Table of Contents

My vision for audio in post-6.06 LTS releases

During the 5.04, 5.10, 6.06 LTS, 6.10, 7.04, 7.10, 8.04 LTS, 8.10, 9.04, and 9.10 development cycles, the Ubuntu Audio Team spent a significant amount of time triaging Linux audio issues and providing community support. From my perspective, user frustration arises from the following points:

1. No intuitive tool is included to assist troubleshooting

2. Documentation is scattered and confusing (compounded by popular Web search engines)

Point one, particularly in an "immediately usable in one's native language regardless of disability" Linux distribution like Ubuntu and its derivatives, is rather damning. One need only trawl results from a Web search for "Ubuntu sound" to find frustration at the relative difficulty in using older and newer audio devices alike. Many distributions still include the alsaconf(1) utility that suffices for many legacy sound cards, but it is unreasonable to expect Ubuntu's newer users to use such a command line tool. Additionally, nearly all distributions include the speaker-test(1) utility that verifies audible volume for different speaker configurations.

Proactive members of the #alsa IRC channel on Freenode prototyped a troubleshooting bash script that has since been merged into the ALSA project proper and is actively maintained.

Ubuntu needs a graphical troubleshooter with default "simple" and available "advanced" user paths that subsumes alsaconf(1) and speaker-test(1). In the past, Toby Smithe and I extended Martin Pitt's sound configuration utility to incorporate minimal troubleshooting functionality. Currently, the hardware testing utility developed by Canonical, now known as Checkbox, has made good strides in this regard, and asoundconf(1) should be considered obsolete in 9.10.

Point two is addressed more readily by systematic refactoring of existing scattered Web and mailing list documentation. To accomplish such a feat, a team must provide a straightforward guide (cf. Ubuntu Documentation Team's Packaging Guide) that succinctly explains resolutions to common issues and that references existing suggestions in an appendix.

Human assistance, while invaluable, does not scale easily to address hundreds (conceivably thousands) of issues that can be resolved initially, for the most part, by a user-invoked graphical troubleshooter. Similar to the Ubuntu Kernel Team's post-6.06 LTS approach of using "tiered" escalation, only critical audio issues need be addressed by human support, which will free developer resources.

Ubuntu involvement

Since the migration to Launchpad cannot represent prior activity, I will summarise:

An active, assistive presence in various Ubuntu (and derivatives) support IRC channels

Work to resolve these bugs, among numerous others

Assistance with ALSA support for the kernel team

As a member of the Ubuntu Masters of the Universe team, work in numerous "transitions"

As an Ubuntu core developer, led the audio team

Installability/Usability tests on a Canonical-provided IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad X41, model 2527

Contact info

Name: Daniel T. Chen

Location: Washington, DC, USA (EST -0500 GMT)

Electronic mail: seven.steps at gmail dot com, or crimsunkg at yahoo dot com (PGP-signed correspondence preferred)

GnuPG public key: 0xC88ABDA3

Presence: 'dtchen' on irc.freenode.net

Bio sketch

A stalwart Debian user since 1997, I have been involved in the ALSA software project ranging from enhancing device drivers to packaging new revisions. I am also a commuting member of the Triangle Linux Users Group (#trilug on irc.freenode.net). On the Debian side of things, I have assisted with ALSA, ROX, and wpasupplicant maintenance. From mid-2005 to mid-2007, as an Ubuntu core developer I led the ubuntu-audio Launchpad team that cares for ALSA development and maintenance in Ubuntu. I now assist the team responsible for general Ubuntu audio maintenance.

Of note, I have worked at IBM Rochester in UI design and at North Carolina A&T State University, teaching Operating Systems and Programming Language Concepts to upperclassmen computer science students and C++ Problem Solving to freshmen for the latter. My primary research area has included securing remote compilation tools in Grid environments; other interests are protocol optimisations for multiagent coordination/classifiers and adaptive operating systems. I use Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) extensively in research and instructive methods. I am currently an analyst with a federal employer.

Over a longer term, I am interested on reforming educational methods so that they are realigned with current technological trends. My time as a lecturer at NC A&T has exposed me to a severe lack in adequate input and response to student stimulation. Furthermore, creation of the Edubuntu derivative has led me to investigate changes to elementary, middle, and secondary school curricula that assist students and teachers alike in visualising traditionally difficult concepts. Unless posterity harnesses the tools created by the Open Source movement, we will continue to "dumb down" expectations and performance in all environments. Any positive global change should be driven by philanthropic contributions to peer groups in every sector.


DanielTChen (last edited 2009-08-26 19:25:42 by crimsun)