Straight to the Point

Ubuntu 9.04 on Dell Vostro 1510 Mic Problems

I've been running Ubuntu on my Dell Vostro 1510 ever since I got it. Ubuntu has lasted, while my XP partition and my MacOS X (yes, it worked, and almost worked like a charm) have all been requisitioned for higher purposes. But I never (until now) managed to get Ubuntu to work perfectly... there was always one small nagging problem... the Microphone.

The Internal Mic would not work for the life of me. It just refused. Infact, when I first started up music on ubuntu, there was a horrible clicking noise, and I spent quite a bit of someone else's time on IRC trying to fix it. The answer was to lower the mic volume, by the way.

But I could never get the internal mic to pick up sound. For skype calls, I've been using an external microphone. Today I decided to fix this.

Turns out there is an easy way. Another guy has already gone through all the pain ( but he's using Ubuntu Hardy, and I'm on Intrepid. So I read through his whole post, and all the comments (you can see my comments too, down towards the bottom). He links to another page, where it is outlined very clearly, ( That guy's using OpenSUSE, but the instructions can be adopted for Ubuntu. I've commented there too, for the benefit of people who go there first! Anyway, here's the instructions for getting it to work in Ubuntu 9.04 Intrepid Ibex (and possibly other versions):

  1. Edit your alsa configuration file at /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf. To do this, you can:
    • run sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf in the terminal, OR
    • Press Alt+F2, and run the command gksu gedit. When Gedit opens, open the file.
    • Browse to the file in nautilus and find a way to edit it as root.
  2. Add options snd-hda-intel enable=1 index=0 model=dell to a new line at the bottom of the file, and save.
    Note: If you're not using a Dell, but have the same ALC 268 soundcard, perhaps look at Suse troubleshooting to understand various forms of this option.
  3. Restart Alsa by running sudo alsa reload in the terminal, or gksu alsa reload in the run box that you get from Alt+F2.
  4. Open the Volume Control box by clicking on the speaker icon in the notification area (usually in the upper right corner of your page) and clicking the button that says "Volume Control".
  5. Click on the "Preferences" button, in the lower right of the Volume Control box. Make sure all of the available options are checked, and close.
  6. Put everything at 100%, and the front mic boost at 50%. You can adjust these values later, but for now they give you a good start.
  7. On the Recording tab, put both Capture 1 and Capture at 50%. Also, unmute both (Click a few times then click till you're sure it's unmuted - these buttons aren't very reliable).
  8. On the Options tab, set the upper input source as "Mic", and the lower input source as "Front Mic".
  9. Now you're ready. Close the Volume Control, and restart alsa for good measure.
  10. To test, use the sound recorder.

Now that the built-in mic is working, you have to figure out how to use the front mic for those rare occasions when you need to. Here's how, it's really simple:

  1. Turn on your laptop.
  2. Plug in your external mic in the correct port. It's the one with the Microphone symbol. You can tell it's a microphone symbol because it does not look like the headphone symbol.
    If you are using a headset with headphones and microphones, be sure that you don't get the jacks mixed up!
  3. Open the Volume Control box by clicking on the speaker icon in the notification area (usually in the upper right corner of your page) and clicking the button that says "Volume Control".
  4. On the "Recording" tab, unmute Capture1. You may have to click it a few times. When you hear a faint hiss through the speakers, you know it's ready.
  5. Use your mic!

So... is everything working? YES!!!
My Ubuntu Laptop is now fully functional, as far as I know.

Tested, Working:
Media keys, Sleep, Hibernate, Card Reader, USB ports, External VGA, Webcam, Internal Mic, External Mic, Speakers, Wireless, Bluetooth, CD/DVD drive (read and write - single layer, read - dual layer), Eject button, Brightness function keys, numeric keypad, sleep on lid close, etc.

Tested, Not Working:
Wait, I thought I said everything was perfect! Well, almost. I can still find a few things to complain about. In XP, the brightness function keys allow you to take the brightness all the way down to very low, and the steps are smooth. In Ubuntu, there are very discreet steps, and it doesn't go down all the way, which I miss. Also, the issue of having to click a bit to use the external microphone...

Firewire, PCMCIA Express Card Slot, DVD Dual Layer write, Human Brain Interface. Oh wait, the Human Brain Interface hasn't come out yet... But GnomeDo does a pretty good job!

I hope this helps someone out there!


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