Apr 25, 2011

How To Fix Skype Audio Distortion

Working Fix right here: How To Definitely Fix Skype Audio Distortion

Since I installed Ubuntu 11.04 the sound played by skype is very distorted. It's so intense that the individual sounds are almost unrecognizable. Something with skypes Pulseaudio integration just seems to be wrong. Other software on my system does work just fine. Only skype has this "problem". It's not only the sounds skype plays but also when I try to talk to someone over skype. They can understand me just fine, but I'm barely able to understand simple words. I remembered that I had this same problem a few years ago with skype. It just took mi some time to remember how I fixed it.

The fix is very simple for this. The problem seems to be that by default the ALSA PCM channel is at max (or almost there). Skype has problems with that. So to change this in Ubuntu 11.04 (and likely other versions/distributions as well) open a Terminal. Type "alsamixer" and press enter. Navigate to the bar (pressing left & right on the keyboard) where PCM is written at the bottom. This bar should go from green (bottom) to red (top). Press the down key a few times till the number just above PCM says something between 90 and 98. Then press the ESC key to exit alsamixer and close the terminal. Now try a skype call again. This should fix the problem, at least it did it for me here.

If you change the sound volume this will go back to 100 again. But don't worry. Skype will still work just fine, not sure why.

On my other systems the default 100 PCM value doesn't seem to create any problem with skype. So this may just be a difference in the hardware drivers for some soundchips.  Or something that happens with the way I installed my system. Maybe my PCM value was above 100 but that may only be shown as 100. Whatever the reason its fixed with this ...

UPDATE: After some reboots this problem seems to reappear on my machine. Will dig further :/

UPDATE2: A nice commenter pointed out the solution: http://www.nbuntu.cz.cc/2011/04/distortion-of-sound-in-skype-22.html

Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity - dislikes

After some days of using Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity on my main machine I present a list of the things I don't like so far.
  • The Trash as well as the Applications and Files lenses are featured to prominently in Unity. I don't event remember when I last used the Trash. Its more than enough for it to be somewhere within the filemanager. The lenses can easily be accessed over the top left ubuntu logo with just one additional click. Removing these would give more space to more important things like the apps I really use often and have pinned because of that.
  • If you set the virtual desktop size to just one desktop the Workspace Switcher should disappear automagically. Its of no use there and wastes just space. I also would like to see the switcher where the trash is now. IF the two lenses are removed and the switcher is the last part which is "mixed" with my pinned apps it would be better to separate that like the trash is now. (UPDATE: seems to disappear after a restart, nice)
  • I still think that the global menu approach is flawed by design. This is, for me at least, the case on OSX as well as in this similar approach. This just introduces new interaction problems as well as problems with different UI toolkits.
  • From time to time I still get some graphical glitches. Mostly some images missing (or are for some reason not rendered) here and there. Nothing that makes anything unusable but it looks weird and sometimes even funny. E.g. there are sometimes lines missing in the dash. Or there are sometimes white rectangles over some icons.
  • I still need to manually edit the Pulseaudio config file and set "enable-lfe-remixing = yes" for my subwoofer to work with normal stereo sound (like music playback). This is annoying and the only thing I need to edit a config file for (which I hate to do). Normal users will just wonder why the subwoofer doesn't work when they listen to music. This always gives the feel that something is broken and if you don't know what it is it's hard to find this simple fix for it. There are a lot of bug reports on this, problem seems that this is broken on some systems and enabling it by default would cause trouble for these people. There should be a checkbox in the audio preferences to simply enable and disable it.
  • Unity itself feels a bit "early". I would like it to feel more like "rock solid" just like gnome did in the past. But I guess thats expected for a first version :). This is not a "bad" point, it's more a "needs to improve" point. And I'm sure it will in future versions ...
  • As a developer I dislike that development tools are not as up-to-date as I'd like it. Mono for example or Eclipse. I keep my own copy of eclipse and just don't use mono as a result. Not a situation I like.
  • Right now I'm asked three times after each login to unlock my keyring. Don't really know why that happens. But it's annoying .. 
Thats all I can think of right now. I'm getting more and more used to Unity. With that I have to say I even like it more and more. The problems are sometimes a bit annoying but nothing that I would consider a show-stopper. 

