity is the very nice sound tool for recording and manipulation sound files. It can unfortunately not use the pulseaudio system and will lock up and not work nicely if you try.

As this might happen for some applications there is a small utility called pasuspender that will stop the pulseaudio system, run one application and start up the pa system again after its done. Very handy. So to run audacity you do:

That will make audacity having full access to the hardware while its running and when it stops you get the sound back over pulsaudio again. I changed my menu item for audacity to do te same.


HOWTO: PulseAudio Fixes & System-Wide Equalizer Support (Hardy Heron)

How To: The (almost) Perfect Pulse Audio Setup

PulseAudio – The Perfect setup talks a lot of different applications

5 thoughts on “Acer, kubuntu and pulseaudio

  1. Hi Jan

    Im having lots of problems with my sound after installing 9.04 Ubuntu, I used to run your set up on 8.10 acer 6920G so I was hoping that you could help my.

    Do you run Ubuntu 9.10 and does your sound work? If not can you help me come back to 8.10??

  2. Hi there!

    No i have not upgraded to 9.04 yet – still running on the old 8.04 version.

    I have planned to do this during the summer, but not sure when.

    To back down to 8.04 from 9.04 im not shure how to do that. I usually take a full backup before doing an upgrade, and thats probably the easiest way of going back. Another option is ofcuase to reinstall 8.04.

  3. thank you, Jan. I’m backing up my home now, and planning a reinstallation of 9.04 to see if I can get sound? If not I’m going back to 8.10. do you have your Home in a seperate partition? If so, how big is your different partitions?

  4. My laptop has 2 drives of 250 gb each, so i have one disk just as a storage disk for big files (videos, music and so on) that I have backed up in other places so that mounted sepeare on /CD as thats a standard we have in my company, and the rest is just one big partiion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.