Category Archives: off topic

Why I’m not worried about Skynet destroying humanity in my lifetime

In my new role as field applications engineer for Silicon Labs I use virtually every video conferencing app available. What irks me is that none of them can figure out which microphone to use. If the largest corporations in the world with thousands of smart engineers can’t solve this simple problem then I think it’s safe to assume that the singularity is a long way off.

Sorry for posting off the Z-Wave topic but this is truly ridiculous. My job involves supporting customers all over the US and I often call the Z-Wave home office in Denmark. Using a video conferencing app is essential, not so much for the video but to be able to share screens for presentations or demos. I normally use the app my customer prefers so I’ve used all of the popular ones in the last few weeks. Skype, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting. bluejeans and the SiLabs corporate solution Lifesize.

Can you hear me?

The start of every call begins with “can you hear me?”. Then various members of the call attempt to get their microphone and speakers to work. After a couple of minutes a few members invariably call into the dial up number and then we can finally get down to business.

I acknowledge the problem isn’t trivial. My laptop has a built in mic, speakers, a line in/out, my docking port has line in/out, my monitor has speakers, I have 2 USB headsets and a Bluetooth one. So there are a lot of possible microphones and speakers.

How hard can it be?

Some apps are better than others. Most give you a menu to change the audio and quickly test the audio before the call starts. Some make reasonable guesses but still get it wrong occasionally. Skype for business is the worst as it gives a limited set of choices because Microsoft “knows” which audio to use but unfortunately is just wrong with no way to pick the correct one. ugh.

Seems to me there is a simple solution – at the start of the call, if the input currently selected has nothing on it but one of the others does, switch to the one with sound!Or at least popup a menu suggesting the user might want to switch to the input with the user yelling “can you hear me” into the mic.

If a few engineers can’t solve this simple problem then I feel we have some time before Skynet becomes self aware and decides to wipe us all out.