This was something I had noticed myself, and the reason was not that audio was in some way broken, but that the permissions on the audio devices were wrong - owned and only writeable by root.
Now I only wanted to actually get any audio out on fairly rare occasions, so a quick chown wasn't that much of an imposition. But it obviously needed fixing properly.
My assumption here is that most desktop users will be logging in through the SLiM login manager. So all I need to do is fix the permissions just before it calls setuid() to the logged in user. And then reset them back once the user is done.
Now, I could have made up a bunch of chowns myself, or written a helper. There's actually code in SLiM to call ConsoleKit - but I don't have ConsoleKit, and don't really see the need to maintain a port of it just for this.
But illumos already has the capability to do this, and the normal login mechanisms use it. There's code in libdevinfo that sets the permissions according to the rules laid out in the /etc/logindevperm file. So the code is really just a call to di_devperm_login() and di_devperm_logout(), and all is well.
This also fixed another irritating bug - I can now eject memory sticks as myself, without needing to be root.
The next thing that happens, of course, is that it doesn't take very long to realise that Twitter has a lot of videos that play automatically. So I'm sitting there and I can hear either the internal loudspeaker or my headphones warbling away.
So the next thing I need is a way to shut the thing up. Historically, I used the old CDE sdtaudiocontrol, which was pretty good. (In general, I detested CDE as a desktop, the mailer and calendar were decent enough for their time, and the audio control was the only other thing I used much.) I use Xfce as my desktop, it used to have xfce4-mixer but that's now unmaintained and deprecated (and I removed that as part of the migration from gstreamer-0.10 to gstreamer1). Which pretty much leaves the command line audio utilities in illumos, specifically audioctl. I've added the package so users who update will automatically get that as well.
audioctl set-control volume 0
silences things, while
audioctl set-control volume 75
puts the volume back to normal. I've created aliases mute and unmute for those. A more sophisticated approach would be to save the volume and restore it afterwards, but this is enough for now.