Category Archives: geek

Power Mixer and VolumeLock Review

Sometimes I feel like I have an amazing talent of finding or creating the most obscure tech issues ever. My latest headache started when my lovely wife bought me an Audio Technica 2020+ USB mic for Christmas. I was ecstatic. I hooked that baby up, and that’s when the problems began. After a lot of troubleshooting and sending it to Audio Technica for a warranty repair, I finally figured out the cause of the biggest issue that had been plaguing me. It was my own damn self.

I probably shouldn’t be so hard on myself. It was technically Auto Hotkey, but I only blame myself because I always try to find the most clever solution to every problem, and this was no exception. I set up an Auto Hotkey script to monitor and adjust the volume on my new mic, just like I had in the past with my Blue Snowball. The problem was, the script was doing something very strange with the volume. Instead of just adjusting the volume, it was also adjusting the balance of the mic. Yes, so every time I turned the volume up, it would also shift my recording to the right channel, and when turning the volume down, it would shift to the left channel. Absolutely bizarre!

To make matters worse, there is no way to see or change the balance settings for a mic in WIndows 10. To be honest, this was not surprising at all to me. That’s where Power Mixer comes into play.

Power Mixer

Power Mixer from Actual Solutions is a software volume mixer for Windows that gives you way more control over your sound devices. You can easily see the volume and balance of every device and application that is hooked into the OS. With one click, you can also enable or disable devices, which is much handier than attempting the same task in Windows.

Beyond simply giving you control over every aspect of your system’s audio, Power Mixer also allows you to monitor the sound going over each channel with VU and PPM meters. This is really handy if you need to be able to mix multiple channels and you want to keep an eye on your levels.

You can also assign hotkeys in Power Mixer to adjust volume, balance, and mute devices or other channels. Unfortunately, it only adjusts by increments of 20 though, so you’ll still need to pull up the mixer itself to do fine tuning. However, this fixed the problem I created when I was using Auto Hotkey to adjust my recording volume. No more balance shift when I touch my volume hotkeys!

Probably my favorite feature is the ability to define presets. You can set up presets for specific tasks, like gaming, working, streaming, etc. and switch between them. There doesn’t seem to be a way to quickly save a preset though, so you’ll have to pull up the preset screen to adjust any settings you’ve changed in the preset in order to make them permanent. That’s a little awkward, but once you set things up how you like them, you probably won’t be messing with that much anyway.


Actual Software also has a solution for another audio pet peeve of mine. Don’t you hate it when Skype or some other voice chat software thinks it’s being smart by adjusting the input volume of your mic? When using a quality mic, it’s capable of picking up a lot of background noise if you’re not careful, and Skype and the like are notorious for thinking background noise, like a TV or children talking in the background, are important sound bits. As a result, they crank the input volume way up to pick up that background chatter, and then the next time you actually talk, you’re loud enough to blow out your friends’ speakers and eardrums. And even if you tell the offending program to not adjust the input volume, something inevitably does. So why not just prevent it entirely?

VolumeLock does just that. You set your levels where you want them, lock them independently, then forget it. For example, you can lock your input balance but leave your volume unlocked so that nothing will mess with your balance, but you can still adjust your volume from other programs. It has presets, just like Power Mixer, and hotkeys to jump to your different presets. All very good… in theory.

My issues with VolumeLock are a bit frustrating. It works great if all you want to do is lock your levels and set up presets. The problem is that it actually works against Power Mixer. You’d think these two applications should be combined or at least make them work together. Maybe set an exception for Power Mixer so that any other programs are prevented from adjusting your levels except for Power Mixer. Alas, that is not an option, so if you lock something in VolumeLock, it is the end-all be-all. You’re stuck going into VolumeLock to adjust and re-lock your levels.

The Verdict

While these applications have some glaring issues, I can definitely recommend Power Mixer at least. It’s very powerful and it is the best low-cost mixer I’ve been able to find. VolumeLock has great potential, but without better integration with Power Mixer, it really works against the best features of Power Mixer. This is unfortunate since they’re clearly developed by the same small developer, and even have some of the same features and appearance.

Disclaimer: I have written this review based on a 14-day trial of both applications with the assumption that I can acquire a 50% discount on the full license.

Parallax Scrolling on the Momentum Squarespace Template

While working on my wife’s web page, I ran into a difficult challenge. She asked for a page to include parallax scrolling on a template that does not include parallax scrolling as a feature. In this case, we’re using Momentum. I figured I might have to dive into developer mode to achieve this, but I’ve been running into problems getting that to work, so I thought I’d take a stab at it without developer mode.

