The Black Magician Trilogy

I’ve just finished the second book of the “Black Magician Trilogy” by Trudi Canavan consisting of the books “The Magicians’s Guild”, “The Novice” and “The High Lord”. I’m thoroughly enjoying this series. I’m reading this as usual in English, but it is easy enough to read that I don’t have to be constantly turning to the dictionary. I’m even taking it with me to work, so that I can use my little spare time during lunch break to dive into the story again.

So, if you’re a fan of Sience Fiction and Fantasy novels, this series is highly recommended.

Problems with multiple cards of the same type

The biggest obstacle of getting my two sound cards working nicely together was actually to keep the order of the cards the same between reboots of my Gentoo Linux box. Once I thought, I had everything configured correctly after the next reboot the two cards had switched positions again, with the mixer portion of the TV additionally disturbing things. I experienced similar things with my PVR and analog TV cards. Most of the time the analog TV card would be /dev/video1, but 1 out of 10 boots it would be initialized as /dev/video0.

I found the solution for my sound cards in this thread on the Gentoo forum. For this to work correctly at least these versions of the below packages are required:

>=baselayout-1.12.9
>=module-init-tools-3.2.2-r2
>=udev-104-r9

The three soundcards are blacklisted in the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist:

blacklist snd-via82xx
blacklist snd-emu10k1
blacklist snd-bt87x

In /etc/modules.d/alsa the cards are configured this way (the index argument being the important one and the settings are incorporated into the file /etc/modules.conf by executing modules-update):

alias snd-card-0 snd-via82xx
options snd-via82xx dxs_support=1 index=0
alias snd-card-1 snd-emu10k1
options snd-emu10k1 index=1
alias snd-card-2 snd-bt87x
options snd-bt87x index=2

And finally the required sound card modules are loaded via /etc/modules.autoload.d/kernel-2.6, which contains

snd-via82xx
snd-emu10k1
snd-bt87x

I actually think, that the index-options for sound card modules don’t really have an effect. During the various test reboots the resulting card configuration didn’t really fit with the setup in the files. Only when they were loaded via /etc/modules.autoload.d/kernel-2.6 the card order was correct.

I fixed the situation with the TV cards differently. Here I created some local rules in the file /etc/udev/rules.d/10-local.rules.

KERNEL=="radio*", SYSFS{name}=="*radio*bt878*", SYMLINK+="radio" 
KERNEL=="radio*", SYSFS{name}=="*radio*bt878*", SYMLINK+="bttvradio"
KERNEL=="video*", SYSFS{name}=="*video*bt878*", SYMLINK+="bttvvideo"
KERNEL=="vbi*", SYSFS{name}=="*vbi*", SYMLINK+="bttvvbi"
KERNEL=="radio*", SYSFS{name}=="ivtv0 encoder radio", SYMLINK+="ivtvradio"
KERNEL=="video*", SYSFS{name}=="ivtv0 encoder MPEG", SYMLINK+="ivtvvideo"
KERNEL=="video*", SYSFS{name}=="ivtv0 encoder PCM audio", SYMLINK+="ivtvpcmaudio"
KERNEL=="vbi*", SYSFS{name}=="ivtv0 encoder VBI", SYMLINK+="ivtvvbi"

I then access each of the cards through the symbolic links, which always point to the correct hardware.

In retrospective this whole mess startet, when udev-1.0x was declared stable. This version provided “coldplug” functionality, that is the udev subsystem loaded the modules for all the hardware recognized by the kernel.

I’m wondering, how other distributions are handling this. Or is Gentoo the first to actually use udev-1.xx?

Additional Soundcard

Well, I decided, that I needed an additional sound card. Something better than the AC97 onboard stuff. I settled for a Creative Audigy 2 ZS, which I ebayed for 46 Euro. According to specs the card sports a signal/noise ratio of 108dB.

Wow, this card is an advanced piece of hardware. After installation, it took me nearly an hour until the first sounds came out of the speakers. When I started the KDE kmix mixer application the whole screen was taken with tons of sliders, which could be adjusted. It took me another two days and intensive studies of the ALSA projetct page and the Wiki that I can now say, that everything is cooperating nicely. In particular I now understand the configuration of the ALSA sound system much better.

I’ve kept the connection of my analog Hauppauge WiNTV to the Aux input of the motherboard sound system. This input is slightly more sensitive than the Creative Aux input and therefore gives me a better noise/signal ratio without signal distortion. The line-output of the mobo sound is then connected to the line-input plug of the Creative card.

This whole 7.1 surround sound is slightly over the top for me, however. The hardware mixing capabilities of the Audigy card was what originally led me to this card. One drawback is, that the three analog channels Aux, CD and Line can only be recorded as a whole. It is not possible to record Aux while you’re listening the CD input.