Control Headphone and Speaker Volume Independently on a MOTU [solved]

I have successfully extended the life of my MOTU 896 audio interface. This solution required buying a new product, but I am so happy with the result that I wanted to post about it anyway.

I had two problems with the MOTU. One was that the volume knob is on the unit which I had to keep nearby my seat at all times, which even with a custom rack makes my room layout cluttered and makes me reach awkwardly for it to adjust the volume. The pot was also dirty and created scratching noise when I turned the knob.

The other problem was that if I wanted to record microphone audio with headphones, the volume knob would control both the headphone levels and the active monitors, and I would have to turn off my speakers in order to set the levels in the headphones to prevent track bleeding and feedback. This was a major pain.

I found a solution by getting the TC Electronic Level Pilot. At $80 it’s fairly pricey but it’s much cheaper than getting a new audio interface or outboard mixer, and I’m quite happy with it. It’s a high-resolution analog volume control with two XLR inputs and two XLR outputs.

The speakers are still going through MAIN OUT, but the signal runs through this new volume knob first. I switched the rocker switch next to the volume knob from “Main Out & Phones” to “Phones Only”. This causes you to have no volume control through your speakers and a line level signal blaring through them, but now with the Level Pilot I can set the level on the phones with one volume knob and the speaker levels with the pilot.

The knob sits happily next to my keyboard for easy control, and I’ve rearranged my whole studio now that the MOTU rack doesn’t have to sit right next to me. I’m very happy with the Level Pilot. It feels very durable and I have a much finer control of audio levels. My only complaint is that sometimes the base pivots on some surfaces making it harder to control. Placing it on a wood surface or putting some double stick tape underneath it solves this problem.

Override USB or Firewire Volume Level in OS X with Soundflowerbed [solved]

Update2: Lion has this functionality built-in. hurray!

Edit: While the sound controls work, I’ve been having major issues with soundflower, from audio disappearing to getting stuck and looping on a sample. Looks like soundflower still needs a bit of development. :(

This has been driving me nuts for years.

I have an external firewire audio interface, a MOTU 896, that has served me well for 7 years. It powers my studio monitors, has multi inputs and delivers superior sound compared to my internal computer speakers.

The only problem with it is that OS X’s volume controls don’t work with it. The volume keys don’t work on the keyboard, the apple remote volume doesn’t work, and you can’t control the volume with AirMouse on the iPhone. In system preferences, you get the message “The selected device has no output controls”, and you get an annoying disabled speaker when you try and use the volume controls.

Thanks to this post and the wonderful folks at Cycling 74, there is a free solution. You can install soundflower, which allows you to route all of your audio to a soundflower device. Once you’ve installed soundflower, you can run Soundflowerbed from your applications menu, which makes a finder menu appear that allows you to choose which device to route audio to. Choose your external device, and you’re done!

Finally, you can leave the volume knob on your external device in one setting, and control the volume from across the room with a remote! Glorious!

Soundflower is also a great app for interapplication multichannel audio routing, similar to rewire or jack.

Stop external hard drives from spinning down on OS X [Solved]

I have my iTunes music library, samples, video files, and more on an external drive, and the 5 second delay of my drive spinning up is annoying at best and prevents me from working at worst. I finally just found the menu that disables the external drive from spinning down. I don’t know how this affects the drive life but it’s worth it for me.

System Preferences > Energy Saver > uncheck Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible

Toshiba SD-K860 won’t eject [solved]

My two year old upconverting Toshiba DVD/divx player from wouldn’t eject my rented DVD (I am Legend). I would push eject and it would say “Open”, do nothing, and after a few seconds say “Loading” and play the DVD again. Once the harassing blockbuster calls started coming in I decided to try and fix it.
I found a great site called Fixya, which is similar to this site but focuses on hardware.
This page addressed a similar problem with the Toshiba SD-4990. That page linked to a service manual here ( ) which was similar enough to be extremely helpful.
Some suggested that it was a software issue and unplugging the machine for half an hour to let reset it self. However, after unplugging it all night the problem remained the next morning.
I took the machine apart (6 screws on the outside) and unmounted the drive (4 more screws), unplugging the three cables and remembering their orientation (blue wire faces the back). I unscrewed the top chasis (2 screws underneath soft rubber & glue) and got the DVD out. Then after some finagling I found the eject levers on the bottom (long slide switches) that opened up the DVD tray. I massaged the tray back and forth, and did the same with the laser mechanism on its track. The tray belt was in tact and there were no loose solder joints or wires. So I plugged the drive back in loosely (without reassembly) and plugged the power back in. Carefully, without touching any capacitors I hit the eject button and the drive tray started working again. It must have just been jammed. I unplugged the power, reassembled everything, turned it back on, and it’s back to normal!
This may not be the problem your SD-K850 or other DVD player was having, but perhaps these steps will help you solve your problem.

Major HDTV lag with Guitar Hero, Donkey Konga and DVDs [unsolved]

I went over to my friend’s house to play our first guitar hero 3 battle for wii, mode only to start sucking immediately even though I play on expert and my friend plays on medium. “WTF?” I said. My friend was like “well I think you were sucking is all” but I thought I was going crazy. Was my wiimote malfunctioning?