Apr 19, 2011

Apr 18, 2011

LAS: Gnome 3 Review

Gnome 3 Review [in HD] | Jupiter Broadcasting

nice review. Don't think I can get used to all that gnome 3 goodness :/. Never got into virtual desktops, never liked them. Gonna stick with Unity for now, fits me well so far. But OSS is all about choice anyways :) ...

Apr 17, 2011

Open-sourced blueprints for civilization

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization | Video on TED.com

great! ... Hope this does work well..

Mac userfriendliness

thomas.apestaart.org » Mac userfriendliness

From time to time I have to work on a Mac and run into all kinds of "things you need to know". I sometimes wonder myself why Macs are considered userfriendly.

Hold down a “mouse” button while the machine is off. Turn it on but keep the “mouse” held down and the disk will be ejected.

WTF? How is anyone supposed to know/discover that? By randomly pressing buttons on boot till you find the right one? ...

Apr 15, 2011

Ubuntu 11.04 - first impressions

Yesterday evening I put the new Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 2 onto my main machine. Took me about an hour to get all important things back onto the system. I'm switching my main machine surprisingly late this cycle. Mostly because I'm concerned with the new Unity UI. It's new and so I don't expect it to be anything great. I think of it more as a step into the right direction. So as my main machine needs to work I decided to wait a bit longer for the switch. My netbook is running it since Alpha 2 and I usually switch my main machine at alpha 3 or the first beta. But on to my fist impressions:
  • Installation was very smooth and really very very fast. It didn't even take me an hour to get all important software back onto the system. (I usually do a clean install, just keep the home partition)
  • My ATI/AMD graphics (Radeon HD 5800 Series) card does work out-of-the-box now. So it works with the open source drivers. This has a few advantages because these support kernel mode settings. The proprietary drivers offer better 3D performance but lack in other areas. I stay with the open source ones as long as I don't have any performance issues with them. 
  • It detects now my Android handset without me needing to add a rule. I connect it and it shows up as a Android device in the developement SDK. That is great :)
  • My tablet (Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen & Touch) works now out-of-the-box. No need to compile and install the drivers myself. Also the touch part works much better now. It always has been a bit lagy and not really usable to me. Now its fast and snappy just like any other touchpad. 
  • My webcam (Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910) does work event better now. It has a much higher framerate on full HD (1920x1080) video capture (~24fps). Before it has been too slow to really be of any use.
  • The new Skype ( seems to have sound problems here. Didn't try a call but all the other sounds are very noisy and not at all like they should be. As the other audio apps work just fine I guess it's a problem with the new Skype. (UPDATE: I found a simple FIX)
  • I did change a few unity things to what I like more. I set window dodging for focus switching and activated the Shift Switcher instead of the Static Application Switcher in compiz. I also reduced the size of the launcher a bit to 42 pixel. Furthermore, I did reduce the 4 virtual desktops to just two which is enough for my taste. As most users I use them only rarely anyway.
  • I think I like the basics of Unity. There are still a lot of special case problems. As well as integration of a lot of apps is missing. I guess the next version will bring a lot more app integration with it. I almost can't wait for the next LTS release. I can imagine that Unity will be a great desktop shell by the time the next LTS arrives. All those smaller problems should hopefully be solved by then.
I am very satisfied with the working hardware part. My system is now fully working on Ubuntu without any need to install a driver. I was surprised by that and I like it a lot. Now I just need to get used to the new Unity ways of doing things. As I did use Docky for years now it shouldn't be too much effort for me :) ..

Apr 12, 2011

Apr 4, 2011

Blit Terminal (1982)

nice old video explaining how the Blit Terminal handles multitasking.