Rabbit holes for winter fun

I got my new USB 2.0 hub ($20) and unlike my cheapo ebay ($5), this hub not only works well but is better in every way I can think of. The power supply is stronger (more amps), the cable is more substantial. The connectors meet without wiggle. It lays flat where I put it. A nice bit of kit, as some say. Please remember, the reason for needing a new USB hub (cheap or cheaper) was to connect up new webcam (Logitech C615)

The C615 Webcam has a built in [mono] microphone and it works pretty well for a pinhole in a piece of plastic 2 feet away. I go way back in Linux time and even farther back in in audio time. That this works that well in Ubuntu 12.04 is a tribute to all those that worked on Linux and Ubuntu. Even though I have no use for the webcam yet, I also ordered an inexpensive headset (ear phones and mic) AND a USB adapter for it. Details matter for this experiment.

My computer has one audio stereo output jack (rear) and one stereo input jack on the front and a mic [MONO] jack in the front and you can’t plug in a mic and stereo input source at the same time. That might be old Linux memory or it might be a hardware interlock. Might even be vice versa and the stereo out is on the front and the stereo in is on the back. Trust me, once it’s working, you don’t want to fool with it.

At the time, this was one of the few boxes that would admit to having stereo analog inputs That was important to me back then when I thought I would digitize my vinyl record collection, That’s not going to happen. PITA and you can find a torrent download easier and faster, if you really want to hear it again. It turns out I don’t want to hear it again, I just want the ability to hear it again, or record it if I wanted to. That’s an important freedom to me and one I want to keep: Record my vinyl or cassettes or voice and have digital copies.

That’s where the USB sound dongle and the Headset fits in. The sound quality of the Yapster headset is pretty OK. Really good for $20. I prefer the sound from my Paradigm bookshelf speakers powered by a Technics receiver because that’s what I’m used to and I rarely listen to music critically. The Yapster headset does a much better job at reproduction and exposing nuance.

[Self to Cecil – get to the point]

Oops. Sorry. I doubt anyone could tell the difference in sound from the $5 USB dongle or the chip inside my computer. Both are more than good enough, via speakers or headphones. Linux has made great improvements in sound handling (USB or analog port). PulseAudio is what Ubuntu uses and it doesn’t suck. It used to suck really bad. Now it just works as expected. Pick your output device (headphones via USB or internal speakers or the output sound jacks. Pick your input (headset microphone via USB dongle, stereo input via jacks, or that mic on the USB webcam. It now works well on Ubuntu and some of the applications know about multiple output or input choices. Seriously good improvement since I last poked around.

What if you wanted to do something creative. Like keep the “you have mail” beeps out of your analog recording session. Maybe the send the computer created stuff to the headphones, but not the recording application. Or maybe you want record (mix) your solemn commentary into the the recording of “Born under a bad sign” but don’t play that in main speakers (for example). That kind of control is what JackD can do, if you’re willing to learn it. Learning jackd was almost impossible in the early days of PulseAudio.

It’s better now. But, don’t try this to see what happens. No midnight drunk button pushes, OK? I might install it. I might not. I did a few years of purgatory with the real-time kernel. Never going back. Might not have to. Details matter.