A Fight With My Computer

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 15, 2014

Filed under: Personal 88 comments

I take Saturday off from writing and other creative work so I can play games and spend time with family. So Sunday is an important day for me. I need to write my Escapist columnI could write it sooner, but I’ve been burned too many times with news stories that changed over the weekend., edit the Diecast for Monday, and (ideally) also write a post for Sunday. So naturally Sunday is when Everything Always Goes Wrong.

I just needed to write. To write, I wanted my music. But my speakers weren’t working. Like, Windows audio mixer claimed they were. You could see the little bars jumping up and down as the audio played. The drivers were working. There didn’t seem to be any software problems. So, unplugged cable, right? I mean, I’d just untangled my computer from the Oculus Rift Octopus (Ocupus?) so I could have my second monitor back. Obviously I must have jostled a cable loose somewhere.


Well, that was a sound enough theory, and I spent over half an hour as a believer in that idea. I crawled under the desk, wiggled the jack, tried the other jack, tried the front panel jack, tried the other front panel jack, then back to the first, cleaned off some dust, and repeated the whole process again. I tried my headphones in the jacks. I cranked every volume slider on the machineWindows 7 is completely idiotic about volume sliders. The program itself usually has its own volume slider, but then Windows assigns it another slider on top of that one. And then there’s a slider for the device in question, and another slider for general system-wide volume. And of course Windows seems to randomize ALL OF THEM after every reboot. just to make sure. I ran the diagnostics which gave me helpful suggestions like “Make sure the computer is plugged in”.

This isn’t the bad part. This is just the part I could get a picture of.

I was really pissed at the end of this. Aside from wasting all my timeI’d long since lost interest in writing my column, and now I was in a state where I couldn’t do anything else until I’d SOLVED THIS PROBLEM. it was actually painful. The floor is hard, and you have to crawl way under the desk to reach the computer, and every jack-change required me to stand up, crawl under the desk, then crawl back out and fiddle with things. After 45 minutes of this my knees and back were in agony.

I figured this would hurt less if I wasn’t kneeling on so many cables, so I tried to untangle the cable-nest and clean that up. But I needed more slack in one of the cables. Without looking up from my work, I absent-mindedly reached out to pull the PC a bit closer. However, I’d removed the side panel during my investigation, so instead of grabbing the case my hand went inside and I stuck my ring finger into the biggest, meanest fan available. This ripped a sizable hole in my fingertip. In a fit of atavistic rage I smacked the side of the case, which released a cloud of dust resembling the output of a smoke bomb, which – because I had just emptied my lungs cursing – was quickly sucked into my airways and sinuses. It’s been 24 hours since then, and my immune system continues to wage a war of self-harm over this.

So I gave up. I stopped the bleeding, bandaged the wound, I plugged in a USB headset dongle, plugged my speakers into that, and went back to work.

Fine. You win. Jerk.



[1] I could write it sooner, but I’ve been burned too many times with news stories that changed over the weekend.

[2] Windows 7 is completely idiotic about volume sliders. The program itself usually has its own volume slider, but then Windows assigns it another slider on top of that one. And then there’s a slider for the device in question, and another slider for general system-wide volume. And of course Windows seems to randomize ALL OF THEM after every reboot.

[3] I’d long since lost interest in writing my column, and now I was in a state where I couldn’t do anything else until I’d SOLVED THIS PROBLEM.

From The Archives:

88 thoughts on “A Fight With My Computer

  1. Dave B. says:

    Someone told me that a computer is a universal machine. I think that means that there’s no limit to the number of ways it can try to kill you.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    Yikes! Sounds like a stack of nested problems and no mistake…

  3. Canthros says:

    You really shouldn’t anthropomorphize computers like this.

    They really hate it.

    I feel fairly certain there’s some physical laws governing cabling that require it become more and more tangled over time. Possibly some sort of entropic process, maybe involving quantum entanglement and cosmic strings. If the physicists ever figure out, maybe they can find a way to keep the mess of AV cabling behind my TV manageable.

    1. Sorites says:

      It’s called knot theory, and it’s the weirdest branch of mathematics.

