For many newer Ubuntu enthusiasts, I have found that Pulseaudio remains a bit of a mystery and worse, trying to hand audio when a Skype call comes in or you start a video while waiting for a Ekiga call to come rolling in. This has brought me to using Ear Candy for advanced sound management in Ubuntu. Despite being an alpha level application in many ways, it’s actually pretty amazing. Let me draw out a scenario for you.
You’re rocking away to your favorite music, whether it be on Pandora or with one of the common music apps on the desktop like Banshee. Suddenly a Skype call comes rolling in and you’re left trying to turn the volume down on the music so you can take it. Instead of the volume going down, you accidentally turn it on. Skype is still ringing. You answer Skype, only to tell the caller to hang on for a sec as the music is still blaring. Clearly you can see how this is a real prolem.
Enter Ear Candy
Easily the coolest thing to ever come to Pulseaudio, Ear Candy turns down the volume on movies/music/etc as a VoIP call from apps such as Skype come rolling in. Nice, huh? Even better, if you’re listening to the music on speakers, you can set Ear Candy to magically send all of the audio to the USB headset. And this is a huge time saver, let me tell you. Unfortunately like with any software being developed, there is an issue that bugs me. Because of Ubuntu alerts already being turned on for when stuff like Skype sends an incoming call alert to you, it’s impossible to keep Ear Candy set to playing the speakers with audio if the settings are made to move audio to the headset when a new sound comes in. So in that instance, Ear Candy is buggy.
Getting around the bugs
Despite the app’s growing pains, it’s fairly simple to overcome the bug with everything being sent over the USB headset no matter what. Just disable that function. Simple. When an incoming call takes place, you will see the fade or cut out of the music happen while hearing the Skype call ringing. From here, volume control and output…send it to the USB headset. This way you can take the call. For those using speakers and no headset, this works great as you have a standard jack type headset. So there is nothing to do other than take the call. Easy.
Adding apps and management
It’s unfortunate that there are zero articles actually providing an inkling of instructions on how to use the app as it’s pretty useful. That said, it’s easy once you understand a few things. The Add feature, sucks. This said, it still works. Let’s say you wanted to add Banshee, since it’s a Mono app and it’s not already included. Cool. click the big + sign and with Banshee playing music at that moment, locate a music stream from the first pull down menu that says something like ALSA-plugin [Mono]. That would be it. Choose add, then with it appearing not to have worked, close the box with cancel.
Now go back to the application list with the lower right pull down menu set to all rules, you will see mono as an option. Double click it. Set the category to Music. Leaving everything else alone unless you do not want fade volume. I always hated it, so I uncheck it. Remember, I avoid fade like the plague because it makes it seem like the app not working. So if it’s unchecked in mono, incoming Skype calls with interrupt the music with the ringing.
Still stuck on keeping fade? Fine. Right click on the Ear Candy applet, choosing Preferences. Then the Advanced tab, you’ll want to make sure the fade slider is all the way to the right for the best speed. This will ensure that the fade is near instant and smooth for you.