I have been using Skype for over 10 years now, almost since the initial release, and most of my friends/family/colleagues use it too. So switching IM is not an option.

Microsoft has recently changed Skype protocol to force users to update to newer version. I will skip the emotional part a.k.a "What do I think about MicroSoft". If this info is new for you, feel free to read:

The situation is simple I have to update to newest version even on my Linux Mint machine. Newest version for Linux is 4.3

The problem I have faced is that in v 4.3 as part of improvements, Microsoft has dropped the support of ALSA:

So now Skype can only be used with PulseAudio. I have uninstalled PulseAudio long time ago because it was the source of countless bugs and glitches. Here is the list (not the full one) of issues I was experiencing with PulseAudio:

  • Mute button mutes the sound but does not unmute it
  • Slider of Pavucontrol gradually increases the sound to ~60%, then just jumps to 100%
  • When playing movies, pause buttons stops the video, but the sound continues to play for ~5 seconds.
  • When switching between songs or rewinding/seeking in Audacious sound becomes choppy
  • Choppy sound in Youtube
  • High CPU usage by PulseAudio process.
  • Sound is choppy in VirtualBox guest (tested with win XP only)

I am not the author of the phrase, but I will quote it here, because I strongly agree with it:

Most problems with the sound in Linux can be solved by removing PulseAudio

So now I face the dilemma: I have to use Skype, because I cannot force all my friends/family colleagues who are mostly Windows users to switch to other IM software. But to continue using Skype I now need to install PulseAudio (thanks to Microsoft). And, (hurrah!) I get all the old bugs, that I missed so much.

Does anyone have a workaround to this problem? Is there a way to use Skype 4.3 with ALSA? Or is there a way to trick the system and log in with the older version of Skype? Or maybe (in the worst case) run PulseAudio just for Skype and make sure it does not interfere with the rest of applications, drivers and system sound?

I am using Linux Mint 13: Maya

Any suggestions, thoughts, links will be much appreciated.

  • I was thinking to set up a virtual machine only for this reasons. Do you think is a reasonable workaround? – Hastur Sep 10 '14 at 22:25
  • Hm... It is not reasonable for me. However it is a workaround and it may be useful for someone else having the same problem. – Art Gertner Sep 10 '14 at 22:44
  • have a look at this thread forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-p-7597786.html – Fegnoid Sep 11 '14 at 11:49
  • @Fegnoid, thanks, this looks like what I am looking for. I will try to test this solution over the weekend and I will update my post with results! – Art Gertner Sep 11 '14 at 12:12
  • Why can't you stay with Skype, and which Linux distribution are you on? – harrymc Sep 11 '14 at 13:43
up vote 12 down vote accepted

You can try using apulse: it is minimalistic pulseaudio emulator made specifically to run Skype 4.3 with ALSA. You need 32-bit build even on 64-bit machine.

I personally had troubles with microphone on Ubuntu 14.04, but for most people it works fine.

To build apulse on Ubuntu (and related distros), you must install following packages: pkg-config build-essential cmake libglib2.0-dev:i386 libasound2-dev:i386 gcc-multilib (probably some other too).

The build process more or less follows the one described in README:

mkdir build && cd build
PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/pkgconfig CFLAGS=-m32 cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/usr -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
sudo make install
  • struggling to build it from source. could you share the binary? – Art Gertner Sep 24 '14 at 18:52
  • 1
    @smc: Here is an archive with binaries and here is quick-and-dirty checkinstall-produced package. I also updated my post with build instructions. – aland Sep 24 '14 at 20:44
  • 1
    Just an update: I am using apulse on my 32-bit Linux Mint for several months now. Works as a charm – Art Gertner Jan 11 '15 at 11:56

I managed to have skype 4.3. running on my (otherwise pure ALSA) system. I'm running openSuSE 13.1, so, I can only describe what I did here. The general idea was to have skype running in a sort of 'pulseaudio jail'.