      1. Sleepy the Bear says:

        I believe the 2008 Ig-Nobel Physics prize to Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith is relevant here: “for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.”

        1. Canthros says:

          This brings me to the second half of my supposition, then. If we know the science behind the phenomenon, can we make knots not happen?

          Perhaps the harrowing tale could eventually be recounted in Half-Life 3, starring Gordian Freeman.

          1. rayen says:

            Get into Theater Production, most notably audio and lighting, maybe electrical if the job is big enough. Half of my job as a stagehand or audio assistant requires running cables and storing cables in ways that make certain they will not knot up later. Large cable snakes are easier, XLRs are a pain in the neck. And don’t get me started on extension cords. I swear nobody who coiled them before me knows how to coil cable, and I have an awful feeling that the guy that gets them after me thinks that I can’t coil them.

    2. I still contend that computers become accustomed to the local Ley Lines or some form of Feng Shui, resulting in rebellion if they’re moved even a quarter of an inch out of place. Shamus easily could have upset its “zeros-and-ones-ness” with the local environment and this was how the machine fought back.

    3. Rosseloh says:

      Whatever the cause, it’s definitely some sort of outside factor, because they can be neatly coiled and tied (my example being 20′ XLR cables in storage, with the box not even touched for a few weeks) and STILL end up a mess.

      1. Eruanno says:

        The worst offender is my headphone cable when I roll it up and put it in my bag/pocket. It’s just ridiculous how many knots can be on one half-meter long cable.

    1. swenson says:

      At least 2 for the computer, I’d say. Not only did it physically injure him, but it also managed to keep him from fixing the original problem.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        The blood sacrifice should have gone a long way toward making it function. You don’t need actual goats unless you’re dealing with SCSI busses.


        2. Eruanno says:

          Or Firewire tape decks. Those require pentagrams too, though…

    2. Dt3r says:

      Never fight with a computer. Even if you win, you lose.

  4. MichaelG says:

    After I installed the Oculus, my keyboard stopped working. Not that it was broken — the system just wouldn’t recognize it. If I unplugged and replugged it, Windows would wake up and recognize it. Then it would work perfectly until the next time I rebooted.

    I moved it from one USB port to another and finally plugged it into the front panel where, for no reason it all, it is always recognized.

    I hate computers.

    1. Dave B. says:

      Technology will make Luddites of us all.

    2. evileeyore says:

      That sounds like something to do with the way Oculus may have written in your registry files. Or something.

      — Advice from a Cyber Luddite Caveman

    3. Tse says:

      My headphones don’t work properly on one of the front USB ports (sound comes only from the right), while every other device works fine there. What makes it weirder is that they are 7.1 and that effect works on all channels on the left side.

    4. Destrustor says:

      My computer pretty consistently loses internet connection every minute or so, for a few seconds at a time. It’s not a problem of the modem or router as far as I can tell, because nothing else in the house has that problem. I don’t know what kind of malfunction gives a computer cycles of amnesia concerning the existence of a network like that. Shouldn’t it be either on (if it’s fine) or off (if it’s not) all the time?

      1. guy says:

        The network isn’t constantly sending data; it only sends data when there’s something to send. The computer will say the network is inactive when it’s been too long since it got something over it. In your case, the computer is probably overzealous about declaring the network dead, then it spends some time reactivating the network connection.

        1. Destrustor says:

          But wouldn’t that make the network stay dead when I’m not doing anything, and stay active when I am doing stuff (like opening new webpages every thirty seconds or so, because internet-era attention span)?
          It does that regardless of anything I do, and often gives me “page not found” errors when I fall victim to bad timing.
          I’ve never seen any other computer have that problem. (although, admittedly, that’s not really a big data pool on which to base my observations.)

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Routers and cables do die, often mysteriously and without obvious or sane reasons for it. I got slower and slower speeds to the basement NAS until finally, the light on the link to the basement started beaconing. $40 for a new network switch and I’m back to 2 MB/s between the desktop and the NAS again.

    5. Can I just say I HATE how USB cables only apply the “Universal” bit to the actual plug nowadays? I’ve got USB hard drives, tablets, and other devices that I only use occasionally that all claim to use a USB cable to interface with my computer, but they can only use THEIR USB cable that came with the thing or they can (at best) only recharge.

