OSS Audio support removed in Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat

According to this bug report (or feature request), all OSS support in Maverick Meerkat (10.10) was removed. This means that a lot of programs which are included in the base Ubuntu install do not work out of the box – and may never work if they are not updated. For some odd reason, this removal of OSS did not make it into the release notes for Ubuntu 10.10.

It appears that Debian has not removed OSS.

The removal of OSS by the Ubuntu team was continually refered to as part of “cleaning up the audio mess”; one person created a large graph of the Linux audio subsystems – which shows the complicated layout of all of the Linux audio possibilities.

There are numerous programs (in Ubuntu repositories and outside) that this affects, including:

  • tksnack
  • xawtv
  • tvtime
  • gnomeradio
  • Enemy Territory
  • Quake
  • Unreal Tournament 99
  • Video4Linux
  • mythTV
  • Wine
  • mplayer/mencoder
  • Mixer.app
  • Kino
  • XSquawkBox plugin for X-Plane
  • transcode
  • Audacity (if using OSS)
  • gtkguitune
  • CMU Sphinx (PocketSphinx)
  • gtick
  • Sniper Elite
  • VLC (if using OSS)
  • wxtoimg

These are just the ones that I could track down; there almost certainly dozens of others. Unfortunately, the removal of OSS was done without notification to users or developers, and the general response is that the programs are broken if they use OSS. This means that Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat was shipped with programs that had no audio because of missing OSS support.

This is no way to create a distribution. The only fix is to revert the “fix”: compiling your own kernel with OSS support. If you do this, you’ll also want to pin the version to the one installed so APT doesn’t try to overwrite your version with a new kernel without OSS support. There is a good tutorial that shows you how to compile your own Ubuntu kernel.

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7 Responses to OSS Audio support removed in Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat

  1. Alberto says:

    Another workaround is to use padsp command:
    padsp myapp

  2. jgoldschrafe says:

    There’s about half a dozen different trivial ways to provide OSS compatibility without the /dev/dsp and /dev/mixer kernel interfaces, and there’s really not much compelling reason to leave OSS support in the kernel in light of that. Here’s two that I can think of off the top of my head:

    http://packages.ubuntu.com/maverick/alsa-oss
    http://linux.die.net/man/1/padsp

    • ddouthitt says:

      I tried padsp (with Mixer.app and others) and it failed; all of the documentation I’ve seen is that these two suggested workarounds do not always work and sometimes add unacceptable lags.

      The worst part is that applications existed in Maverick and above that Canonical knew to be broken and refused to fix (saying instead that it was the original developer’s problem) – thus, Canonical shipped several products that were supposed to be working but did not work in a standard Ubuntu setup.

      If Ubuntu was so desperate to jettison OSS, they should have made sure all products in the distribution worked without it before they passed off Ubuntu as a working distribution.

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  5. Ankman says:

    It also affects sidplay2, an audio player for Commodore music files. I already wrote a note in the Ubunu forum, but no reaction.

    Now after updating Debian from Squeeze (stable) to Wheezy (testing) OSS support has also been dropped, as I notice trying to use sidplay2, as it is compiled against OSS and not ALSA.

    Debian, as well as Ubuntu (what is about the same anyway ;-) maintainers should either:

    - Compile sidplay2 and other programs against ALSA
    - Bring OSS compat back to the kernel
    - Remove packages which only work with OSS

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