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Just a bit of an update.

After some heavy use of Google over the weekend, it appears that I never really had a proper 5.1 surround sound working. I think it's only supported over an HDMI connection and not over the optical connection. Bummer. My surround audio is through a DVD player and it does not have an HDMI input, so that's out. I may have to give a Windows installation a shot to see if it works there. I do get ordinary stereo out of the optical connection, so it does work to some extent.

As far as the basic stereo audio goes, it looks like the kid may have been playing with some settings in the application program. I didn't think he could fiddle with the underlying Linux stuff, but he's watched me try different things with the audio enough that I think he knows where to go in the application I'm using (XBMC) to make changes.

I've also learned a bit more about the different things in Linux that have to work together to get sound - Pulse and ALSA and something else, probably. It's all still quite confusing to me. But some perseverance might pay off eventually.

My big disappointment here is that it all just didn't work out of the box. The OS and XMBC were pre-installed and this box is marketed as a stand-alone home theater computer. You'd think that they would take enough time to get everything set properly from the get go for their own hardware. Then again, I (or my son) may have screwed something up along the way. Even so, there's no instructions on restoring things. The reinstall instructions are to simply download a new copy of Ubuntu and XBMC and install them.

Live and learn.

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