Better Linux Sound Management With ALSA
Webcams Win, Author LosesPart 2 of "Webcams in Linux" is going to appear later, as there are a number of kinks and roadblocks to work out. So today we're going to dig into ALSA, the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture, because I think it's the best tool for managing your Linux sound devices. It's good for managing multiple sound devices, and it works in all Linux environments including other window managers, or no X Windows at all.
Yes, I know that Gnome has ESD (Enlightened Sound Daemon), and KDE uses aRtsd (analog Real time synthesizer daemon). Aside from the annoying problem of having to cope with multiple sound subsystems, both ESD and aRtsd introduce complications, such as conflicts with ALSA and latency. Latency is the enemy of sound quality, especially over a network. So when you're streaming audio (either by itself or with video), using a software IP phone, or playing online games the first thing to do is turn off ESD or aRtsd and use only ALSA.
Virtually all modern webcams require V4L2, but some Linux applications and camera drivers still don't support it. Support in some applications is so new it's not in distribution repositories yet, so you have to build from sources to get V4L2, and you usually have to read the Changelogs to figure out what's going on. It's understandable that an unfunded overworked FOSS project would have problems with this, but get this- Adobe's Flash Player for Linux does not support V4L2. (And still no 64-bit version.) This makes live Internet streaming a problem- you can't use sites that host your live streams for free like Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, and Stickam.com, or use free video chat and phone like Tokbox.com because they depend on Flash. So your options are to use an old lower-quality camera that supports V4L version 1, or to capture and host your own streams. Let's have a big cheer for proprietary innovation! Or in Adobe's case, enervation.