Hearing voices in the darkness

[First, a procedural note: I think this is the umpteenth time I need to assure you that I’m going to blow away the dust from this blog and keep babbling, etc etc etc. I won’t waste much time on that. I’ll just briefly assure you to that I’m going to put some stuff here that I’m posting on Playfire. Some people there seem to like my babblings. Might as well put them here too. Expect epic Skyrim diaries and random whining on various topics.]

This is a really pointless and a geeky tale, but it probably should be told. Game blogs must have to have pointless and geeky tales, after all.

Yesterday, my head didn’t quite work. My head only somewhat cleared by midnight, as I was sort of expecting my friend to show up for a round of Halo Wars.

And what an anticipated game session it was. A friend of mine was playing Halo Wars around the time I got my Xbox 360 a couple of years ago, so obviously I rushed to get a copy so we might play the game together. That didn’t happen, unfortunately, and he’s been too busy to play many games at all. But recently, he got Gold and we played tons of Halo: Reach. Obviously, it was time to make up for the lost time.

Which is easier said than done, because as far as I can tell, neither of us are real-time strategy geeks. I’ve been a bit less enthusiastic about Halo Wars online - the folks in XBL matchmaking seem to eat noobs for breakfast.

So, midnight came. 1 AM came. A kettleful of Earl Grey, Hot, became Not So Hot, then Somewhat Coldish.

Some loopiness started to creep in my head. There had been an update to the optional media components to the Xbox 360 lately, so I managed to test what Sintel looks like on 360 nowadays. Previously, the 1280×544 version didn’t work, and I had to settle for the 1024×436 version. Nowadays, the 1280×544 version seems to work fine… except for the fact that the download page only has a link to the 5.1 version, which doesn’t work. Stereo version works, and apparently still exists in the mirrors, albeit unlinked.

And the loopiness continued.

I decided to put the loopiness to good use while waiting for my friend to show up.

(A side note, which in no way spoils the story: My friend was cheerfully dozing and didn’t show up until well after 2 AM. Dammit, seems like everyone has problems sleeping these days! I swear, I was that close to checking out whether or not I have a DVD of Dark City - turns out yes - and deciding whether or not to watch it while waiting for him to show up. =)

Before I venture any further to my madness, I would like to mention a curious detail, which is often overlooked.

Hehe... he... he... It says "wireless" in it.

“Wireless controller”. That’s what the package says. “Wireless”. With symbols that denote wirelessness, and all that rot. Please keep that in mind.

Now, I have had this curious audio setup with my Xbox 360 for a while now, and now it was time to expand it.

I have a nice set of headphones. I thought it would be cool if I could route my Xbox 360 headset stuff through them.

Xbox 360 headsets are weird because they actually use a standard headset plug. I can actually plug it on my cellphone and it works.

A premonition?

(…yes, a year-old Nokia phone. Compatible with Microsoft hardware. This was a grim spectre of things to come.)

Of course, that’s just about the only other port I have that can take headsets - my PCs and whatnot take standard mic/headphone jacks, and I don’t have a headset adaptor.

Or do I? Turns out I have. Specifically made for 360, no less.

Xbox 360 voice adaptor

I originally bought this thing because I thought it might route the audio from the 360 directly to the headset, but I had ignored the part of the instructions where this huge obvious bundle of cable gets plugged to the television headphone output. (I’m a software guy. I have an annoying tendency to assume that the hardware is omnipotent when in reality it’s the part of the system that’s always too slow and always too painful to kick.)

Now, maybe many the television sets in the space-year 2012 do have headphone jack receptables, as nowadays customers aren’t entirely dumb anymore, but my television is a bit older and was bought, on the cheap, by my parents years and years ago. (This is never stated too often, but it’s too frequently forgotten - you don’t let your parents do electronics shopping, kids.)

But I realised that thanks to my awesome new sound routing setup that allows me to actually use headphones with my 360, I might actually be able to use this adapter.

I could actually plug the thing to my amplifier device, and it works just fine with the headphones. But I also needed a microphone. Let’s see…

It's a microphone, all right.

Uh, yeah, it’s a microphone all right. A microphone with telescope setting for video cameras. Definitely studio quality. It’s bloody battery-operated. If this isn’t good enough for gaming, I don’t know what it is.

…and I didn’t even have to pay for it.

However, the microphone does have a small problem.

Not very wireless any more

Remember what I told you to keep in mind? Yes.

The connection itself is quite clean.

Adapters ahoy!

Yeppers. It’s connected nicely, it’s bulky as hell, there’s bloody wires going everywhere - oh, I completely forgot to mention the play&charge cable - but it is not quite difficult to use.

And I could still hear all of the stuff from Xbox 360’s sound output. It’s a shame you can’t directly hook up headphones to the 360, but it’s not really a big deal. You just plug the Xbox 360 to your existing amplifier.

…except I didn’t have my amplifier ready. The old amplifier wants DIN plugs, and no one uses DIN plugs in this advanced decade of ours. So instead, I used…

It's a Mac.

…my sister’s old PowerBook, now acting as the world’s most awesome Wi-Fi enabled amplifier.

I’m generally ambivalent about Apple (as in “they’re pretty okay, I guess, just wish some of the policies were different”), but the laptops are bloody amazing. This thing is half a decade old, and it still serves perfectly well as a lapto—- um, the power jack is broken so it’s better not move it too much. It’s a stationary small-profile computer. Ahem, it works perfectly well as a net browsing machine and a writing comp—- …pardon me, the keyboard is finally dying after all these years. OK, USB ports definitely work so all is not lost…

…The bottom line: It runs Audacity. Unlike my new netbook, it actually has both line-in and headphone jacks. With Audacity up and line monitoring enabled, It can route audio between these ports just fine. I can just plug in this contraption of mine to the headphone jack and—-

…bloody hell, the headphone jack is getting finicky too. (*sigh*)

…We may yet get a few more years of service out of these parts. We must do our utmost.

Well well. Time to game.

Finally, my friend arrived and we had an awesome game. It just turns out that the mic has to be set to the telescopic mode and I need to hold the mic really close to my mouth for it to register the speech. It gets really awkward.

Too bad I’m not that much of a chatting person. Slightly awkward and all that. I’m not very talkative, especially when I try to focus on the actual game.

Like so:

How it works...

So it does work, but not very stellarly. I need a microphone stand or something, which I actually don’t have at hand. I think I need to somehow figure out how to use the headset mic instead of this ridiculous thing.

Perhaps… I need some kind of a mixer.

…I think my father has an old 4-channel mixer in the closet. I could just route the netbook’s sound output to the amp so I could have independent mixing of game sounds, instant message notifications and all tha—-

—-somebody please stop me before I get more ideas.

The point is, you can have awesome time setting up crazy stuff like this without spending too much money, even. Won’t help you play better, but it gets fun soon.

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