A "WTF is that sound" widget

A core function of an OS is dividing resources between apps: multiple windows per screen, files per disk, sockets per Internet connection, etc.

The machine's goddamned SPEAKER is one of those resources.

Now let's say you're working at your desktop. Your boss walks in for a chat. And now, midway through the conversation, your computer's goddamned speaker emits something like: "Major breakthrough reached at the G-20 meeting!", or "I came in like a wrecking ball!", or "Aaaah… ah! yeah, right there… AAAGH!!"

Your computer might have said it because you're watching news, or that other stuff, instead of working. Alternatively, perhaps some uninvited pop-up popped up an hour earlier - and then decided to self-activate at the worst possible moment.

Either way, it'd be nice to be able to shut the thing off quickly – say, right after "Hi, I'm Wendy" and before it gets to "yeah, right there." And not only that, but you might want to kill the app without giving focus to its window, because who knows what Wendy's up to in that window.

Now, closing a window or deleting a file is easy, because you have a visible handle to click on. Not so with sound, unfor-tu-nate-ly. Big mistake on behalf of OS designers, says I… BIG MISTAKE.

And that, folks, is the perfect use case for a "WTF is that sound" widget. I haven't figured it out down to an actual mockup or anything, but, ya know, it'd be a list of who the FUCK is using the GODDAMNED SPEAKER. "Who the fuck" might be a list of window titles – or maybe not, because you might not want a title like "Erm erm Wendy erm ahem". So it might be a list of app names without the window titles. Most importantly, if just ONE app is using the goddamned speaker, then there'd be just one red button that you press to KILL the fucking thing.

I'm hereby placing the idea in the public domain. Now go ahead and make {the world a better place, billions, an abandoned GitHub project implementing this dumb idea}.

P.S. I'm fine, thank you, but yes, the inspiration comes from real life, and no, it was neither Miley Cyrus nor Wendy, but a weird tune without words that ended as mysteriously as it commenced, and I still don't know what played it.

Update: no, it's not like a mute button. If we're seriously being serious about it, then pressing a mute button is like turning off the screen. When the boss walks in and there's a noise and you mute everything including the ambient music it's off, just like pressing the screen's off button would be off. More seriously, if you have umpteen apps and tabs and shit and something starts to emit sound and you don't know what that is, then a mute button doesn't help you, not if you want to listen to anything else at the same time which you might want to. So you need a "sound manager" just like you need a window manager. (Imagine having to guess which of the umpteen [x] buttons to close to make a particular window disappear. Sucks, right? Exactly the situation with sound, which, if it doesn't happen to be synced to video playing in some window, comes from fuck knows where – and even if it's synced to video, you must sift through windows to find that video! Why can't the window/tab/whatever at least have an indication of "sound is being emitted by the sucker who opened me"? Seriously, it's just dumb.)

69 comments ↓

#1 Wayne on 04.20.15 at 3:29 pm

s/microphone/speaker/

#2 Anon on 04.20.15 at 3:29 pm

Sure you mean speaker?

#3 Alex Z on 04.20.15 at 4:39 pm

You mean like a mute button?

#4 Muhammad Haggag on 04.20.15 at 5:46 pm

If you open the volume mixer on Windows (Sound volume icon -> Mixer), you'll see which applications are currently playing sound. It's not great, but it's better than nothing. If it's a browser tab, Chrome displays a sound icon on any tabs playing sound.

#5 Elr on 04.20.15 at 6:49 pm

You mean what's using the speaker (output), not microphone (input), right?

#6 Yossi Kreinin on 04.20.15 at 6:51 pm

Yeah, speaker, not microphone… input, output, same shit. See how much this UPSETS me though, to the point of words actually failing me?

@Alex: no, not like a mute button, post updated to point out the difference.

@Muhammad: thanks! And everyone should do what Chrome does at the very least.

#7 SuperJer on 04.22.15 at 2:30 am

Do you honestly have any apps that play unsolicited sound other than a browser?

This seems like something that could be solved with a better browser or browser plugin. I wouldn't mind a browser that disallowed sound on all tabs by default.

#8 Yossi Kreinin on 04.22.15 at 2:49 pm

I honestly don't know which other apps I have that do this… I do some video editing and such so I might, also the sound that prompted this post came from I don't know where, maybe from Ubuntu's own guts and not an app.

It could be that the browser is the main offender, which is kinda like saying that it's an OS within an OS and that often most of the apps someone runs are within this inner OS, which is true.

#9 Johan Ouwerkerk on 04.24.15 at 5:44 pm

pavucontrol (Pulse audio volume control) or KMix. Both allow you to see individual playback streams and mute those, which barring kill -9 is probably the next best thing.

P.S.: your comment form does something weird with text fields once you fill in the human question. *All* those text fields insist on a bold red font afterwards.

#10 George Karpenkov on 04.28.15 at 12:13 pm

Chrome (arguably trying to become an OS) already does this, by showing a speaker icon next to the tabs which emit sound.
Otherwise pulseaudio, as Johan said.

#11 John Velonis on 05.07.15 at 6:54 pm

I just leave my speaker turned off at work. In the rare case when I want to listen to audio (it's much more efficient to scan text than listen to somebody talk), I use headphones.

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Have you seen the WWDC keynote? It feels like someone at Apple read your mind (or you read theirs).

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