A Tale of Audio, Firefox, and X-Windows

The venerable X-Windows has network support with grace and elegance that other window systems (I’m looking at you, Windows) have yet to come anywhere near. Point your applications at any xserver on the network, and there they run — what could be easier? On the down side, this seems to have been developed before sound was particularly important, so without doing anything fancy, your application runs anywhere but (if you’re lucky) any sound it produces emanates from the machine running the actual application. This can be somewhat disorienting, at best.

The dubious goal: to get a flash game working on an x-server — one that doesn’t even have a browser installed.

The first step was to get Firefox/Flash sound working on the gentoo x-client. (It’s been gone over many times, but X appears to use these terms backwards, a tradition which I will continue.) Simple enough:

export DISPLAY=xserver:0.0
firefox

There’s firefox, but, no sound on either the client or the server. A review of what the terminal is spewing out shows:

ALSA lib confmisc.c:848:(snd_func_card_driver) cannot find card '0'
ALSA lib conf.c:3500:(_snd_config_evaluate) function snd_func_card_driver returned error: No such device
ALSA lib confmisc.c:397:(snd_func_concat) error evaluating strings
ALSA lib conf.c:3500:(_snd_config_evaluate) function snd_func_concat returned error: No such device
ALSA lib confmisc.c:1248:(snd_func_refer) error evaluating name
ALSA lib conf.c:3500:(_snd_config_evaluate) function snd_func_refer returned error: No such device

Weirdly, other sound applications appeared to work perfectly well, albeit from the wrong box. Also weirdly, the card is clearly there and enabled, and ALSA is configured in the kernel (not as a module) with the correct sound card.

After a couple of useless dead ends, running Firefox as root revealed that it’s a permission problem. I can think of more useful ways in conveying this, but placing the user into the audio group takes care of that problem. Now I’ve got local audio, at least.

The next trick is to get the client (Gentoo) to send its audio to the server (FreeBSD) .

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