Remote Sound with esd and OS X (and other stuff)

July 1st, 2006  |  Published in etc

Prosaic title because if someone had done so earlier I wouldn’t have to:

I installed Dapper Drake a few weeks ago, but started playing with it in earnest yesterday. I hadn’t bothered until some rogue app or another rendered my iMac unable to boot a few weeks ago. I eventually sorted out the problem, but I was glad the problem popped up on a Saturday afternoon during Ben’s nap, and not in the middle of a workday. So I got it into my head I oughta get a backup machine back up and running, just in case.

I’ve got X11 running on my iMac, and the Dapper box is running in the closet behind me with a cable snaked out to the switch under the desk. It keeps the noise of the Dapper box, an Athlon 2400XP with a pretty big power supply, under control. If the iMac does kick the bucket, I’ll have to haul the Athlon out of the closet and plug it into the monitor, but in the mean time I can do all the configuration and fiddling stuff over X. Plus it’s making a swell Squid box.

Because I’m kind of a completionist, I wanted sound for my remote GNOME sessions. Especially once I fired up gAIM and couldn’t tell when I got a new message if I was flipped into the Mac desktop. So I got esd for the Mac and set it up to pipe sound over the net to the iMac:

On your OS X box, you install esound via DarwinPorts or Fink, and you run it with this:

esd -tcp -public

That makes esd listen. You can tell it’s running because it makes a series of distinctive test tones.

On the Linux box, you pop open a shell and tell it:

export ESPEAKER=x.x.x.x:5001

where x.x.x.x is the IP of the Mac that’s listening.

And that’s it.

More elaborate sounds take a few jiffs to traverse the network and make the speakers do something, but otherwise it just works. And it gives me an appreciation for esd I didn’t have before when it was just that pesky network transparent thing that wouldn’t even work right on localhost. Nifty.

A few other Ubuntu things to come to grips with:

The keybindings war is over and Emacs lost, I guess. When I was still a regular GNOME user, you could choose a keybinding flavor from a menu, but that got pared away in the name of protecting the users from themselves. So you have to fire up the gconf-editor and set /desktop/gnome/interface/gtk_key_theme to “Emacs”. Otherwise, you’re doomed to suffer in a limbo of Windowsesque keybindings. Horrible fate.

I was going to put a note in about how to fix the filled window moves with Metacity, but the magic didn’t work to do that.

It’s kind of funny, because I remember getting all bent out of shape about the whole “Metacity takes away all the nice things about GNOME window management” hooplah, but something has changed since then. Some things, I guess:

Apple does this crap all the time. Worse, a lot of the time it seems to be doing that stuff and not even following its own rules. A whole generation of bent-out-of-shape OS 9 fanatics continue to crab about OS X because of Apple’s seemingly whimsical approach to UI design of late.

I’ve come to realize that the allegedly meritocratic nature of Linux/open source development sort of democratizes your reaction to changes. I remember reading Havoc Pennington defending some of the sweeping changes in GNOME 2 and thinking “Who the fuck is Havoc Pennington?” because he’d just sort of arrived and scaled the GNOME bureaucracy and now he was changing crap. I had a name, I had his kind of arrogant, terse writing on his own decisions, and I was subscribed to mailing lists where it was right and proper to say things like “Who the fuck are you, you arrogant sod?”

I can do that on Apple bulletin boards, I suppose, but yelling on an Apple bulletin board is about like yelling at a wall of shiny white plastic. It does not respond. No one cares. Apple’s been busy blowing off people who have memorized pieces of its own human interface guidelines for half a decade now. It doesn’t care what someone who usually buys refurbed Macs thinks.

Sometimes I think the only way Apple will lose the customers it does care about is if it starts packing bits of limburger and putrid hamburger into the fan vents of every machine it ships. And be ready for Gruber to defend that, too.

Anyhow …

It’s been four years since I was a regular Linux user. I’ve had Linux machines in the house almost the whole time since, but it’s been four years since I sat down in front of one and thought to myself “If I don’t get work done on this, I am not going to get any work done at all today.”

Having had some time to dink around on this Ubuntu box, I kind of understand the micro-trend of nerds fleeing their Macs and calling Ubuntu home. Things about the Linux desktop are better. They’re not so “better” that if, as I did six or seven years ago, a friend asked I’d say “Yeah … sure … try it out” because I know a lot more computer users than I did back then. There are more of them, and they have deeper expectations than they did, and I’ve learned that on the spectrum of people willing to do fiddly stuff to a computer, I’m pretty far over to the “fiddly” side. So … no … wouldn’t give it to Aunt Tilly.

On the other hand, things have improved to the point that I don’t feel like I’m overfiddling to get a good result I can live with. That’s a pretty good point for it to be at as far as I’m concerned.

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