[Pkg-alsa-devel] Bug#432678: alsa-utils: alsaconf kills OSS applications

Chris Lale chrislale at untrammelled.co.uk
Wed Jul 11 11:00:56 UTC 2007

Package: alsa-utils
Version: 1.0.13-2
Severity: normal

Running alsaconf (eg to configure a sound card) causes OSS apps (eg 
XMMS, Audacity, etc) to stop working in Etch (Stable). The error 
messages are:

Audacity: There was an error initializing the audio i/o layer
RealPlayer 10: Cannot open the audio device. Another application 
may be using it.
XMMS: Couldn't open audio. Please check that: Your sound card is configured
properly. You have the correct output plugin selected. No other program 
is blocking the soundcard.

The cause is that alsaconf unloads modules including snd_pcm_oss. This 
destroys /dev/pcm. When alsaconf reloads the modules, it fails to reload 
snd_pcm_oss and /dev/pcm is not recreated.

The reason for alsaconf's bad behaviour is a combination of its use of 
the obsolete update-modules command and the existence of the file 
/etc/modprobe.conf (perhaps left over from an upgrade or created by 
another application).

According to the update-modules man page, the existence of 
/etc/modprobe.conf will cause /etc/modprobe.d/ to be ignored by Debian 
packages which store their configuration files there. It also says
that no package [should] try to use [update-modules] anymore.

Because of this behaviour of update-modules, alsaconf seems to be 
ignoring a configuration file which tells it to load snd-pcm-oss. 
The configuration file is probably /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base
which contains this line:

install snd-pcm /sbin/modprobe --ignore-install snd-pcm && { 
/sbin/modprobe --quiet snd-pcm-oss ; : ; }

I moved /etc/modprobe.conf out of the way and everything now works 
properly. There have been several threads on the Debian-User list 
recently which suggest that other people are experiencing a similar 

I don't know whether Testing and Unstable are also affected but, if 
their version of alsaconf still uses update-modules and 
/etc/modprobe.conf exists, I think they quite likely will be.

-- System Information:
Debian Release: 4.0
  APT prefers stable
  APT policy: (500, 'stable')
Architecture: i386 (i686)
Shell:  /bin/sh linked to /bin/bash
Kernel: Linux 2.6.18-4-486
Locale: LANG=en_GB.UTF-8, LC_CTYPE=en_GB.UTF-8 (charmap=UTF-8)

Versions of packages alsa-utils depends on:
ii  dialog                    1.0-20060221-3 Displays user-friendly dialog boxe
ii  libasound2                1.0.13-2       ALSA library
ii  libc6                     2.3.6.ds1-13   GNU C Library: Shared libraries
ii  libncurses5               5.5-5          Shared libraries for terminal hand
ii  linux-sound-base          1.0.13-5       base package for ALSA and OSS soun
ii  lsb-base                  3.1-23.1       Linux Standard Base 3.1 init scrip
ii  module-init-tools         3.3-pre4-2     tools for managing Linux kernel mo
ii  modutils             Linux module utilities
ii  pciutils                  1:2.2.4~pre4-1 Linux PCI Utilities
ii  python                    2.4.4-2        An interactive high-level object-o
ii  whiptail                  0.52.2-10      Displays user-friendly dialog boxe

Versions of packages alsa-utils recommends:
ii  alsa-base                     1.0.13-5   ALSA driver configuration files

-- no debconf information

More information about the Pkg-alsa-devel mailing list