Over the weekend I did a minor upgrade to my Linux Mint workstation. Shortly after, I discovered that I couldn't play sound on Youtube. Flash seemed a likely culprit, but after a bit of testing and then some searching, I found out that Firefox had dropped support for my configuration in an effort to push everyone toward Pulse Audio.
Not my first run in with Pulse. A while back I was getting echo artifacts and occasionally sound simply not playing. I found that restarting Pulse Audio would clear things up for a while, but inevitably it would flake out again. Eventually I purged Pulse and just used ALSA, which worked out fine.
If this were a proper Unix success story, that would have been the happy ending, but this is actually a cultural problem.
The F/OSS world of hackers has thrived on a cool promise. Where proprietary vendors insist that "one-size-fits-all, just do what our market research says you should do", hackers offer "anything you can think of, and the tools to make it happen." The net effect is that people make a lot of custom systems. Some of this has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Some of it amounted to weird toys. I, for one, have found that I really enjoy being bounded only by my skills and imagination.
A paragraph of bemoaning: There's been a trend of people insisting that all this customization is untenable. The perspective is that Linux needs to be saved from the hackers, and the best way to do that is to kill modular tools to make room for one-size-fits-all, too-big-to-fail components. People who don't like it are belittled as Neck-Bearded, Basement-Dwelling Throw-Backs to The 1980s (Please make that a movie... Please make that a movie...). Rude! More importantly: ineffective sales pitch! Set aside the technical debates; People angrily resist having things shoved down their throats, no matter how "healthy" or "tasty."
Okay - done bemoaning. There's another cool thing about hackers: if you can imagine a solution to a problem, someone probably already built it. This time too: APulse.