Automatic headphone detection in Alienware M17xR4 for openSUSE Leap 42.1

All to often, people dismiss Linux if something tiny doesn't work out of the box. They claim that one does not face such problems in Windows, forgetting the extensive jumping through hoops known as installing a bunch of drivers that negates the whole "out of the box" premise.

I had just gotten a fresh install of openSUSE Edu Li-f-e, based on Leap 42.1, running on the behemoth that is Alienware M17xR4. All seemed fine until I realised that plugging a headphone into the relevant jack does not reroute the sound output through the headphones, while the speakers keep blasting away.

Pulseaudio, or rather pavucontrol, was helpful enough to switch between line-out and headphones on cue within the GUI, albeit with little effect, as the sound output remained unaffected.

The situation wasn't too different with the KDE's "Audio Volume" module, which largely seems to be a front end to pulseaudio.

As I was bungling through the settings, I realised that the issue wasn't detection of headphones, as it was the switching audio output from the speakers to  the headphone.

Enter, alsa!

alsamixer has a particularly unhelpful welcome display, which has no bearing on the level of customisability it offers.

AlsaMixer intro screen

We can, however, get much better controls, once we manually select the sound card (Press F6).
Note: If you fail to find the option for the given sound card, See Note 1 at the bottom of the post.

AlsaMixer - select sound card

We then navigate to the  HP/Speaker Auto Detect (in red in the image below) and toggle to ON (by pressing M).

AlsaMixer - change HP/Speaker Auto Detect

If you get stuck along the way,  help is just an F1 away.

Help menu for AlsaMixer

Note 1:

If you fail to find the option for the given sound card, add the line 
options snd-hda-intel model=alienware at the end of the file /etc/modprobe.d/50-alsa.conf .
If the file does not exist, look through the folder /etc/modprobe.d/ to check if any similar file exists with a different number preceding it, and edit the same.

Note 2:

Packages used:

Note 3:

There are multiple audio jacks in the M17xR4, so for the above process to work the headphone/ext. speaker needs to be plugged into the jack shown below

Audio jack in Alienware M17xR4 for auto headphone detection


jade said...
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Elizabeth J. Neal said...
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