Some audio success

In between everything else that’s going on here — including this week’s move to a new location, and the normal day-to-day crises — I have managed to make a little more progress understanding audio processing and control at very low processor speeds.

As a recap to anyone who hasn’t heard the story thus far, I’ve been wrassling off and on with audio playback in very old machines — some as old as mid-90s (i.e., pure Pentium) grade hardware.

Around a year ago, I managed to decipher the configuration options for ISA sound cards, and with that came the wonderful world of sound, at under 150Mhz.

The downside is that invariably, playback was terrible — scratchy, stuttering results when using standard-quality variable-bit recordings in ogg or mp3 format.

I’ve tried several different distros and players, with my favorite being Music on Console, even if it was terrible to listen to. In between distro hopping, I decided to test a couple of other players, this time under Debian.

It seems that cmus, which I thought I had tried, gives me perfect playback (or at least as perfect as can be enjoyed with laptop speakers 🙄 ) even when mocp is unacceptable.

Same files, same quality and bitrates, and the difference between cmus and mocp is night-and-day. mocp kicks back any amount of skipping and kicking.

Exiting the moc player, as I already knew, cleans up the playback, and that means basically that the interface itself is just too heavy for a slow processor like this.

On the other hand, cmus plays clean and clear. System load is rarely above 30 percent, with a meager 15Mb of memory (out of the 28Mb available of 32Mb physical) actually taken up.

That’s calculated via ssh, with htop and mc running inside the default Debian version of screen. CPU level is a bit high in that photo, because I’m syncing over a network.

In fact, the only way I can force it to skip is to demand something rather intensive of aptitude, such as a repository update. That much calculation and contemplation drives the processor all the way up to 100 percent anyway, so it’s no surprise if audio failures result.

So all in all, moc’s interface was just too much for a system this slow. It’s a shame, because moc is my favorite in the field of console audio players, but there’s little to be done about it.

In the mean time I’ll be trying to get my bearings on cmus, and possibly adding it to the 133Mhz Pentium, which otherwise is really only working as a file server and torrent slave. Playing music might also be in its future. 🙂

P.S.: Just for the record, all this was installed and tested on that same CF card from months ago. …


10 thoughts on “Some audio success

  1. mulenmar

    Have you tried OSS4 yet? Even on a Pentium 3, I can still note a difference in CPU load playing a Vorbis file with MPlayer with the alsa and oss-emulation outputs.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Not yet. I want to. Most of the Debian systems I run on these old, old computers crash horribly if I try to update beyond stable. I don’t see a package for oss4 in Debian except for in sid though, so it might be a while.

      On the other hand, ConnochaetOS is in beta release; maybe I can get something hot-wired between that and the Arch versions. 😐

  2. Duncan Snowden

    Although I have a fairly “modern” machine by your standards, I find these posts fascinating. I’m of the view that no matter how many CPU cycles you have to spare, the fewer you “waste” the better for the rest of the system. I’ll have to take a look at cmus.

      1. bryan

        If I’m looking at the right product, it’s also $4000/license and it’s aimed at game developers >_>

  3. Pingback: Audio in Debian on a Pentium MMX « Motho ke motho ka botho

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