February 22, 2019

Ubuntu Tip: Turning PulseAudio On and Off

Overlapping Controls and Confusion

  • July 22, 2010
  • By Carla Schroder
PulseAudio was supposed to cure desktop audio in Linux. It promised useful features like device routing and individual volume controls. It may well do these things; in my experience it has been frustrating, opaque, and unreliable.

Some have claimed that Ubuntu's implementation is flawed; I haven't looked at other distros yet, so I don't know. On my Ubuntu 10.04 system there are five separate sound control panels lurking in various locations, four PulseAudio and one Gnome:

  1. System > Preferences > Sound is the Gnome sound control panel
  2. System > Preferences > PulseAudio Preferences (paprefs)
  3. Then there is Applications > Sound and Video > PulseAudio Device Chooser (padevchooser)
  4. and Applications > Sound and Video > PulseAudio Volume Control (pavucontrol), which looks a lot like Sound
  5. paman, the Pulse Audio Manager, has no graphical launcher. This is supposed to "view and control internals of the sound server", but it doesn't do much of anything
Your system may not have all of these, depending on what you have installed.

Another fun annoyance is the Gnome panel sound control only works with Pulse-- too bad if you want to use something else, like good old ALSA.

There is supposed to be a way to stop and start the PulseAudio daemon from one of these graphical control panels. On my Lucid Lynx box, there is not. PulseAudio.org is a mess and not very helpful for users; Trac is not good for user documentation as it mixes Trac documentation with the project documentation, and it's crazy confusing.

So I Web-searched, and studied man pages, and manually searched system startup files, and finally figured out how to turn Pulse on and off so it would run when I wanted it to. Hey, why not make it excruciatingly difficult? We users can't be trusted with such serious deep knowledge. So I will pretend you are not reading this, if you will pretend I did not write it.

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