Ok, so I have this little laptop PC that I bought as a discontinued product a little less than 6 years ago. The fan has always been a bit noisy, and for months the system status has said that I should buy a replacement battery. But it’s been a real soldier, acting as both my work machine, my photo touch-up system, and my video editor. So, a few days ago I had to prep the laptop for use on Google Hangouts for a Japanese translation course I’m taking. As I’m going through the Hangouts setup, I notice that the internal microphone on the laptop is permanently on. This is not ideal, because an outsider could hijack it and use it as a listening device. So I go through all the Windows menus for changing the microphone settings, and none of them actually disable the internal mike. By “accident” I click on “advanced settings” on one of the screens and the next thing I know, I’m in the activation screen for Microsoft Voice Recognition.
I don’t want this so I exit out. Unfortunately, Microsoft has other plans. Over the next couple hours, I’m getting random characters showing up in the documents I edit, and corrupting filenames as I try to type them in. I try deactivating the internal mike again, and to find some way to turn off voice recognition. Every time something appears to be working, the noise comes back. I try cutting up a new headset microphone jack and soldering the wires together to ground the input lines to make a dummy jack, and that only works for a short while. The noise comes and goes, with no real pattern. Sometimes it looks like it might be the keyboard burning out, other times an oversensitivity of the touch pad mouse. I don’t use the keyboard, I deactivate the touch pad, and even if the noise subsides for a bit, it still eventually comes back worse than before.
I went online to see if anyone else had the same problem and if there’s a fix for it. I found a few people pleading for help in deactivating Microsoft voice recognition as far back as 2010, and no one had ever gotten a solution that worked for them (a few people turned off their speakers to prevent feedback whistles, and had tried taping over their microphone slots, but Microsoft apparently just voted to ignore the issue).
Bottom line is that I’ve had to wrestle my way through the mess in copying my files off the old laptop and on to a new machine. I don’t know if there’s a point to sending the old laptop to a repair center to have it cleaned up and a fresh copy of Win 7 reinstalled on it. But, I may be willing to pay for that, because I prefer using a smaller keyboard than what I have on the new machine. Thanks a lot, Microsoft!
Anyway, it’s taking time to set up the new machine with all the applications I need, and things have been really slowing down on Basket Case the last couple of months. It’s been getting increasingly harder to get cartoonists to respond back to my requests for interviews, or to give me their answers after I send them the questions. I think I may have to take a hiatus and rethink my approach to how I run Basket Case. In the meantime, thank you, everyone, for your support of the blog so far, and I apologize for wimping out like this. I don’t know about you, but *I* enjoy reading these interviews, at least.