Thursday, February 2, 2006

Proven technology

Who would have thought that it would be so hard to record a telephone conference on my computer?! My desire is simple; to record a full telephone conference. The solution turned out to be harder.

Ideally, I would like to record the conversation directly to my computer, but I would be happy with just recording it to a casette tape too. My first attempt at it was through Skype. I figured that since Skype is already on my computer, it should be relatively easy to record a Skype conversation to disk. Well, no. Skype itself does not support it, and after trying about ten different add-on programs (both on Microsoft Windows XP, as well as on Ubuntu Linux), I concluded that Skype was NOT the way to go forward.

My next step was to call our Audio Visual Center and make my problem their problem. Well, the helpdesk guy assured me that it was trivial and that all I needed to do was to pick up a cassette recorder that would sit between my telephone and the receiver and I was all set.

After picking it up (they don't deliver), and hooking it up to my telephone, I called a colleague. He immediately noticed a seriously deterioration of the sound quality. Despite that, I tried recording some of our conversation, and it turns out that the recorder only captures the incoming part. In other words, I would not be able to record myself asking questions or making comments, but I would be able to record answers.

While sub-par, I would settle for that. However, in addition to the bad sound quality, there was also an echo-back to the other side, and a crackling on the line. Recorder out.

Third attempt: My office has two networking outlets that are patched for the same telephone number. So, theoretically I should be able to use one of the phones and record our conversation using another. It also turned out that I still had an old modem in a storage closet that had speaker out and microphone in jacks.

In the end, I ended up hooking up the modem to one phone outlet, running an audio cable from that modem's speaker out to my computer's microphone in, and a serial cable between my computer to the modem so I can make it pick up when I want to start recording. Then, on the computer, run Audacity to record the conversation. I had to install minicom (rs232 terminal program) and dig in memory to remember my Hayes command set. But, in the end, I prevailed!

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