      1. ET says:

        Wouldn’t it be a joy, to live in a world where companies didn’t invent new proprietary bullshit all the time? ^^;

        1. I’m sure we will, right after we get warp drive and zero-calorie fat-free french fries that don’t taste like chopsticks coated with Centrum.

        2. Bropocalypse says:

          If they did, they wouldn’t be able to charge us a premium for a damned cable.

    6. Eruanno says:

      My old computer used to bluescreen when you used the USB port on the card reader in the front. All other front USB ports were fine. The card reader itself worked with no problems. But insert anything into the USB port attached to the card reader and BLEERP instant bluescreen.

  5. Zak McKracken says:

    On my Windows machine this sort of problem usually means that the audio driver software (which I don’t really need except for creating these problems in the first place) is somehow assuming I’m using the other audio plug. Or maybe the S/PDIF output. Which means that all other outputs are automagically turned off.

    I do like the fact, though, that on Windows, I can at least change the volume for every application separately, which comes in very handy when playing games while using a separate voice-chat software, and for some reason it even seems to remember the settings!

    My current thing of wonder is this: When I’m on Linux, having two parallel sessions (two people logged in at the same time, you can switch between them), one of them can have music playing and it will be heard even after switching to the other session. If the player is running under the other user account, it will cut off as soon as you switch, Of course the latter account is the one that has the music library…

    1. Richard says:

      This reminds me of the weirdest fault I’ve ever found in Windows:

      Sometimes it decides that my main speakers should be at 0% volume.

      If I drag the volume back up to full, I get sound until I release the mouse button, and then it rapidly fades back down to zero.

      No matter what I do, the moment I release direct control of the volume, Windows fades it back down to zero.

      It will keep doing this until I reboot the machine.

      I have no idea why, and it drives me absolutely potty.

      1. The Advisor says:

        That sounds a bit like a problem I encountered a long time ago.

        What would happen is that whenever I plugged a USB flash drive in all audio would be turned down. Turns out windows lets you mute/turn down your audio while using it to make phone calls (I had no idea windows had native support for that but apparently it does), but as best I can tell it confused my flash drive for a phone.

        I ended up solving the issue by telling windows to do nothing to the audio when it thinks a phone call is happening. Which you can set in the communications tab on the sound settings window.

        Hopefully that helps.

      2. Eruanno says:

        Every time I want to play Batman: Arkham Origins, the system turns down the sound for it in the Windows Mixer to about 10-20%. Every time I boot the game. I have no idea why, but every time I boot the game I have to alt-tab out and crank up the sound again. I have no idea why this happens :(

        1. TSi says:

          Not sure but maybe that game uses the OS sound mixer to define it’s volume. Check in the game settings if the music volume is also set to 10-20%.

          I had a similar issue a few years ago where even the screen color depth would revert to 16bits after quitting a game or, lately, the color temperature and screen brightness would jump all around depending on the app i’m using with no option in-app to change it…

  6. Trix2000 says:

    On the plus side, you got an article out of it!

    And yeah, Windows can be incredibly finicky with its audio when it wants to. A weird oddity with my headphones on one of my computers – normally, it’s supposed to switch audio settings when I plug/unplug them. I had it set such that when the headphones were unplugged, the resulting speaker output would be muted (just in case). Recently I found this has had an odd side effect – muting/unmuting the speaker output’s started carrying over to the headphone output, but NOT showing this on the icon (still shows unmuted).

    Don’t even get me started with all the issues I run into for work, too – considering I work for an audio company…

    1. ET says:

      The best auto-(un)muting that Windows has, is in Windows 7*. When you start a program which uses the mic, Windows will recognize it as a “voice communications program”, and then lower the volume of every other program on your system. I just can’t imagine when this would be useful; If I’m listening to music, and I get a Skype call, it’s trivially easy to say, “Hold on, let me turn down my music”. The part that makes it so hard to diagnose until you’ve dealt with it several times, is that there’s like a 60% chance, that the program you happen to be using, will be recognized by Windows in this way. :S

      * Maybe also Windows 8 – I’m not ever using that, so I won’t find out…

        1. ET says:

          I know. I’ve already had to do it several times. ;)

        2. Richard says:

          For a while I thought this might be the setting that causes my weird sound issue – but it’s not, because it turns out that I’d disabled this function when I first got the machine.

