Archive for April, 2007

HD Audio? More like HeaDache Audio.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

I apologise for the dreadful joke, but this is a subject that has been consistently bugging me for quite some time.

Last year I got a new laptop. It’s fairly decent (by no means high-end, but it has 1GB RAM, a Core Duo T2300 CPU, and an nVidia GeForce Go 7400 – enough to play most games at its native resolution of 1280×800 without any problems). It also has Intel HD Audio. My issue with this comes from two completely different areas.

First up: Microsoft. Microsoft has Windows XP support for the audio system, as outlined in Knowledge Base entry #888111. But wait! What’s this I see?

Note This hotfix is not available for download. To acquire this hotfix, contact Microsoft Product Support Services. For more details, see the “More Information” section.

Oh how very useful. I had to spend quite a long time tracking down a copy of hotfix 888111. Thankfully Windows isn’t my primary OS, and Linux (Ubuntu) just supported it out of the metaphorical box, though on there there’s no audio input.

Secondly (and finally), the audio quality just really isn’t that good. I’m not sure whether the blame lies with the audio chip maker or the laptop manufacturer, or maybe it’s even a driver issue – though I doubt that for most of the issues – but there are a number of issues. For a start, there’s a constant hiss that I can hear, even when audio’s muted; in some circumstances when my laptop’s closed, I get regular clicking and similar quality issues in some circumstances; and finally, audio sometimes seems to get “backed up”, so a whole batch plays quickly after a brief pause, and will sometimes change volume (this one I’m more inclined to believe could be a software issue, but I don’t really feel like testing that).

Now, I know that audio quality on integrated hardware is unlikely to be great, and I’m by no means an electronics engineer, so I also don’t know if it’s technically possible to make a small integrated chip that doesn’t suffer from interference, but the audio quality just bugs me. For contrast, I happily use a Sound Blaster Live! Platinum 5.1 on my desktop, and thats not considered to be particularly high end, so I’m not an extreme audiophile.

(Of course, if anyone from Creative or another audio company is reading, I’ll happily review an ExpressCard X-Fi or other sound card. Or hey, even a USB one. *ahem*)

Three Red Lights of Fail

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

With all the talk on the interwebs of Xbox 360 failures (not that you should believe anything you read online…), I suppose it was inevitable really that my near-launch machine would ultimately fail. And it did so on Easter Sunday.

Tried booting up, and switching to the 360 input on my monitor, but it wasn’t happening. I rebooted the console, and got an output this time – only I got a lot of crackle on the display (which was showing the Dashboard), and a loud whining through the speakers. Another reboot gave the same issue. A further reboot after a few mins to cool down gave the famous ‘three red lights of death‘ – something I now get on every boot, even after leaving it disconnected for half a day.

The particularly interesting point is that it failed while playing Resistance: Fall of Man on the PlayStation 3, which has been sitting next to the 360, with the MS machine being booted up to demonstrate both Gears of War, and what it looked like in HD. Still, I guess sitting the rival consoles next to each other wasn’t the best of ideas… conspiracy theory, anyone?

Like Christmas, Easter isn’t a good time for things to fail, as bank holidays prevail, so I decided to pop off an e-mail to Microsoft that evening so they could reply as soon as possible. They have done, but other than directing me to that same webpage about the lights, they have given me numbers to call “for more help”. Thankfully I can call an 0800 number, and hopefully I’ll soon be sending my machine off for repair… just a pity it’s over 2 months out of warranty (so it’s going to cost me).

Stay tuned to this blog for exciting further progress!

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