Well here's an embarrassing problem. PulseAudio doesn't seem to be working. I've been trying to load the sound applet for a week or so and I checked ps aux | grep pulse and found that there's no PA daemon running!

Sound is still working. I assume everything has fallen back to ALSA.

Furthermore I've tried to start PA from the command line. pulseaudio -D just errors out with nothing useful, just E: main.c: Daemon startup failed.

pulseaudio on its own raises a little more:

$ pulseaudio
E: main.c: Unknown command: !/usr/bin/pulseaudio -nF
E: main.c: Failed to initialise daemon.

I can start it as root with --system but nothing can connect to it. That's not the right way to run PA, so I'd rather fix it than bodge around it.

  • 1
    Also, pulseaudio -v, and you can add more "v"s for more info
    – Jonathan
    May 16, 2017 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


Well that was the weirdest thing. I opened up /etc/pulse/default.pa and noticed that the first line was:

!/usr/bin/pulseaudio -nF

That looks an awful lot like a #!/bin/bash style opening (I don't know the proper name for it, comments on a postcard) so I stuck a hash at the beginning like so:

#!/usr/bin/pulseaudio -nF

And it works!

No idea how that got broken. I don't think I've ever purposefully edited that file before.

  • Very interesting finding - good to know that such things happen. Here the line is commented out per default installation.
    – Takkat
    Jul 26, 2011 at 17:03
  • @Takkat it's not a comment - it's a pulseaudio script. That "comment" tells it to run with the /usr/bin/pulseaudio executable (just as #!/bin/bash tells the OS to run a script with bash)
    – Oli
    Jul 26, 2011 at 18:29
  • 4
    Chat (marco and htorque) reliably tell me this like is called a Interpreter directive (a shebang (#!) followed by a command).
    – Oli
    Jul 26, 2011 at 18:36

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