      1. Wow, you just fixed my “volume goes down when I plug in a USB device” issue. Thank you, and that is so weird.

      2. Mephane says:

        Hold on, let me turn down my music

        And whenever I have a call to make, I simply pause any music or video that is currently playing. Why would I even want to leave it playing at low volume, I don’t get to enjoy it while possibly missing bits that I wanted to hear/see. :)

        1. ET says:

          Good point. This actually makes me think that Microsoft put the setting in, for people who only listen to live streams (hence low volume is equivalent to pausing), and are too lazy to lower the volume.

  7. Hitch says:

    Only tangentially (and by that I mean, not at all) related: you need to license Paul’s technology for Spoiler Warning.

    1. Joakim Karlen says:

      I don’t know who you are, but I like your moxie.

      Alternatively, you could all fly to the same place, play an entire season of Spoiler Warning in one go, and then fly home again.

  8. The Schwarz says:

    “Well, that was a sound enough theory…”
    Pun intended?

  9. Unbeliever says:

    Two words:

    Maingear Potenza.

    You’ll never reach around in back of your computer again… :)

  10. I got a USB hub so that I don’t have to dig around under my computer so much to swap stuff out. It really helps, and it was cheap. Granted, I did have to duct tape it to the table because the hub weighs less than all the cords I have plugged into it so it has a tendency to just randomly wander off.

    It never ceases to amaze me how “organic” computers can feel with the random malfunction of things. It’s a system that runs on logic, how can it be so incredibly random?

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      Because it runs on physical real often run down and not constructed excatly to the spec hardware. And on top of that hardware is like a mountain top of over or underengineered buggy poorly standardized software. And on top of it all you can throw in us poorly informed self titled know it all users. As such a computer ecosystem is a thing of nearly infinite variables, and most of those variables we can not easily directly monitor. So what happens is that on semi rare occasions when moons align all those minor error can align and cause something truly wonderfully bizare.

    2. MichaelG says:

      Whenever I really dig into a piece of code, it has bugs. So when I look at a computer, I see layers and layers of (probably) buggy software — applications, operating system, device drivers, firmware. And since hardware engineers aren’t immune to sloppiness, probably bugs in the hardware design.

      I worked on a display project decades ago where I was doing the microcode and discovered that two particular instructions would not run correctly in sequence, although they worked perfectly in other contexts. I showed it to the hardware guys, and they said “You’re right — we botched the instruction fetch timing for the second instruction. Don’t use that combination.”

      And don’t forget the sheer size of what you are playing with on your desk. It’s millions of pages of code, not even counting what goes into chip design. It’s amazing it works at all.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Every program of sufficient complexity can be reduced in size by (at least) one line.

        Every program of sufficient complexity has (at least) one bug.

        Therefore every program of sufficient complexity can be reduced to one line of code that doesn’t work.

  11. evileeyore says:

    What does it say about my CDO that I see his those pics and want to travel to his home, break in, and fix those octopus cords right now.

    1. Richard says:

      Be glad I didn’t take pictures at BBC TVC before it closed down.

      Oh gods….

      Not to mention the bundles of “We’re pretty sure 95% of this doesn’t do anything. We’re not sure which 95% though”

      1. Stormkitten says:

        That does not surprise me. My Dad used to work for BBC Radio. I heard stories…

    2. Bryan says:

      …CDO? Collaboration Data Objects; the external interface to …I think MS Outlook? Maybe Exchange?

      Oh, duh, obviously, no. OCD in the correct, alphabetical, order. Wow, that took my brain too long.

  12. mom says:

    Don’t let that cut get infected.

    1. Yeah, I did read where Shamus doesn’t run any anti-virus protection, so…

      1. evileeyore says:

        OH NOES!

        Shamus do not catch the Ebolas from your computer! Purrel that finger stat!

