A number of updates were installed on my machine yesterday. Ubuntu asked me to reboot, but I was busy, so I never ended up doing that yesterday. This morning, I booted my machine and was very surprised to find out that my headphone jacks no longer worked. Needless to say, I was upset.

As I discussed in a previous post, I’m running Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on a Dell Studio 17 laptop and getting the headphones to work required some workarounds. Basically, you had to set up the headphones to be line outs which caused one of the jacks to function but failed to mute the speakers when headphones were plugged in. This resulted in needing to manually mute and unmute the Front audio channel when you used or removed headphones. It’s because of this workaround that I thought the jack no longer worked.

In fact, it wasn’t that the jack had failed, it’s that I had the Front channel muted. I figured that I’d just unmute the speakers to ensure that the speakers still worked, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear sound blaring out of my headphones. Not only do the headphones now work while the Front channel is unmuted, they properly disable the speakers when headphones or speakers are plugged into the jack. Needless to say, this is a very nice improvement as compared to before.

At this point I realized that the other jack might function as well. In order to test this, I left my headphones plugged in and plugged in a set of speakers to the other jack (no, I don’t commonly do this, it’s just for testing purposes). I turned the speakers on, and they too had sound, glorious sound! I put the headphones in my ears, and they too were going. I played around with plugging and unplugging cables, and everything worked exactly as you’d expect. If anything is plugged into either headphone jack, the speakers turn off and sound comes through the jack(s). Unplug all devices from the jacks, and the speakers turn on.

This seems like a simple thing, and in reality it is. However, having something work the way it should is a thousand times better than having it not work properly. This means that any Dell Studio laptop users (and most likely users of other systems with similar hardware) won’t have to mess around with their settings until the headphone jacks operate properly.

Looking at my Synaptic Package Manager history, I see that new versions of libpulse and pulseaudio files were installed. In addition to these files, an updated kernel from January 14th (2.6.27.11) was installed. I’m still new to how all this stuff works, so I’m not sure if the new kernel or the new Pulse Audio files are to be credited with the fix. That being the case, I’ll thank both the kernel dev team and the Pulse Audio dev team for your hard work. Even if one of those teams isn’t to credit for this, I can only run Ubuntu on my laptop well because of their (and thousands of others) efforts.

Thank you to the dev teams that contribute countless hours of labor so that I can keep busy on my work and my projects rather than messing around on my system all day. This next song is for you.

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