General (63)

5th Blogiversary

The Sagebrush Blog began on April 9, 2007, so we are five years old today!

Image credit: Sphoenixee, Wikimedia Commons

We haven’t actually been blogging continuously all that time, taking a hiatus from April 2009 to October 2011. It is hard to avoid the dreaded blog-poster burn-out.

We got better.

My current goal is to post at least once a week, with about 30% of new posts to be tutorials or technical application notes in long form, while the rest are breezy pointers to cool stuff elsewhere tangentially related to Sagebrush products.

Most posts in one month: 23 in May 2007
Longest post not in Random Friday: A License to Nil (935)
Shortest post not in Random Friday: Cricket Audio Grafitti (3)
Total published words in posts: 41,687
Average words per post: 195

Related posts:

Updated Sound Mixer Tutorial

[A while back we made a tutorial for controlling the sound card mixer for WinXP, but never got around to updating for Win7/Vista, where the procedure changed completely. Some of the information was scattered around in other application notes, but it was past time to update this app note, since it is frequently referred to during tech support. The permalink for this article may be found here.]

Sound Card Mixer Tutorial for Windows

(WinXP and earlier Windows versions skip down to here.)

Control Sound Output (Win7/Vista)

Right-click on the speaker icon on your taskbar tray and select Playback devices.

Win7 Playback dialog

Select the output device you wish to control, usually the default device which has a check-mark.

Win7 Sound dialog with device selected

Click on the Properties button and select the Levels tab.

Sound properties level tab

You can adjust the sound level with the top slider.

If you wish for a sound input device, such as Microphone, to play through your speakers, then adjust the level slider for that input and click the un-mute button near the slider.

Control Recording (Win7/Vista)

Right-click on the speaker icon on your taskbar tray and select Recording devices

recording devices

You might find that you do not have a recording input such as “Stereo Mix” as in WinXP. Here is the trick: It may be there, just hidden. Right-click on the window in the blank space below the last device listed, and select and select “Show Disabled Devices“.

show disabled devices

Now another device appears on the list, but it is shown as “Disabled”.

stereo mix is a recording device

Right-click on that device, often known as “Stereo Mix“, and select “Enable“.

Right-click on whichever device you wish to record from and select “Set as Default Device“. In this example we will choose “Stereo Mix”, but many users will select “Microphone” or perhaps “Line In” for their application.

enable stereo mix

A little check-mark will appear next to the current selected recording input.

set stereo mix as default device

Click on Properties and select the Levels tab. We will keep this window up, to adjust the recording level later.

stereo mix recording level

This input records anything coming out your computer speakers, which could be a mixture of MIDI.

Adjust the level slider on “Level” tab so you don’t get clipping.

Related article: Record Audio from Any Audible Output : Vista Version

Control Sound Output (WinXP)

Double-click on the speaker icon in your taskbar tray, at the lower right hand corner of the screen. (Several of our programs offer another way to activiate the mixer play control, by clicking menu Options->Mixer Play Control or similar menu item.)

If you do not have a speaker icon in your taskbar tray, check Start button->Settings->Control Panel->Multimedia->Audio->Show volume control on the taskbar.

Double-clicking the taskbar speaker icon causes the Play Control window to appear.

Play Control screenshot

You can control which sound card speaker-input controls appear in the Play Control window. In Play Control menu Options->Properties,

Play Control Options screenshot

check the controls you wish to appear, and click OK. Hint: We keep nearly every control checked.

Play Control with inputs displayed

For each speaker-input shown, you will see a Volume slider and Mute checkbox, and perhaps other controls for balance, etc. The Volume slider controls loudness for that particular speaker input, and Mute can turn it off completely. For instance, suppose you want your microphone input to sound at your speaker, so you can annoy the fellow in the next office. Turn the Microphone Volume slider to some high amount, and unMute the Microphone checkbox. Try it now! (However, for most applications, we prefer the Microphone speaker-output to be muted, so mute it now.)