  13. 4th Dimension says:

    Oh how do I hate these bizare problems that defy doubleshooting.

    For example I work at a school and my job other than teaching is keeping our multitude of cieling mounted projectors and desktop computers and other stuff working.
    And currently I have a similar bizare problem in one of the classrooms.
    This is the thing.
    We have a computer on every teachers desk. Also in every classroom we hae a cieling mounted projector. Projectors are connected to the computers via VGA MM cables running over the cieling through the wall, through the floor and into the computer (same for the LAN).
    Currently I have one projector/calble/computer displaying whiteish lineshaped noise on the projector. Initial survey indicated that it’s probably either computer problem or cable problem, since menus and test images displayed from the projector look normal.
    So I set out to troubleshoot and try to see what is causing the prblem.
    I took with me a Laptop a spare non cieling mountable projector and a long VGA MF and short VGA MM cable.
    So first thing I did I ran the new VGA cable from the projector to the laptop and the image displayed had no noise.
    I tried to plug in the same caple I had plugged inot the Laptop into the computer and I got NO image at all.
    I tried pluging in the old cable into the laptop and got chrystal clear image.
    I tried plugging in the computer into the backup projector and also got the crystal clear image.

    At this point I’m WTF, but I can hardly do more tests.

    So as a last resort I ordered the school housekeeper to unount the old projector and mount the reserve one.
    I plugged it in and the image had the same noise.
    Today I took another long VGA cable but this one MM and plugged in this projector into the computer and got the clear image.

    So far it seems that some wierd combination ot that classrooms computer and cable is causing the noise.

    What I fear is that it’s not caused so much by the cable but by interference from some other cabling running on the cieling and by replacing the cable (which is difficult) I’ll still have noise.

    1. ET says:

      The signal cable is maybe too close to an AC power cable? Good luck ripping apart he ceiling/wall/etc to find out! :D

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Worst thing. Each computer gets it’s power over a AC cable that runs together with the VGA and LAN cables. And none of these computers display this problem. And this is not a new installation. This combination of components has worked for almost a year with no problems.

        1. Richard says:

          This is often a shielding/ground loop issue (also regularly seen with USB audio devices)

          Either one of the ground connections is intermittent, or there is a connection to signal ground that shouldn’t be there.

          Examples of causes include damp cables, bent cables, insufficient sacrificial offerings and bent connector shells.

  14. General Karthos says:

    In part, this is why I own a Mac. For creating music, or any other artistic endavor, a Mac tends to be the best choice. (Not universally, but it tends to be.) Only two problems. First, they’re more expensive, and secondly, they don’t run as many games. (Not nearly as bad now as it was 10 years ago, though.)

    But a Mac also needs only one cable, so I’ve never had to deal with a huge mess of cables on my home machine. (Most I’ve ever had was three. One for the Mac, one for my external hard drive, and one for my printer. Then five other available spots on the power strip for anything else I needed to do like charge my phone.

    I’m not saying Macs are intrinsically better. Not saying they’re worse. But there are fewer cables to connect.

    1. Tse says:

      It’s also lacking some pretty important professional software… like most Autodesk products. You’re spot on on the cables, though. The back of my PC looks about on par with what Shamus has.

      1. ET says:

        Due to a small room, my computer is right beside the table with the microwave, hot-plate, and toaster oven. The neighborhood I’m in also has semi-frequent power outages, since they haven’t got around to upgrading everything (30-ish year old neighborhood), so I’ve got a UPS. Also, my NAS boxes are in here too. So, my cabling situation is like, at least 200% worse than Shamus. ^^;

    2. Geebs says:

      Call me an Apple apologist, but it’s also pretty challenging to find a Mac designed so that you can accidentally stick your finger in one of the fans. I guess that’s why Steve Jobs was so keen on fanless devices?

      Also, yeah, for music creation Mac hardware generally Just Works because the audio drivers that ship with OS X are actually not terrible.

      1. harborpirate says:

        I think this has much more to do with Shamus falling victim to one of the classic blunders: leaving the inside of your computer open while it is still running.

        All kinds of fun things can happen, from fans biting you to any of the many electrically active parts of the machine deciding to use your skin as a conductor.

