Windows audio shenanigans

I just spent about an hour two hours twisting knobs trying to get my Windows 7 desktop machine to listen to a microphone jack. I have a relatively nice USB-based audio thingamy (yes, it’s by Creative Labs, but the USB protocols are dead simple, right?) There’s a jack there, it’s got something plugged into it that’s emitting sound, but my recorder app can’t even open it.

So:

1. Get the latest drivers from Creative Labs. Suffer the usual 100MB download (I care about maybe one megabyte of it). Install. Reboot. Cringe at the full screen bullshit that Creative inserts in the boot process. Go ahead, Creative, I don’t use my computer for anything other than running your glorious software, so have your way with it. Uninstall and reinstall some other software that the CL stuff is unhappy about coexisting with. Reboot again; this is Windows.

2. Still doesn’t work. Continue to twist knobs. After about 20 minutes I realize that enabling the “Listen” option (buried two or three nested and tabbed dialogs deep) on an input makes it impossible to select any other input as a default. The failure mode is, shall we say, not obvious. I think I know the guy who “fixed” this stuff from Vista.

3. Don’t get me started on the iTunes user interface. Apple can afford to buy whole countries but apparently they can’t afford an engineering team that can design UI. Maybe it’s just my familiarity, but the Zune UI is way better, guys. Shouldn’t that shame you into doing something with iTunes?

I had to do this on my desktop because the Linux laptop I wanted to use has incredibly crappy audio circuitry. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realize how jaw-dropping miserable it was until I saw the noise floor. Really don’t buy Lenovo hardware.

Why do we make things so hard?

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6 Responses to Windows audio shenanigans

  1. I don’t doubt what you say about the Lenovo’s noise floor. The recent research paper about extracting RSA keys shows acoustic bleed on several target machines. You should check the Section 3.3 figure f to see just how dirty the spectrogram is.

    http://www.tau.ac.il/~tromer/papers/acoustic-20131218.pdf

    • Yow! says:

      Try the ASUS UX32VD for a horrific microphone noise floor -24dB with -20dB peaks according to Audacity. With enough postprocessing this can be made usable for VoIP but it’s not easy. Somehow the Windows driver manages to clean it up, God knows what kind of filters they have in there.

  2. David Gerard says:

    Could be worse. I’ve just given up on my Windows-rotted Win7 and am back in Xubuntu, projecting KILL YOU WITH MY THOUGHTS rays at pulseaudio and all responsible for it. FCUKING PULSE AAAAAAAA

  3. In Microsoft’s case, it’s simple: they hate their users. They hate their business users just a little bit less though, because that’s their bread and butter. They have to keep those people somewhat satisfied.

    And another company that’s just as bad, if not worse than Creative is HP. If I had a nickel for every HP craplet that I’ve had to remove from a client’s machine…

  4. Anon says:

    How do you know it’s not the fault of the Linux audio stack? Could it just be bad Linux audio drivers (and I say this as a mild Linux supporter)?

    In fact, did the USB audio thingame work at all with Linux?

    • landon says:

      I just tried that; a cheap-ass ten dollar USB-based mic input device beats the crap out of the Lenovo’s internal mic. There’s just no comparison, I can’t even see noise. There’s nothing wrong with the Linux audio stack, at least, not with respect to noise….

      (Also, the USB mic basically just worked. I was impressed; plugged it in, and about two seconds later it was showing up in menus. No fanfare, no “Scouring the disk, da Cloud and the Known Net for drivers…” nonsense, it was that fast).

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