Suppose you connected a radio-scanner to your sound card Line-In for recording with RecAll-PRO, but you did not want the radio to sound at your speakers. In Play Control, check the Mute checkbox for Line-In.

Control Recording (WinXP)

Always remember that the Play Control window only deals with speaker output, and does not control recording! It is a natural mistake to go into Play Control and uncheck the Microphone Mute control and turn up the Microphone Volume, and then wonder why your nifty Sagebrush program is not recording from the Microphone. It doesn’t work that way!

Bring up the Play Control window as above. In menu Options->Properties,

Play Control options

check Recording and check all the controls, and click OK. The Play Control window is replaced by Record Control. (Several of our programs offer another way to activiate the mixer play control, by clicking menu Options->Mixer Record Control or similar menu item.)

Record Control screenshot

For each recording-input, you will notice a Select checkbox and Volume slider. If you want to record from Microphone, check the Microphone Select checkbox. If you want to record from Line-In, check the Line-In Select checkbox. If the recording volume is too low, turn up the appropriate Volume slider.

Sometimes you may wish to record streaming audio. Many modern sound cards present a recording input called Wave that may work. Several sound cards also offer a recording input called “What U Hear” or a similar name, that records anything that can be heard over the computer speakers.

Related article: Record Audio from Any Audible Output : XP Version

Go to Sagebrush Systems home page for unique Windows software.

Shiny New Blog

  • February 15, 2012
  • General

I am starting a new blog. Big whoop, right?

Sagebrush Trails is a personal journal dealing with ultra-light backpacking, hiking trails, and possibly other topics in the future. This is about what I do when I’m not coding. Planned articles will cover preparations for a long distance hike in the summer of 2012 on the Appalachian Trail, lasting about three months or until my knee gives out.

Oh yeah, e-mail support might be delayed a few days during the summer.

I thought about writing about this stuff in a new category in the Sagebrush Blog, but that would really hurt SEO, Search Engine Optimization. (Now that I’m finally twigging to SEO, maybe that Random Friday category on this blog wasn’t such a hot idea…) So new blog, new domain, and new start.

Related Posts:

Category RSS Feeds

The blog covers an eccentric variety of topics, from theremins to wind chimes, from the social impact of  audio recording to flan. We do have a few customers (bless ’em!) who purchased several of our programs, and could be interested in all these stories, which is great… But perhaps you purchased RecAll-PRO several years ago and only want to read about any news items or product tutorials relevant to that particular program, and you don’t have the slightest interest in news items about nature sounds. If you subscribe to the main Sagebrush RSS feed, you may be getting too many articles outside your interest boundary.
Today we begin offering RSS feeds for each category (product). Now you can subscribe to the items you care about and ignore the rest.

And don’t miss our What’s New RSS feed, which might have seemed dormant recently, but will soon have several cool product updates and new product releases.

Ubuntu Linux on a USB Drive

Although long-time Windows users and developers, we wanted to try Linux on a thumb drive. We could have installed Linux to a disk partition and dual-booted, but we often change computers, and liked the idea of  bringing our Linux with us– much harder to do with Windows due to licensing issues! We tried various “Live Linux” distributions designed to boot from a thumb drive with data persistence, but they have a big drawback:  Updating to the next major version is not possible. With significant Ubuntu releases appearing every six months or so, we really wanted update capability.

Here is our procedure. You might have a better way:

1) Create a bootable Ubuntu USB drive using the free UNetBootin Windows application on a spare thumb drive, not our final thumb drive.

2) Restart the computer, hit F2 to go into BIOS settings, and disable the hard drive. We don’t want to accidentally install a boot loader or anything on our hard drive that interfere with booting Windows later.

3) Boot Ubuntu from the temporary thumb drive. Insert the destination thumb drive and select “Install Ubuntu“, and follow any prompts.

4) If everything went right, we have created a bootable USB drive that runs Ubuntu and is capable of system updates.