        Whether desktop Mac case fans are heavily shrouded enough to not be dangerous when running with the case open I can’t speak to, but my inclination is to be skeptical.

  15. Narratorway says:

    I got so tired of dealing with The Snarl that I eventually said, “Fuck this!”, drilled screws in my walls to hang power strips by and then tie all cords into one strand that lead up to it. It’s pretty much been the only way I’ve been able to avoid any hassle in the forsaken place between the wall and the ass of my tower. :P

  16. Cyranor says:

    One should not mettle in the affairs of computers as they are subtle and quick to anger.

  17. poiumty says:

    Look at the bright side. At least you had enough material to write a blog post.

  18. krellen says:

    My new job is doing hardware repairs, largely on laptops. That means half of my job (that is, half of the actual work; half of my job is driving around the state, so this is half of a half) is stringing cables through small spaces. So I feel your pain, Shamus.

  19. mhoff12358 says:

    Woah! I have the same desktop case. That’s… neat?

  20. Dreadjaws says:

    Be careful, Shamus. It has tasted your blood now. Next time, wear heavy protection.

    1. Humanoid says:

      In all seriousness though, most cases likely ship with fans that spin way too fast for their intended purpose. I bump my fans all the time, not ideal sure, but no damage done with them spinning at 1000-1500rpm.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I think that fan was taking revenge for his cousin that youve punched in the grill.

  22. Da Mage says:

    It appears skynet has learnt how to use biological warfare…this is more serious then we first thought…

  23. Humanoid says:

    I had a coil whine problem that took forever to diagnose, alternately removing every component in my PC. Coil whine in general is one of those very tricky issues that takes some effort to reproduce, and it could be coming from pretty much anything inside the system.

    The eventual culprit? The mouse pad. “Wait, that doesn’t make sense,” you might think. Well, technically it was the mouse, but I had received a free “pro gaming” mousepad from some promotion and had only recently started using it. Well, apparently being rather thin and plasticky, it was somehow amplifying the whine from the mouse, compared to the old foam mouse pad I was using. Incredibly mundane solution.

  24. Adalore says:

    hah, my recent issue was apparently fixed by disabling a “headphone” device that didn’t exist on my computer.

  25. urs says:

    It’s the little things, right?

    Here, I finally connected the 2nd amp and the spare speakers to my computer so that we are able to also listen to music not from the last millenium (give or take). But in a way that 1) I’m occasionally blasting sound through the speakers instead of the headphones as I have no way of telling what’s on (and that can potentially be very weird) and 2) I either have to do the crawling-under-desk every time I switch OR I have to live with listening to my computer… whatever it does that makes the high pitched crunchy noises that ONLY appear through the front/top jack.

  26. Humanoid says:

    Oh right, another PC audio issue I had recently was when I had my HTPC wake from sleep too fast compared to the AV Receiver it was hooked up to, which played havoc with the HDMI handshake (seriously, screw HDMI). The HTPC wouldn’t actually be aware that there was an issue, playing a music file merely resulted in no sound despite the EQ stuff on Foobar lighting up properly, but the AVR did recognise that there was no audio signal. Flash content would crash the browser when it attempted to play. Ultimately the solution was to artificially delay the IR signal to the HTPC to make sure the AVR was good and ready to connect before waking.

    The alternate solution was actually to buy a ~$100 physical device called the HDMI Detective which basically stores and ‘fakes’ the device IDs of whatever’s connected to it to ensure the handshake works properly. Geez, that’s some cash cow when fundamentally it’s all because of a stupid shortcoming in the DRM encumbered HDMI crap we’ve had to put up with at the behest of media companies.

  27. Zak McKracken says:

    Because you just tweeted this
    Dear people who write programming docs in a PDF which does not allow selection:You are bad people and you make life difficult for no reason but I don’t do the twittering but want to say something nonetheless:

    In order to get vector graphics (eps images for example) into a PDF without turning them into pixels — which should be automatic but isn’t because people making office software seem to be mostly unaware of this — you need some silly tricks. This applies to both LibreOffice and MS Office.
    The most straightforward way is to not use the builtin PDF export but print to a postscript file, then convert that into a PDF. The problem: I’ve found that some fonts will not survive the “printing” procedure as text but are turned into vector graphics objects as well. Some other fonts in the same document are not.
    For scanned documents, you can just use OCR, but for this type of document there seems to really be no way of restoring the content-awareness. Which is crazy and sad, but it means that those people not having selectable text probably did not mean for it to not be selectable but (like me) had to discover the problem after a long and painful process, and then be faced with the choice of either changing the font (and re-arranging the entire effing layout) or living with it.

