Friday, April 15, 2011

The Sound of Silence, Solved by a New User; Skype Not So Easy

Skype can be useful, I admit. But I haven't been able to get it to work in Maverick, at all. First I could hear callers, but they couldn't hear me. Then their sound got intermittent, and then, no sound at all. Then the other day I was messing with sound settings trying to get it working again for a meeting, but while the pulse tools registered sound, Skype didn't.

The next day, the laptop was silent. No sound in any application, the sample wave didn't work, nothing. I found a helpful page here:, and with some extra help from Himanshu, was able to restore sound. Here is how I did it.

From the page: "Can you play a known-good sound?

aplay is part of the alsaplayer package, and Front_Center.wav is part of the alsa-utils package, so both are pretty standard. So try to run
aplay /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Center.wav
." No, it would not play. Next step:

"Can someone else play a known-good sound?

Login with another user account. If this user has sound try the following.

Rename the .pulse directory of the user that has no sound to .pulse_bad. You need to do this with sudo and the user with problems must be logged out. [emphasis mine]
sudo mv /home/problem_user/.pulse /home/problem_user/.pulse_bad
." [note that problem_user needs to be replaced by your actual troubled username]

Sounds very straight-forward, but I was not for the life of me able to log in as another user. To solve that problem, a different page was somewhat helpful: When I added a new user from the gui, or from the krunner, I simply was not able to log in. I was prompted immediately for a new password, which the gui seemed never to see.

Finally Himanshu suggested, in a console:
sudo passwd problem_user
Finally I was able to type in a new password, and then log into "problem_user" today. Problem_user had sound! When I was setting up Problem_user's account, I made sure it was part of the sudo group, so than I could paste into a console:
sudo mv /home/valorie/.pulse /home/valorie/.pulse_bad
Remember, my troubled user was myself! Problem_user didn't have any problems. :-)

Update: In another attempt to get skype working, I again hosed my sound. Thanks to an anonymous comment below, I decided to try the advice delete the .pulse folder which is quite a bit simpler than the above folderol. And it works! I'm still glad I learned how to create a new user successfully, and how to administer that user.

Now, in order to participate in my GSoC administrator meeting tomorrow, I still have to get Skype going, if possible. Wish me luck! (I had sound to me working, and they had access to IRC, so it was a partial success.)

Hint: I got these helpful pages from ubottu, the bot in #kubuntu. To access these links, type !sound and !user in the channel. It is always worthwhile asking ubottu for help, either for yourself or others in the channel.


  1. I am usually a bit more radical - I just do a "sudo apt-get purge pulseaudio". If I leave pulseaudio installed, I get the same errors as you after some time. Removing the .pulse directory helps for some time, but the only definitive solution I've found is to remove pulseaudio for good.

  2. just delete the .pulse folder its only metadata about volume levels etc pulseaudio would recreate it

  3. Nothing messed up sound on my kubuntu machines as quickly as the move to pulse audio did in the current release.
    It has added nothing to the usability of the system and never seems to work. I just can't understand why people think it is so great.
    I've given up trying to get skype working again on my machine, I just use it on my wife's mac.

  4. instead of messing around trying to create a new user, just type as a last argument in grub's boot options:

    this will tell your kernel to log in at runlevel 1 (single user, root, no password asked)
    then you can do all the voodoo magic of
    find /home/ -type d -name .pulse -exec mv {} {}.bad \;
    and reboot :)