Requirements were clear:

  • Stationary parallax scrolling (image stays stationary while other elements scroll over it)
  • Images must be added/edited in the Squarespace online design tools (no hard-coding images here)
  • Height of the “window” must be editable in the Squarespace online design tools as well
  • Must be able to embed text over the images

After walking through a few examples online, I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish with some CSS and jQuery. I added several “poster” and “text” blocks to a page and plugged the following code into the page header. You could put this in code injection if you wanted this effect on every page.

<script src="//"></script>

html {
	overflow-x: hidden;
.image-inset {	
	background-attachment: fixed;
	background-position: center;
	background-repeat: no-repeat;
	background-size: cover;
	padding: 0px;
	border: 0px;
	width: 100vw;
	position: relative;
	left: 50%;
	right: 50%;
	margin-left: -50vw;
	margin-right: -50vw;
	overflow: hidden;
.sqs-block-image .image-block-outer-wrapper.image-block-v2 .intrinsic img {
	display: none;
.sqs-block-image .image-block-outer-wrapper.image-block-v2 .image-overlay {
	display: none;

	$('.image-inset').each(function(i,e) {
		$(e).css('background-image', 'url("'+$(e).children('img')[0].src+'")');

To get this to work on other templates, you might need to tweak the CSS a bit, but it should be doable.


My Logitech mx610 mouse has some LEDs on the top but I haven’t seen any Linux distro support them. Luckily, I found this source a while back that enables interaction with said LEDs. I just hooked the mouse up to a different PC and went searching to see if there’s an update… no dice. In fact, I couldn’t even find the version I currently had online anywhere. So I’m doing what any good open source contributor would do: host the file.

Here it is! mx610hack-0.3.tar

Disclaimer: I had this working in an old version of Ubuntu but haven’t even tested it with anything more recent yet. It did compile so that’s a start!

I should also mention that I did not write this code. I’m just sharing it because it seems to be hard to find these days. The original source seems to be here:


The Fall of Reach

I’ve had all the Halo books on my Amazon wishlist for a while now, but none of those wishes have come true. That is, until my wife ran into The Fall of Reach at Goodwill a few months back and we promptly bought it. I finally got around to cracking the book open Saturday morning while Erika was out and I literally could not put it down. I spent the majority of my free time this weekend reading that book and I finished it last night in bed.

This is a great little novel if you’re a Halo fan. I’ve (obviously) played through all the games but, like most games, the Halo series fails to explain the history of the conflict. A lot of the characters you meet in the games have very colorful histories, and perhaps the most surprising to me, was Captain Keyes. Even Master Chief, the hero of the series, known for being the silent type and nearly void of personality, has a lot of secrets in his past. There is one other character who has some very interesting twists, but I’m not going to spoil that one. Lets just say he/she only looks sweet and innocent in the game.

If you’re a Halo fan, The Fall of Reach is a must-read, especially before Halo: Reach comes out this September. There are so many details in the book that clear up the story lines in the games. It makes me want to play through all the games again now that I know more of the back-story.

If you’re not a Halo fan… you should be. I’d honestly recommend playing at least Halo: Combat Evolved before reading the book. The book is good but I don’t think it would be as interesting to someone who doesn’t already know the characters and the ending. I could be wrong. It’s hard to judge this book on it’s own without taking the games into context as well.

If I’ve piqued your interest, head over to Amazon and pick it up! There are many other Halo books available as well and I will be digging into those soon (I might opt for the audio-books to make my two hour daily commutes more interesting). Now, time to fire up Halo CE!

I Cut the Cable

My memory is a bit foggy but we’ve been cable TV free for about a year now. There are a few things we miss but honestly, those few things are not worth ~$45 per month. I did some research, went to RadioShack, argued with a sales guy about UHF and VHF, bought a $70 UHF/VHF antenna, installed that sucker in the attic, and cancelled our cable. We get ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, My New TV, CW, and PBS all over the air. Using the federal DTV transition program, we got two DTV converters for $40 total and eventually bought an HDTV. Our savings from ditching cable will pay for the TV in just over a year!

We also bought Playon around the holidays when they had a ridiculous sale going on. With Playon, we can stream all kinds of media from various sites (like Hulu) to our TV via our Xbox 360. It’s a great deal even at the regular price. Since we enjoy movies so much, we also subscribe to the three dvd Netflix plan which includes instant view which also streams to our TV with Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. For $17 per month, it’s a fantastic deal if you watch a lot of movies.

If you haven’t figured it out already, it was well worth it! If the price of cable packages drops dramatically, we may consider signing up again, but I find that pretty unlikely. We’re pretty happy with our media options and we’re saving quite a bit. If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cable but are holding back, let me know! Maybe I can help you pick out hardware, software, and alternate service plans. Just leave a comment!