5) Ubuntu booted fine, but did not hibernate successfully. Using Synaptic Package Manager, we installed the “hibernate” package, and all seems to work with no extra setup.

6) Of course one will want to install several Sagebrush Systems programs, so install Wine as described in our previous article.

For the thumb drive, we wanted the smallest physical size possible, since the device would often be inserted into a netbook propped on a lap or carried in a backpack, so anything that stuck out far enough to snap off or fall out would be bad. If our computers could boot from an SD Card, then we would have used that instead of a USB drive, but SD Cards are not supported with any BIOS we tried.

We settled on this low-profile microSDHC reader, with a 16GB Class 2 flash card, which was the fastest and largest memory we could afford at the time.

Class 2 means a sustained minimum write speed of 2 MB/s, which is somewhat slower than generic  USB flash drives. In practice, the drive is fast enough for our purposes. In the table below we measure boot time to first web page access, which is a more useful metric than measuring to desktop displayed. In our experience a Windows 7 computer might not be ready to do useful work for many seconds after the desktop is displayed after cold boot, as start-up programs continue to load, virus scanners do mysterious tasks, and background services initialize. Additionally, the Windows 7 Wifi drivers on our machine seemed to take quite a long time to load, acquire an IP address, and load an initial complex web page.

Comparison of Start-up Times (seconds) Win7 on hard drive Ubuntu 11.10 on flash drive
Cold boot time to first web page loaded 104 122
Return-from-hibernate to first web page loaded 80 76



Test conditions: Computer is Asus Eee PC 1015PED netbook with N450 processor, running Firefox with one tab, re-loading the Sagebrush Systems homepage. Windows 7 was not optimized by removing unnecessary start-up programs and services, to illustrate a typical user case. Times given are an arithmetic mean of three measurements. Your mileage may vary.

Related articles:
Installing WinChime on Ubuntu Linux
Installing RecAll-PRO and RecAll on Ubuntu Linux

Blogs Need a Working Internet

For our readers who are USA citizens:

Hello world!

  • September 8, 2010
  • General

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day!


Enjoy  some Pi-ku.

Solar 4: System Complete

[This is the fourth in a series of articles describing installation of a solar hot water system.]

System Start

The plumbing is all connected and leak-free. Now let’s put coolant in the system and see if we get heat! Ordinarily we might use equal parts propylene glycol (not the more poisonous ethylene glycol) and water, about 4 gallons in all. However, we turned this system on in early autumn with no freezing nights possible, so we use tap water in the coolant loop. Once we gain confidence in the system we can refill with glycol/water mixture after a few days.

First we connect a hose from a nearby faucet to the upper boiler drain valve, and another hose from the lower boiler drain valve to a drainage area out in the yard. We run the water for several minutes to flush out any flux and solder and other junk from the coolant loop.

Now we connect two short hoses, actually “washing machine hoses”, to a drill-powered pump and large bucket like so:

Following the directions in The article in Home Power magazine “DWHW Installation Basics Part 2” from June 2003 we run the pump with both valves open, and keep running until no air bubbles appear in the bucket. Then slowly close the lower valve and keep pumping until the pressure in the coolant loop reads about 20 PSI, then close the upper valve.

We keep the bucket and hoses and pump together as a dedicated kit for possible future maintenance.

One final task is to connect the pump to the PV panel on the roof. (We angle this panel a bit West of direct South, so in winter the solar water panel has a chance to warm up before sun hits the PV panel and starts the pump starts circulating. Otherwise cold coolant from the panel might cool the water in the storage tank enough to cause the auxiliary electric water heater to turn on each winter morning.)

With the pump running, take a trip to the roof to purge any air from the coin vent. Be careful: hot coolant might spray out and scald if you turn the vent valve too far too fast.

With the pump running, we feel the pipes in the heat-exchange loop get warm, and then hot. I expected  the storage tank to take several days to heat, but hot showers were available after only one-half day of system operation.

