Real Audio in Debian

  2005-10-07


While my wife Samantha is usually quite content with our home computer running Debian GNU/Linux (Etch), she does have a few quite valid gripes.

The big one as of late has been the poor state of audio support in Linux. Sam and I both love NPR, and in particular the show This American Life. Unfortunately This American Life only provides shows online in the proprietary Real Audio format (unless you want to shell out cash for some DRM’d MP3s).

As far as I can tell, RealPlayer (and Helix) for Linux only support OSS based audio. My computer uses ALSA, and I had to fight to get that to work!

It’s frustrating that something as ubiquitous as audio is so tough to configure in Linux. First there’s OSS and ALSA at the kernel level. Then there’s a number of userspace daemons and libraries which wrap kernel level audio. However, some applications access OSS or ALSA directly, some use daemons, some use libraries, and some use a pluggable backend which as far as I can tell just means none-of-the-above work without hacking. (And some apps use libraries which use pluggable backends…)

Hopefully I can post again in the next few days with a solution.