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I don't know if this is a linux problem or an xfce one,

Default installation (mint 7) came with Gnome and I don't remember this problem happening then. It only occured after I switched to Xfce,

What could be wrong?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I removed pulse audio (from synaptic) and the problem is fixed!

Based on suggestion (comment #2) from this bug report for ubuntu: xfce4-mixer master is always muted at reboot

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