Later we insulate the pipes exposed on the roof, secured with wire-ties. These pipes might get too hot for the insulation used to insulate regular home hot water plumbing; we used insulation rated for this temperature sold by our solar heating supply vendor.

Go back onto the roof in a day or so and purge any air from the coin vent that might have collected.

Lessons Learned

  1. We would change the placement of the mounting board with pump and expansion tank to be more accessible for later repairs: lower and not as far in the corner. This is in an area where people pass by frequently and I thought the equipment would get in the way, but there was enough room.
  2. We would change the routing of the pipes going to and from the storage tank heat exchanger to first turn towards the wall and then make a right angle bend up to the mounting board. Once reaching the wall the pipes could be fastened with clamps for better support.
  3. We would attach components to the mounting board prior to attaching the board to the wall. We would follow more closely the example shown in “DWHW Installation Basics Part 2”, Home Power Magazine.
  4. Too many trips to the big-box home store for extra pipe fittings was caused by not carefully sketching in detail the plumbing for the entire coolant loop system, indicating every single fitting required– and then buying a few extra for last-minute changes.
  5. We added temperature gauges at both the inlet and outlet of the heat exchanger. In practice the difference in temperature is very small almost all the time. The heat exchanger relies on many trips around the coolant loop to get enough heat transfer to the storage tank.
  6. We learned this project is indeed possible for someone with a technical bent and little experience. If you have ever dabbled in car repair or significant home repair project then this is well within your grasp– at least if you have a flat roof.
  7. Our solar storage tank includes an auxiliary electric heater. If we had hooked up this electrical connection just after connecting the hot and cold water pipes, we would not need to be in a hurry to complete the coolant loop connections.

Regular Operation

Here is a graph from our gas bill in winter.

See how much less gas we burn than last year? We are now paying much more for “access fee”, taxes, and fees than per/therm gas usage. If we could stop using natural gas for the stove and clothes dryer, we could unhook from the utility. We really like a gas range, but propane might do. We have ideas about the clothes dryer that might appear in a later post.

After running for several months, we are encountering no problems. It just works!

During winter months we do encounter winter storms with several consecutive days of no sun, and then the auxiliary electric heating element in the storage tank does turn on. During non-winter months we can turn off electricity to the tank altogether.

Our March magnetic drive DC circulating pump might tend to be noisier than other type pumps, according to Home Power November 2007 article “Pick the Right Pump“. We live in a quiet neighborhood, and my office is located not far from the pump, and my personal preferences tolerate very little ambient noise. Our noise- meter measured 53dB at a distance of one meter during regular operation, not much louder than our refrigerator when the compressor is running. Somewhat more noticeable is the variation in pitch of the pump during semi-cloudy days, but nothing too objectionable.


What will it take for solar hot water system panels and other system components to be sold in big-box home-improvement stores? Should light-weight solar thermal panels be used, or heavier but very durable panels such as ours? Should flexible copper tubing be used to ease the process of installation, or some sort of temperature-resistant plastic pipe? What diameter tubing still gives reasonable coolant flow and heat transfer? What components can sold in pre-assembled form for faster and easier installation? We welcome your thoughts.

Related Posts: Solar 1, Solar 2, Solar 3

More Sagebrush

  • February 24, 2009
  • General

So need more “Sagebrush” blogs?

  • The Sagebrush Variety Show, audio theater with political satire and commentary
  • The Nevada Sagebrush, student voice of University of Nevada, Reno
  • Parsley & Sagebrush Band, bluegrass combo
  • Sagebrush & Serendipity, personal blog of artemisia
  • Sagebrush Wisdom, “common sense thoughts from the country”
  • Sagebrush Valentine, 6 artists with 1 title create 6 songs in 1 hour
  • Sagebrush Strokes, Nevada landscape prints online store
  • The Sage Brush from Montana, a memoir of a youngster studying art with western muralist Bernard Preston Thomas.
  • Sagebrush Spinoni, puppy pictures from a dog breeder.
  • Sagebrush Bob, political diary on dKos.

Related Post: Hello, World!