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Herman Gears

OS X, SL 2.6.3, irregular voice issues

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Hi, I'm aware that SL "voice connection issues" are always being reported for different SL locations, times of day (dependent on traffic, no doubt), etc., so I will try to be specific. I run the latest version of OS X (10.6.7), and the latest OS X SL client, 2.6.3. Generally speaking, I don't have problems using SL's VOIP services. My Internet send/receive speeds are typically pretty good at my home, even during peak traffic times, and even at traffic-heavy virtual locations in SL, I can usually speak for 10-20 second intervals without breaking up at all (My MOS score, with an approximate SL voice codec match is 3.9 -- adequate -- http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9629862/documents/mos_score.pdf ). When voice services "go down" in second life, or a sim crashes, my troubleshooting routine includes logging out, clearing caches/preferences, and rebooting my system.

The irregularity of my issue is as follows. ONLY sometimes, when I open up SL 2.6.3, the client appears unable to initialize my audio hardware. Before logging on, I open up SL Preferences, click on the Sound & Media tab, then the Input/Output Devices button. Ordinarily, beneath Input, a line of text reading "Please wait" is shown briefly, until my soundcard is recognized, at which point a microphone input levels graphic appears to replace it. At times when it doesn't work, the "Please wait" string is displayed endlessly, and my audio hardware (my soundcard & mic, for input, not the sound output) never becomes active.

Since it works sometimes and not other times, I'm tempted to believe that it is a software/network issue. However, the status of the Sound & Media tab, in Preferences, would suggest that it's a hardware issue. Another observation is that sometimes, even when my mic/soundcard DO appear to be properly initialized (the "Please wait" string is replaced by the input levels graphic), the in-game voice services still don't (problems connecting to the server, I guess). When I press my chosen push-to-talk key (F5 in my case), the Speak button on my dashboard illuminates green, but voice services are inactive (no white dot above my avatar's head, etc.).

My Apple computer is a 1st generation Intel Mac Pro (late 2006), with a brand new ATI Radeon HD 5770 GPU, and 6 GB RAM. It still runs most every graphics/processor intensive application that I throw at it pretty flawlessly, and without conflict, so I doubt that it's inadequate for SL. I am a bit uncertain about my soundcard & software, however. I use an external M-Audio Audiophile USB soundcard, connected to a Presonus pre-amp & microphone. The Audiophile connects over USB, and has its own driver software, installed to OS X System Preferences. The driver software is a little bit dated, but M-Audio has released updates as necessary, and OS X (and every other application that I've used with it, to date) recognizes and makes use of it without issue. But maybe, MAYbe there's some conflict there that SL 2.6.3 gets hung up about. I can't test this for sure because the audio line-in jack on my Mac Pro is broken (yah, yah, I know, all this fuss and I should probably just buy a new computer, or fix the old one, but these jacks have a history of breaking, and it's JUST a stupid little audio line-in jack -- replace the WHOLE computer for THAT? -- lol), so my USB soundcard connects to the only microphone I can use.

So, dear reader, if you're still with me, thanks. If you suspect my hardware is to blame (some conflict with SL 2.6.3), I'd like to hear your opinion. If SL voice problems are just that common, and I'm only another drop in the voice bucket of woe, then I'd like to hear about that, too. Finally, as a non-IT professional, I don't service/diagnose network problems, and so I don't really know which angle I should be coming at this problem from. When voice services DO go down in SL, is there a good piece of software, or some network analysis that I could use to understand what is going on? It's an awful bummer when, ranting with the bawdy, obnoxious Saturday night crowd, voice services (or the sim, yes, of course that happens too) "go down", and I'm left wondering if logging back in makes me part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Truly,

Herman Gears (SL basic member with a willingness to kick his acct. up to subscription status to help pay for better QC :) )

herman.gears@gmail.com

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Reading your question, I have the feeling you know more about these things than most. Certainly more than me, for sure.

From what i have understood, voice in SL on a Mac has always been a bit... interesting, shall we say... I never used it myself, so I don't know much about it. It also seems to me that sound cards and graphics cards are a bit the same in the way that the drivers have to be more or less flawless for the cards to work properly.

I wonder, with the sound setup you seem to have, I assume you use it for other things than SL, do you have issues with other software than SL? Do you experience the issues you refer to in any other circumstance? If so, you would know whether the issue is with the viewer or with your mac. If the problem is your Mac, there surely must be diagnostic tools - software or other - available that can give a clue to where the problem is - hardware or software?

Sorry I can't contribute any more useful information. I am, however, pretty sure that going premium is not going to help much with the issue you have.

- Luc -

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Your line of thinking is similar to my own. I'm fairly sure I've ruled out hardware, just hoped some LL rep might be able to confirm it. I logged on just this hour, and all works fine, so I guess it's just the network, disguised as some hardware initiation flaw. I may very well pay LL again, but I don't use the service enough. You're surely correct, payment will not directly impact QC issues, of this sort Thanks for your reply!

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Could it be that hiccups in the connection give these kinds of effects? I thought of it when you mentioned the network; is it possible that sound, and voice, is very sensitive to the quality of the network that you get issues for small variations in quality that you otherwise would not notice?

- Luc -

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Yours seems like the most likely explanation. My relationship with Second Life is shakey, for this reason. But text is always a good fallback. We make the most of it, and it sure is a hell-of-a-lot when it works, so you'll hear no complaints from me :P Cheers.

PS - I edited my first post just now, because I mis-spoke...*ahem* wrote. For anyone who cares, the reason I couldn't test the possible conflict between my soundcard hardware/software and SL 2.6.3 isn't that my line-out jack is broken, duh. It's because my line-IN jack is broken. Call it dyslexia, or whatever you like, correction made. If you had a lead about my contention, maybe that'll clear up the motivation as well.

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Herman Gears wrote:

Yours seems like the most likely explanation. My relationship with Second Life is shakey, for this reason. But text is always a good fallback. We make the most of it, and it sure is a hell-of-a-lot when it works, so you'll hear no complaints from me
:P
Cheers.

That is a great attitude to have. It's going to save you a lot of frustration. Truth is, everything has to work flawlessly for a service like SL to work perfectly, and only some of those things lay with LL. Quite a few things, but still.... 

Hope you find out what the problem is. I'm afraid I can be of no further assistence since I don't really have a clue :D

- Luc -

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