User:BillWharrie/Device and Input selection on Mac

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Warning icon This page is a demonstration of the interaction between Device selection and Input selection on Mac. Specifically how the Input Selector on the Mixer Toolbar reacts to different device selections.
I'll talk about the Device Toolbar, but selections made in Devices Preferences, Recording, Device are the same.
Screenshots and discussion are of 1.3.13-alpha December 9 2010
This page will be deleted when this discussion is finished.

This also relates Bug 11

Mac G5 Dual 2 GHz 10.5.8

1) When selecting "Core Audio: Built-in Audio" in Device Toolbar, the Input Selector in Mixer Toolbar is active and selectable.

2) When selecting anything other than "Core Audio: Built-in Audio" in Device Toolbar, the Input Selector in Mixer Toolbar disappears.

iMac Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz 10.4.11

1) The choices in Devices Toolbar:

2) When "Core Audio: Built-in Microphone" is selected as the input Device, the Input Selector is active but has only one choice:

3) When "Core Audio: Built-in Input" is selected as the input Device, the Input Selector is active but has only one choice:

4) When "Core Audio: USB Audio CODEC" is selected as the input Device, the Input Selector disappears:

Note: This iMac has S/P-DIF optical inputs and outputs, however it appears that the "Digital Input" option is not displayed unless an optical digital device is connected.

PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz 10.4.11

1) The choices in Devices Toolbar:

2) When "Core Audio: Built-in Audio" is selected as the input Device, the Input Selector is active and has the following choices:

3) When "Core Audio: USB Audio CODEC" is selected as the input Device, the Input Selector disappears:


Although the iMac and PowerBook are running 10.4.11, the "Built-in" inputs are handled differently. This could be down to different sound hardware in the two machines. The iMac uses an Intel chipset, while the PowerBook uses a TI chipset.

While the display of the Input Selector on the iMac when only one choice is available may be non-optimum, I don't think it rates a P2 bug designation.

  • Gale:13Dec10: What you see on iMac in Device Toolbar (aggregation of <built-in Device> with <built-in input>) is exactly what happens on Windows Vista/7; the difference is in the Mixer Toolbar selector which here is visible with an indication of what the current selection is, as opposed to Vista/7 where it's either absent or shows something meaningless like "Master".

    I think the different skill level on Windows, the XP > 7 migration situation and the fact that no Win Vista/7 users at all will be able to select inputs in a new Audacity installation with the initial interface suggests a higher rating for the problem on Windows than Mac. The daily questions about this from Windows users when there is already targeted FAQ and Wiki help bears this out.

    Maybe if the input selector was always there on a new Windows installation, it could be given a tooltip, but there is no guarantee there will be an input selector.

  • Bill:13Dec10: OK, now I understand the Vista/7 issue. Despite reservations on the part of some of the devs, it seems that turning on Device Toolbar by default would at least provide a place for users of Intel machines (including Mac) to select inputs and outputs. The aggregation of device and input on Windows 7 can be seen on the manual Device Toolbar page.
  • Later that day... I've had a look at the wiki help pages on this issue. [1] [2] [3] The third one is, I think, the best as it includes screenshots of the control panel.
    From the front page of the wiki it is not clear where to go for this help. "Tips and Troubleshooting / Recording Troubleshooter" seems logical but is no help. You have to go to "Operating Systems / Windows 7 and Vista". Given the number of help requests on the forum (where the Windows elves have to tell people again and again how to find the "disabled devices" in Windows control panel) suggests to me that a dedicated page on the wiki would be useful. This page would have screenshots and step by step instructions on how to (at least) get the mic/line input working, and get "streaming" working. Another common issue is users attempting to overdub using the "system mix" as their input.
    Simply turning on the Device Toolbar will not help if the devices are not enabled by the system. It seems we need to provide this Windows 7/Vista setup help somewhere.
  • Gale:13Dec10 Thanks, Bill for those comments. The best link from front page of Wiki is I think Windows System Mixer. That gives them the most common issue (wanting stereo mix but which is never enabled by default) right in front of them - they can scroll down for the Vista/7 Control Panel. I've tweaked the front page to highlight the purpose of "Windows System Mixer". The link to use if people just want to list/enable Vista/7 hidden devices is further down the same page. I think that has to be there so another page seems like duplication to me (unless we split it to a new page)? As regards Troubleshooting Recordings, it does say "Note: By default, Vista/7 only enable the microphone input. You must exit Audacity, then go to Sound in the Windows Control Panel to show and enable other inputs before you can record from them." I'm not sure how to improve that as it has to be a page to fit all problems.

    I think the differences between Vista and 7 are so small as regards audio that Windows 7 OS could now be combined, given Audacity teething problems specific to 7 are largely gone. That's a lot of work to do, though.

    As you suggest, the Win problem is twofold a) nowhere to choose inputs in newly initialised Audacity and then b) when you figure that out, you only see "Mic" (if anything). b) is a problem because although it's kind of related to a) it doesn't have a specific FAQ whereas a) has a FAQ. I've been unsure whether to extend the FAQ text for a) or make a new FAQ for b) but at the moment I've only got extended text for a) in the works.

    However I do think that unless Device Toolbar is turned on in the first place (or some other solution to make input choice visible), a lot of Vista/7 users may give up and use another program before even getting to b). We know this happens. For streaming audio, download Freecorder instead. Download a "Quick Record" program and it will probably record from mic with no further input choice needed (or possible) within the program. This does not always happen in Audacity even though it initialises to the system default which should be mic - it throws "error opening sound device". I'm not clear why this happens - it seems sometimes Audacity needs you to go into "Sound" in the Win Control Panel and list/enable disabled devices even though there is a single enabled mic device which is marked as "default" (by definition as it's the only enabled device). I had this issue on my Win 7 netbook when I first tried with 1.3.12 alpha. All I can say is there are fewer reports of this now than there used to be.

