I read Chris’s blog about ALSA, and it does concern me a little. I think ALSA is most definitely the right direction for us to head in, but if users are experiencing a distinctive difference in audio quality, then this needs fixing, and fixing quick. Personally, I have not noticed the difference, but then again, I rarely use OSS, so I could do with comparing them in more detail.

Although Chris’s post was interesting, one of the comments brought up what I consider the main issue:

The biggest problem with ALSA is that configuring it is beyond any mere mortal. If your stuff doesn’t work out-of-the-box with ALSA, you have zero chance of getting it working yourself. Just try to get the optical output on that nforce4 to work and you’ll see.

Exactly. But, this is not just a problem with ALSA, it is a problem with the presentation of audio in our desktop. My question is – how much of this can we fix at the desktop level? Is there a way we can develop some sane defaults for most users, and at least make a GUI interface to sound that is simple? If you take a card such as the Delta 44 or M-Audio 1010, the configuration gets devilishly difficult due to the number of available inputs/outputs, different types of mixing etc. Even users of these high-end cards should not need to care about this kind of stuff.

I think we have a really strong multimedia stack, and GStreamer is making leaps and bounds in features and stability, but we need to nail that all important middle-ground between application-level multimedia playback and the physical sound card, and this seems to be an area that needs fixing in GNOME. This is incredibly important for Jokosher – we have gone out of our way to make audio production in it as usability and ease-of-use focussed as possible, but the whole user experience falls down if sound card configuration requires a degree in rocket science to use.

So, I ask you all – how much of this is fixable in the desktop, and if not, how much needs to be fixable at the ALSA or kernel layer? Also, how can HAL and FDI files help solve this problem?

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