Problem with distorted sound in X application

sawbona at sawbona at
Fri Jul 9 13:56:24 UTC 2021


I am posting this question here at because it is related to an X-application.
Please advise if it has to go elsewhere.

I have recently set up an interesting, simple/lightweight system mail notification for my
Devuan Beowulf installation ...

~$ uname -a
Linux devuan 5.10.0-0.bpo.3-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 5.10.13-1~bpo10+1 (2021-02-11)
x86_64 GNU/Linux

... which got me more or less what I wanted.

Simple in that it was MTA only (no POP/SMTP/etc.) and lightweight because it had to be
independent and do just that: notify me of system mail. ie: not integrated to a panel or

I was forgetting to check my system mail regularly.

The application is called Coolmail, it's ca. 1995 (!).

Besides firing up a mail utility such as mutt, mailx, etc., it has is the option of playing a sound
alert. ie: a system beep through the on-board hardware's piezo or a sound file through
external speakers.

I cannot seem to get the system beep to be loud enough and the application is rather dated
so it uses OSS drivers, support for which was dropped in around the 4.15 kernel version. (?)

My installation has Pulse Audio installed and I've never paid much attention to it save to raise
the main volume when I'm listening to music or watching a movie, my box does no games.

In any case, I was unable to get a *.au sound file played as coolmail complained of not being
able to write to /dev/audio which was not present in my file system.

After a while I came across a post (sorry, lost the link) that gave indications for installing the
oss-compat package, which I promptly I did.

Doing so removed osspd-pulseaudio.
And now I have /dev/audio in my system, along with /dev/dsp and /dev/mixer which were
already present:

~$ ls -l /dev/ | grep audio
crw-rw----+ 1 root audio      14,   4 Jul  4 15:53 audio
crw-rw----+ 1 root audio      14,   3 Jul  4 15:53 dsp
crw-rw----+ 1 root audio      14,   0 Jul  4 15:53 mixer

Now the *.au file coolmail could not play is played but unrecognizably distorted even if I drop
the volume, so that would not seem to be the cause.

And I am still getting an error from the application:

~$ coolmail -v
Coolmail 1.3 watching file: /var/spool/mail/groucho
Coolmail: Error writing to /dev/audio.
--- snip ---

The file plays normally via Audacious, VLC and aplay:

~$ aplay -v /home/groucho/Downloads/
Playing Sparc Audio '/home/groucho/Downloads/' : Signed 16 bit Big Endian, Rate
48000 Hz, Stereo
ALSA <-> PulseAudio PCM I/O Plugin
Its setup is:
  stream       : PLAYBACK
  access       : RW_INTERLEAVED
  format       : S16_BE
  subformat    : STD
  channels     : 2
  rate         : 48000
  exact rate   : 48000 (48000/1)
  msbits       : 16
  buffer_size  : 24000
  period_size  : 6000
  period_time  : 125000
  tstamp_mode  : NONE
  tstamp_type  : GETTIMEOFDAY
  period_step  : 1
  avail_min    : 6000
  period_event : 0
  start_threshold  : 24000
  stop_threshold   : 24000
  silence_threshold: 0
  silence_size : 0
  boundary     : 6755399441055744000

I did find a post from back in 1999 with the same problem but it never received a follow up.

Any idea on how to fix this?

Thanks in advance,


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