Jack vs USB headphones on Mac

A work colleague recently resigned and left his USB headset on his desk. Foolishly thinking that one plug is better than two, I swapped my old jack-connector skype headset for his. Unlike the headphone jack, USB-connected headphones do not automatically disable the internal speakers on my macbook when plugged in, leading to a blast of noise across the cube farm when I tried to test them.

The problem is twofold – firstly, Mac OS treats the headphone jack and internal speakers as the same device, whereas USB headphones are naturally treated as an extra device. There is therefore no configuration option in the software to alter the behaviour – it’s buried in the BIOS for all I can tell. I got around this by downloading SoundSource – it remembers speaker and microphone configurations and restores your earlier sound settings as you plug devices in and out.

But then I came across the second problem – it only worked 50% of the time. Turns out that a single physical device appears as different virtual devices depending on what USB port it’s plugged into. I had to configure the headset to be the default mic and speakers while it was plugged into one port, then plug it into the other and repeat the process.

It’s at times like this that I appreciate how my mother feels.

Vuze+feedmytorrents.com, a match made in…?

Despite having played with Democracy Miro, I’m still rather attached to Azureus Vuze for one or two of its useful features*.

Being an addict of US scifi TV, I was excited to discover feedmytorrents.com, which provides vodcast RSS feeds for most current popular US shows, such as my current favourites BSG and Lost. The killer advantage over other RSS sources (such as the excellent EZTV) is that one can subscribe to a particular feed in Miro or Vuze and get precisely one copy of every episode of that show. No more remembering to search mininova to see if the new episode was up yet! This was exactly what I had been waiting for since discovering Democracy Miro’s channels system.**

Of course, it didn’t take long for the system to break. Vuze’s RSS FeedScanner plugin would display a new episode in the list but not start downloading, instead giving a constantly shifting error message: “Init” > “Scanning 1/64…” >>> “Scanning 39/64…” > “Init” (it never seemed to get past 39). This would eventually time out saying “No data”. This affliction would only affect those particular episodes that feedmytorrents had sourced from mininova, but not those from the pirate bay (easily distinguished by the torrent URL). There was nothing wrong with the torrent file itself, as I could right-click > copy link URL and paste it into firefox, which would happily download the torrent and open it in Vuze, the default application. But of course this completely defeated the seamless experience.

I searched on the Vuze forums and found several similar problems reported but few solutions. One suggestion was that the setting “Use URL as referer” might need to be turned off. Sure enough, this worked. For whatever reason, it seems that mininova doesn’t like the HTTP referer field to be set to the “URL”, whichever URL that may be (itself?). Turning this option off (thus sending no referer) didn’t seem to break piratebay torrents (and why should it: this is the behaviour when one types in a URL by hand), so I disabled it on all my feeds. This makes me ask two questions. 1: why isn’t this option off by default and 2: what the hell does the HTTP referer field have to do with it anyway?

* coughcoughtorcoughcough! Interestingly, the latest version (4.1) of Vuze has reskinned itself to look almost exactly like Miro…
** sorry guys, I don’t watch Rocketboom…