I installed pulseaudio but did not activate it. The most important thing about NOT activating pulseaudio seems to be a line

autospawn = no

in /etc/pulse/client.conf.

The next preparation step was to modify /etc/pulse/default.pa according to https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Pulseaudio:

# BEGIN CHANGED: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Pulseaudio
load-module module-alsa-sink device=dmix
load-module module-alsa-source device=dsnoop
# END CHANGED: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Pulseaudio

#ORIG: #load-module module-alsa-sink
#ORIG: #load-module module-alsa-source device=hw:1,0
#ORIG: ### Automatically load driver modules depending on the hardware available
#ORIG: .ifexists module-udev-detect.so
#ORIG: load-module module-udev-detect
#ORIG: .else
#ORIG: ### Use the static hardware detection module (for systems that lack udev support)
#ORIG: load-module module-detect
#ORIG: .endif

Then I added two lines to my ~/.asoundrc:

pcm.unwantedpulse { type pulse }
ctl.unwantedpulse { type pulse }

A shell script 'myskype' looks like this:

umask 0

# 1. step: start pulseaudio in advance
mkdir .pulse 2> /dev/null
echo 'autospawn = yes' > .pulse/client.conf
aplay -q -D unwantedpulse /usr/share/skype/sounds/ChatOutgoing.wav
# now pulseaudio should be running

# 2. step: important mixer settings - these are hardware dependent and (probably) not really necessary
amixer sset Digital 100% unmute cap
amixer sset Capture 99% unmute cap
# etc etc
pacmd set-source-volume alsa_output.dmix.monitor 0x10000
pacmd set-source-volume alsa_input.dsnoop 0x11000

# 3. step: start skype in background 
/usr/bin/skype & 

sleep 9
# to prevent funny programs like firefox from connecting (or even starting)
# pulseaudio, we clean up rather quickly
rm -rf .pulse

# wait for skype to exit
wait $skypepid

# 4. step: stop pulseaudio
pactl exit
sleep 4
pactl exit
exit 0

Now, when I start 'myskype', skype will be started in that 'pulseaudio jail' but everything else is still using ALSA.

I had the same-ish problem. There's no workaround, I've already wasted two days to fix the problem. You can install pulseaudio and make it work with an older version of alsa. Because pulseaudio works smoothly with old versions of alsa.

I'm using 1.0.16. Here's a script to install this version. I've experienced just one issue so far with pulseaudio and this version of alsa. I had to always start pulseaudio manually after start up so I added it in start up applications.

And as far as sound control goes I use pavucontrol instead of alsamixer. It gives you more control over applications.

And there are some applications like Skype of example, that asks you to allow it to automatically adjust the mixer levels. These kind of privileges causes pulseaudio to behave in weird ways. Never allow them unless you really have to. But I guess you know that already.

Anyway give it a try, hope it works for you. It did for me. :)

Best Regards


  • When I get to the part of the script to configure the driver with sudo ./configure --with-cards=hda-intel --with-kernel=/usr/src/linux-headers-$(uname -r) sudo make I get "The file /usr/src/linux-headers-3.2.0-23/include/linux/version.h does not exist. Please install the package with full kernel sources for your distribution" even though I've used apt-get to get my kernal headers. any ideas? Edit: I did a locate, found the version.h, and now it can't find autoconf.h -.- – EdgeCaseBerg Sep 16 '14 at 13:31
  • I'm running alsa 1.0.25 and pulseaudio 1.1, haven't rebooted yet but just installed pulse has fixed skype as expected, I'm waiting for the issues to start popping up. I'll update if anything breaks using these two versions. – EdgeCaseBerg Sep 16 '14 at 14:01

Sadly, There is no way to bypass this issue without using pulseaudio. There is even a petition which adresses that problem.

But I think that Microsoft won't change that. So you have to decide: Use PulseAudio and Skype or force your relatives to switch the IM. :S

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