Rant in a-major

In preparation for my trip to Boston I bought a headset to use with my laptop so I could phone home using Gizmo (short review: It worked really well, as good or better than Skype on my last US trip).

I wasn’t particularly paying attention and ended up buying a Plantronics usb headset – I naively assumed it was a regular headset with audio jacks plus a usb sound card with audio in/out to plug the headset into. While I didn’t need the usb bit for my laptop I thought it would be a useful thing to have. Turns out it is a straight through usb device meaning you can’t separate the headset or plug any other audio device into the usb soundcard.

Despite the disappointment I thought I’d give it a go. Good news; the usb audio device is autodetected and drivers loaded (btw this is all on Ubuntu Breezy) and this is what happens when you plug it in;


This is good, but it all starts to go a little downhill from here. Click on ‘Open audio preferences’ and you get;


So I select ‘Plantronics headset’ and I should be done right? Well not quite – I’ve shortened the actual path to getting everything working that I took, but this is what I need to do. Before we go on however it should be pointed out that the popup dialogue says ‘Open audio preferences’ however if you want to find that again (maybe to switch back to the internal sound card for example), then it’s actually in System->Preferences->Sound – not mention of ‘audio’ (See ubuntu bug #40532). Anyway, that aside, the next things is to now right click on your volume control and select ‘Open volume control’ – just reread that ‘right click volume control select open volume control’ – see Bug #339280. Anyway you right click on volume control and select ‘Open volumen control’


which get’s you to this dialogue.


So now we need to select the correct sound card from the menu (as show above). Also I needed to the then unmute the microphone (ok I messed up I don’t have a screenshot for that). Right we’re getting somewhere now, however things are still not going to work, now we need to goto System->Preferences->Multimedia Systems Selector


and then change the settings to use Alsa mixer,


both on output and input,


I presume the problem is ESD controlling the audio device and not allowing Gizmo access to it and Gizmo not knowing how to interact with ESD. Also you have to kill ESD. Not sure what exactly is going on and don’t know where to file bugs about that. Anyway now things should work a bit better.

Of course the first audio app you start will hog the soundcard since dmix (direct mixing) isn’t enabled in ALSA by default (at least as far as I can tell) so don’t think about trying to listen to music in rhythmbox or banshee and take calls on Gizmo or Ekiga without creating an /etc/asound.conf or ~/.asoundrc file and that just makes my head hurt. Any ALSA gurus want to help me out here (I’d like dmix on my main soundcard and the usb headset if possible)?

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