I have a headless debian box with speakers. Suppose I'm at my laptop and I do

$ ssh headless -X

$ audacious

then audacious' window pops up on my laptop's screen. If I open a file then it is played on the speakers connected to headless (as expected). The same behaviour happens with mplayer (i.e. sound is played on the speakers of headless).

However, when I do

$ ssh headless -X

$ firefox

and play a sound on wikipedia or a video on youtube then the sound is played on my laptop's speakers.

This is unexpected and undesirable. How can I get firefox to use headless' speakers just like other programs do?

Both my laptop and headless use alsa (without pulseaudio), both are up-to-date debian wheezy machines.

  • Check this: superuser.com/questions/231920/forwarding-audio-like-x-in-ssh
    – slm
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 5:27
  • 1
    Are you sure that firefox runs on headless, normally when you do a stunt like this firefox run on laptop even though you started it on headless. Try 'ssh other_user@headless -X'
    – a21
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 8:44
  • @a21: I'm left speechless - you're right! Why does it happen? How do I prevent it? Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 1:21
  • @a21 Thanks, I think it would take me years to figure out firefox actually doesn't run on headless... Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 1:28

1 Answer 1


As explained by a21 above, what happened is that firefox, rather surprisingly, in fact runs on laptop, not headless! The reasons and a solution is described here: Starting firefox on a remote host (over ssh) opens a new window locally: what is happening?

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