Saturday, April 05, 2008

Where on Earth is my Microphone?

I recall reading research that says Linux users do it partly for the fun. As a full-time, no-safety-net, no-dual-boot Linux user myself, I'm mystified by the definition of "fun" these people must use.
Philip K Dick once described psychosis as being typified by an inability to see the easy way out. Dammit, I can see the easy way out, but I've already put too much of my stuff into the Linux box.
During one of my sessions trawling around to get the USB headset working, I managed to do something (heaven knows what) to stop Freespire booting: it hung while loading the desktop. Eventually, failing every other possibility, I connected the external backup hard drive, learned how to mount it at the command line, copied most of my data (forgetting the mailbox, dammit) to the drive, and re-installed.
At this point, I gave up on the USB headset and reverted to an ordinary headset. This, at least, functions. Next, I tell myself, I need to get a softphone.
None of them work with Freespire sound, or ALSA, on the Acer 5315. All of them have output, but none of them respond to the microphone. To save time, I'll quickly list the softphones I've tried: KPhone, Gizmo, X-Lite and Twinkle. KPhone crashes when I try to make a call; Gizmo can't see the microphone; X-Lite barely launches; and Twinkle won't install properly (yes, I added the unbelievable host of libraries it needs).
So I decided to see whether any other application would see the microphone.
KRecord is happy with the microphone, as is Audacity. GNUSound, sort of, but it has the sort of catastrophic crashes that boosters tell you don't happen under Linux. So the problem has to be the interaction between the softphones and the sound system.
But it's not just Linux that gives pain.
Somewhere in the world, there's a designer of such unrestrained malice or stupidity that he or she has made the touchpad of the Acer 5315 almost completely unusable.
The design decision was this: "Wouldn't it be great if, instead of having to click, we made a self-clicking cursor? That way, you only need to hover the cursor over something, and it will act as if you clicked on it."
It's the worst idea I have encountered in a long time. While you're typing, the cursor regularly activates other parts of the screen, and the user has no input into this whatever. The only way to get a usable machine is to connect an external mouse and de-activate the touchpad completely.

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