Totally Nothing...Do-Dads and Fix-Its For the Web.

PRTG Network Monitor

I found an interesting and effective tool in the last couple weeks.  It's call PRTG Network Monitor.  I really wish I had known about this tool when I was doing 9-5 corporate IT work.  But, it is possible I may go back into that line of work in the future, so I will keep PRTGNM in my bag of tricks.  Currently, I live in Southeast Asia on a highly unreliable and slow internet connection (2mb) and PRTG helps me to figure out where the bottle-necks are.  Before PRTGNM, I was practically pulling my hair out.  Whether it's my ISP, the sublink, or simply my girlfriend on youtube sucking up all the bandwidth, I always know where the issue lies now.  I manage several websites on this server and now have greater visibility when one of my customers tells me their site is/was down.  I hadn't even planned on using PRTGNM for that.  If you throw in that I barely had to think to configure it (mostly it configured itself), it's a must have.  If I ever go back into corporate IT work, PRTGNM will be a top 3 on my list of things to immediately push to management (assuming I'm not management) and purchase.  Click the banner to give it a try:

network monitoring software

Annoying Realtek Repeated Plugged/Unplugged Balloon Popup

I recently bought a headset complete with boom microphone.  I plugged the headset into the front panel of my computer and at first it appeared to work great, but upon further usage, I started to get a windows balloon pop-up repeatedly if I turned the speaker volume up past a certain threshold (a little less than half way).  Upon searching google I found lots of solutions that basically tell you to disable the front panel jack detection in the Realtek Sound Manager...and that does work to a certain degree.  However, the disable front panel jack basically tells the computer to play through the front panel jacks and the back panel jacks.

So..., what if you want to crank the volume late at night while your playing a game while your parents, wife, gf, children, etc. are in bed?  Or you want to mute the back panel speakers while you're making a Skype, yahoo messenger, etc. call?  You can quickly see that the above solution is not really a solution at all.

After spending days messing around with this and initially blaming the cheap Chinese headset I bought (including shaving down the plastic a half millimeter on the headset's connectors so the connectors would seat better), I realized I only get this symptom when the microphone is plugged in as the microphone tab disappears when watching the Realtek Audio Manager.  Upon further process of elimination, I realized it's the microphone playback volume that is the culprit and only when the Realtek Audio Manager is running.  If I set it below 5 or so (out of 100), the issue goes away.  After trying to find the perfect number to set the playback volume on, I then think, what the **** is playback volume for in regards to a microphone?

Why would you need a playback volume on a microphone anyway?  That doesn't make any sense.   Initially, I thought it was the volume at which whatever you're recording is played back through the speakers while you're recording it.  Or, another example would be, if you're making a call, the volume at which you can hear yourself talking in the headset speakers while talking into the mic.  Anyway, I was way off.  Although, anyone who's done any recording or played in a band, knows this can lead to feedback.

After a couple days of meddling on the internet and my computer with many wrong answers, lack of answers and dead ends (and while dealing with other way more important stuff including online phone calls while dealing with this problem) , I found the defining moment in the Windows Recording Devices (right click the Windows speaker in your sys tray...not the Realtek red speaker) > Properties > Microphone > Listen control panel.  "You can listen to a portable music player or other device through this microphone jack.  If you connect a microphone, you may hear feedback."  So, the microphone jacks on a computer allow you to use them like a "line-in" for your iPod or whatever.  Makes sense for the front panel, but not really the back panel since there typically is a line-in back there (I tested the back panel mic jack too...same behavior).  But, I'm sure it's all part of the same mic jack driver behavior.  And although I'm not hearing any feedback, it appears to be creating some internal issue where the microphone thinks it's plugged and unplugged repeatedly.

It appears Microsoft already thought about this as the generic microphone options mentioned above appear to only let you turn microphone recording or playback on, but not both at the same time (and with microphone playback turn off by default).

Long story short, if you're using the Realtek Audio Manager, turn down to zero or mute the microphone playback volume when using a microphone with your microphone jack.