Then I noticed the notes were coming down later than the music and started playing early and got a little better, but the lag was horrible. I asked him if he’d ever calibrated the game and he said no, so I calibrated it and the delay changed from 0 ms to a whopping 115 ms. Then I was able to play perfectly if I payed more attention to the music than the screen, but my friend had gotten used to playing before the notes hit so it messed him up to play on the beat. He tried calibrating again, but he hit the notes before the downbeat like he was used to playing, so the game recalibrated to 0 ms. We kept trying to recalibrate, but guitar hero must quantize the delay to either to 0 or to 115 because that’s what we kept getting. We compromised and set the calibration manually to 75 ms, which was manageable for both of us, but I had to play a little earlier than I was used to.

My friend has an LG HTDV. I’m not sure what model it is. I have an infocus SP5000 projector. When I play at home, there is 0 latency, though fast moving notes motion blur a little. His LG though has a very noticeable delay.

I had brought over donkey konga as well to show him the game, and plugged it in, but it was unplayable. I could compensate on the easy (monkey) songs if I played an eighth note ahead of the beat, but on the harder (gorilla) songs it was impossible. Unfortunately, donkey konga is an older game and there was no option to calibrate. My friend said it was fun and played it like he played guitar hero, but I feel bad for him, because he can’t play any of his music games on the beat with his TV. He says he thinks of it like conducting, where you make the motion ahead of the music, but as a drummer it makes me insane trying to play ahead of the notes.

After we were done playing games, we watched a movie, and I noticed that the movie sync was off with the sound as well. I didn’t bother mentioning it to him – he probably has never noticed and I didn’t want him to feel any worse about his expensive equipment.

I did find a website here about HTDV Lag – although after his tests, the author actually recommends a LG model. It must be a different one than my friend had.

Anyway, buyer beware, an HTDV may look great but you may not notice until after your warranty has expired that the display can have a huge lag. You’re not going crazy and that might be the reason you suck at guitar hero.

Leaving this as unsolved unless someone can tell me how to fix my friend’s LG HDTV.

Too bad you’re here probably because you’ve already bought a laggy HDTV and are searching for a solution.

I did find more info on AVS forum about the problem, which suggests to try to send signal to the HDTV that is in its native resolution so that it doesn’t have to rescale. I will ask my friend if he’s using the wii component cables and 480p which might help a little, but wii owners may be particularly out of luck as the wii does not produce full HD signal.

The article also suggests this device that will solve the problem, but at $2000 you’re better off selling your TV and buying a new one, unless your crazy TV cost way more than that.

3-second iMac G5 Fan Noise fix [solved]

Wow ok this is gross and obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it: My G5 used to be very quiet compared to my PC, but now it is the noisier of the two. I had installed CPU temperature monitors and other software methods of trying to cool it, and then finally found this post:

iMac Fan Noise Cured in 3 seconds

I took a tissue and wiped off the bottom grill as well as the back intake vent. Eew! Covered in dirt and dust.

Within about 2 minutes my iMac got quieter by about 4 db. It’s now quietly happily humming away.

Duh! I clean out my PC all the time because I’m in there a lot, but had never thought to do this with my mac. Thanks matracer!

How to fix a broken projector dust filter, and why InFocus sucks [solved]

This is a tech support horror story for the ages.

I bought an InFocus SP5000 HD projector off of for a decent price. I’m quite happy with it, though I found out after purchase that the bulbs have a 1000 hour lifetime and cost $400 to replace. Ouch. I should have bought a LED projector. Oh well. It’s still really nice and goes well with my surround sound DIY speaker stands.

So the projector has two timers, one for the bulb life (which disables the projector after 1000 hours, but you can reset it, so it doesn’t make any sense to me), and one to remind you to clean the dust filter to extend the life of the projector. The dust filter timer goes off every 150 hours or so. After mine went off for the first time, I read the manual (downloaded off the net, since the refurb didn’t come with one) and it said to “clean the dust filter with a light vacuum.”

What the heck is a light vacuum? I don’t know, but I tried my roomba first but it didn’t work; I didn’t want the roomba to run over and eat the dust filter, but holding the little buddy in my hands and trying to run it didn’t work either, because the roomba’s too smart to run when it’s not on the ground.

So, I tried using the hose from my typical household vacuum. I turned on the vacuum, held the hose about 4 inches away, and *THUNK*, a chunk of foam ripped away from the filter and got sucked into the vacuum. Crap! I didn’t want to run my projector without a filter because I’d quickly damage the $400 bulb, and possibly the other components.

My projector was still under warranty, so I called up InFocus. After being on hold for quite a while, I finally reached an offshore tech support person and explained my situation. I looked online and didn’t see the dust filter part, so could they ship me a new one? I’d pay for the part I said.

Well, the tech support lady checked and said that that wasn’t a part that they sold to consumers. Since I had admitted user error, my warranty wasn’t eligible for service. I would have to pay $50 shipping plus a $120 service fee for them just to look at it and replace the part. Yes, that’s $170 FOR A PIECE OF FOAM AND PLASTIC. I was pretty disgusted. I told the story to my friend Bob and he asked, “woah, is it MAGIC foam?”

Well, the fix was simple enough. My great friend Katrina Nordine let me rip apart an old pair of headphones of hers and salvage the foam filter from them. Being a craft and sewing expert, it took her all of 2 minutes to sew the foam on and patch my filter for me.

projector dust filter fixed 2

projector dust filter fixed 1

The projector’s worked great ever since. Thanks Katrina! Screw you, InFocus!