Murray's Blog

Getting my microphone to work

A couple of years ago the microphone on my headset (regular, not USB) stopped working. I had used it with Skype briefly. I guessed it was a problem with the headset. A while ago I bought a new headset, and that microphone didn’t work either. Then I knew that it was a software problem with Ubuntu/Linux. I have two new headsets now so I am really really sure.

Today, I was trying to get either Skype or Ekiga working between two computers on my local network, and I still can’t fix it. The laptop is using a USB microphone built in to a webcam, and that works fine. But I can’t get the headset to work with my desktop PC. Here are some screenshot to express my frustration.

System-wide Sound Preferences

The Sound Preferences control panel forces me to choose from a huge list of meaningless device names, none of which work. Here are the basic settings (in Ubuntu Hardy, but this hasn’t worked in Gutsy or Feisty, at least). The test button doesn’t echo any sound to me with any of the choices. Some of the choices show a dialog with a gstreamer pipeline error, which then hangs the control panel.

And here are the volume preferences (strangely only available from the panel applet), to show that the microphone is not muted:

Also, the Sound Recorder application refuses to start, saying “Your audio capture settings are invalid. Please correct them in the Multimedia settings.”, whatever device I choose in the Sound Preferences. Strangely, Jokosher’s wave graph shows that some input is being received when I speak, but I don’t hear anything when I play it back. It’s nice that Jokosher has no microphone preferences of its own, by the way.

Update: Juerg Billeter pointed out that there’s also a preferences window in the Volume Control, via the Edit menu. It has some obscure check boxes that I can select. None of them seem to help. So now there are yet more things that I can break while looking for the one thing that I need to change to fix the problem, so that one thing probably won’t fix the problem anymore when I find it.

Application-Specific Sound Preferences

Ekiga asks me to choose one of these devices:

Skype asks me to choose from this huge list:

And what’s with those “default” device choices in both the sound input and output? Neither actually work, though both are offered (and sometimes, but not always, chosen by default) by applications such as Ekiga.

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