    Oh, and my grand opus had at that point already been printed.

    That hurts!

  28. Soeed says:

    Does the Oculus headset have an output audio device built in? If so when it was inserted and removed it might have changed your computer’s default audio device when you disconnected the Oculus. You can check it by right-clicking the Windows notification speaker symbol and choosing playback devices, and then set your “speakers/headphones” back to default. Some new motherboards have 3-5 audio devices that windows recognizes even if nothing is plugged in.

    Our CEO had this problem with his laptop during a presentation. He opened the mixer and saw the bouncing gray bars, but it was trying to play to his wireless dock speakers in the other room.

    1. MichaelG says:

      The Oculus has both HDMI (which should include audio) and a USB port, which might be the problem.

  29. Shit is weird. All it takes is for a neutrino to blast through RAM at the wrong moment.

    Memory Rot, Bit Rot, call it what you will.

    I forgot who said it but “Fail early, fail often.” is a very good mantra, same as “Always make backups.”

    *sigh* which reminds me…

    PS! In this case by fail early I mean the system should be paranoid and show a box of info to the user, if there is a issue that can be detected (through software or hardware) then it should do so. The user might not know how to fix it or do with the info but he could at least then look it up on the net.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      It might get a tiny bit annoying if Windows flipped out every time a bit flipped.

      Windows has detected an excitable neutrino with ideas above its station! Would you like to:

      [Not recommended. Sooo not recommended. Look at this red X! Oh, well, continue if you must, you maverick: I wash my hands of you.]

      Check online for a solution?
      [Recommended. Will achieve diddly-squat but your PC will feel ‘involved’ which is very important for its sense of self-worth.]

      Google this esoteric error code only to find it’s for XP users who haven’t installed the latest XP Service Pack but have installed Azerbaijani language support for Vista possibly by mistake?
      [Neither recommended nor not recommended. Refer to Knowledge Base Article 0xC384396c. (Windows 8.1 only)]

  30. SteveDJ says:

    This article sure ended in a far sadder state then I was thinking it would… I was fully expecting you to get to the end of the story, and be able to say you discovered the volume knob on the headset was turned down… :-)

  31. RTBones says:

    I can honestly say, I feel your pain.

    Imagine a rack (actually, quite a few racks) of ~10-15 1U PCs. Imagine that in this rack there are also a couple normal-sized desktops, at least two KVMs (which are different brands and sizes), and a monitor/keyboard setup that folds into itself for storage in the rack when not in use.

    Now imagine having a problem similar to what you are experiencing.

    Imagine going to the back of the rack, and seeing the very neatly organized cables – miles of which are of all sorts, shapes, and sizes – all neatly in their place and several inches deep – which it takes to run this monstrosity.

    Now imagine trying to reseat, move, or remove ONE of said cables and cursing to high heaven because to move ONE cable, you need to get no less than FOUR out of the way, which requires the removal of no less than 20 zip ties, only to get the job done and figure out that the cable you worked so hard to move was not the right one – and when you do find the right one, you need to cut another 7 zip ties to get the reach you need.

  32. Patrick the Obtuse says:

    Fight with a computer? Getting brave in your old age, I see.

    Over the years I’ve witnessed Shamus pick a fight with (and lose) a tree, a chair, several lamps and a box of Kleenex.

    His record vs. keyboards, mice and Atari joysticks is significantly better. He’s about 50/50 in those contests.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Ah yes. I’ve lost several fights with trees. Those things are vicious! Even though their bark is certainly worse than their bite.

      I’m still unbeaten vs. keyboards, though! Keyboards are fortunately much weaker against my standard opening “headbutt” gambit than are oaks and beeches…

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