  • Bill:13Dec10: My suggestion is for a "Setting up your computer sound system to work with Audacity" document, either on the Wiki or distributed with Audacity. Does NotePad support embedded graphics? TextEdit does. There is a "README" document distributed with Audacity, but it is seems a geeky, Linux kind of document to me. What users need (especially on Windows) is something that will help them a) avoid the "error opening sound device" message, b) get recording of internet streaming working, c) get their line input working (if they have one) and d) turn off the echo-cancellation and compression features that now seem to be enabled by default to support Skype. This is not simple, so needs a baby-steps, hand-holding, graphics-included approach (which is what I've tried to do on my Soundflower and USB user pages). Of course there is the issue of different sound hardware and drivers on various machines, but could we at least come up with something that would meet the majority of cases? I know this is covered on the pages you've referenced, but I really think it would help if this kind of set-up information was available in a separate, stand-alone document or Wiki page.
  • Gale:14Dec10: Thanks, Bill. README is a .txt plain text document which is visible in the Windows installer after installation. It's a changelog and bug list, probably not often read but not suitable for your suggestion. I don't think images can be saved in plain text files - they can in e.g. .rtf and .doc but neither MS Notepad or MS Wordpad which come with Windows can display images inside those formats. I think if we had an included standalone document, PDF (ideally) or .HTML would be better.

    We don't have any Wiki documentation for turning off sound effects/echo cancellation/noise suppression, but it's a good point. I do see some sense in your larger suggestion, but the document would be very long and detailed especially if it included Mac and Linux. One advantage with the current "sectioned" help is that it can be targeted at the current problem, so doesn't give "information overload".

    The big question for me is where to put "Setting up your computer sound system to work with Audacity" so that it would be most likely found. If not found, it's wasted effort, and the (mostly pretty good) Wiki help we have now often isn't found, or even looked for. If we put such a document on Wiki, different pages for the different OS'es work fairly naturally, but not so easily with an included document.

    We do have a primer page in the Manual Your First Recording that clearly aims to touch on "setting up the sound system" but hasn't yet addressed what level of detail to supply for this. I'm wondering in order to make audio setup info most easily found if we shouldn't bite the bullet and make a Manual Tutorial of it. We have to decide if it's separate or part of "Your First Recording", but I think it could be part of it, breaking up the different parts as we do in Copying Tapes, LPs or Minidiscs. I don't have any problem with having OS sound setup in a Manual Tutorial, as long as we keep long explanations out of the Reference. It would further increase the download size, but may be worth it.

  • Bill:14Dec10: Yes, that was my point about the README - not suitable for a tutorial.

    Your First Recording links to Mixer Toolbar Issues. That page has a few problems IMO.

    • It's called "Mixer Toolbar Issues" - the problem we're trying to solve is getting sound into Audacity
    • It covers all OS's - separate pages for the various Win, Mac and Linux flavours would probably help.
    • Separate pages for "recording streaming audio" would probably help.
    • It is too terse (IMO) for the skill level of those who need this help the most.
    • The introductory paragraphs are good for those who understand them, but likely intimidate naive users.

Agree that if it's not found then writing it is indeed wasted effort. Suggestion: top item in the Help menu, top link in the welcome dialog.

Following on that, it should be in the Manual (as are the other links in the Help menu).

Finally, no point in writing it (whether Wiki or Manual) until a decision is made on how to proceed with Bug 11.

  • Gale:16Dec10: Mixer Toolbar Issues has grown up over time, like many Wiki pages. It used to have not much more than the developer-written intro. paragraphs; the OS-specific stuff has been gradually added by me. We already have a separate page for Recording audio playing on the computer which is linked to off Mixer Toolbar Issues.

    Yes, possibly Mixer Toolbar Issues would be improved by separate OS pages; I think that depends on the level of (illustrated) detail we want here. To my mind the detail required for some people would extend to needing separate pages for different versions of the Realtek Control Panel. How far should we go? But if we want maximum readership of "how to set up sound in Audacity" including all the hand holding then I'm still thinking it has to go in the Manual itself because Wiki will never have high readership. For the same reason even Wiki linking from the Manual probably isn't sufficient for the core image-based walkthroughs - they should be in the Manual Tutorial. By all means we can adjust Mixer Toolbar Issues to whatever extent the Manual does anchor-link to it, but Mixer Toolbar Issues shouldn't solely be about input.

    So what should the targeted Manual Tutorial(s) cover? Do we only have a comprehensive "Your First Recording" with a sub-tutorial on its own page for sound setup? Or should "Your First Recording" specialise on connecting equipment and setting levels and we have a separate dedicated Tutorial on "setting up sound in Audacity"? If we do that then I suggest we use Audacity Setup and Configuration which seems to be orphaned otherwise.

    I doubt having special links in menus and Welcome Screen to specific tutorials will help much as I expect only a small minority of the people we are targeting use links proactively. Probably what we should do is include prominent links in Quick Help to the prime tutorials like "Your First Recording" and "Copying Tapes, LPs...". Or is Quick Help a good idea and should the Quick Help" link in Welcome Screen and Help menu go to Tutorials? I used to like the Quick Help idea but I'm aware that we rarely link to it and I wonder if it's too compact for the novice to even be useful? I think it could possibly be more useful as a set of the most crucial "How do I" links (and maybe sometime in the future the user could also find such links through our unrealised idea of having a proper contextual Index).

  • Bill:23Dec10: Yes, Audacity Setup and Configuration seems the logical place for this information.
    Also agree that Quick Help may be too compact/terse.
    When Bug 11 is resolved we can start working up pages and see how they work.