So, my digital audio workstation. The hub of any small/personal recording studio, the thing what lets you record and multitrack and all that.

I built this machine into an absolutely antique Compaq case, right? It was originally for an HP Compaq Presario SR1010NX, though nothing inside the case is original anymore. I used it because it was what I had and I had zero moneys when I started building this monster, and the studio as a whole. And the front panel USB ports and audio ports haven’t been working for a while.

Part of that has been the nature of the build. The front-panel audio hasn’t worked since I built it; the front-panel USB ports did work, until – for reasons I’ve discussed extensively in the past – I needed to disable the on-motherboard USB, and go with a higher-performance/different-chipset USB card.

I tried connecting one of the front USBs to an internal header on the card, got no result, ran a USB extension cable to the front, and didn’t bother digging further. Similarly, I’m not using the onboard audio for any actual work, so I’ve never bothered addressing that, either, except to run a 3.5mm microphone lead extension cable to the front, similar to the USB port.

And it stayed that way until last night, when I pulled the box out to install a long-cabled USB hub so I could have more than one front-facing port, and was reminded of exactly what a clusterfuck the cabling was back there. The rest of my studio’s cable management is quite tidy, really, but… behind the tower… wow, yeah, no. And when I pushed the machine back in place, I’d lost a monitor and my trackball to cable disconnects.

I’d also recently found a fanless Nvidia 1030 chipset card, which makes gaming on this machine… not an excellent experience, but a functional one. That means getting to more than one USB port started to matter – hence, the new USB hub.

And so, between all that, enough was enough. So I went at fixing the cable mess, got re-annoyed at all those extension cables thanks to 1) that’s just fugly and 2) that’s more cables, and decided I’d just do my damnedest to fix everything.

Cleaning up the cables was – well, tedious, but it let me position a sound baffle better, and that’s always nice. No more cables popping out when I slide the machine around. Problem one sorted.

After digging up more old documentation, I was finally able to get one (1) of the front-panel in-case USB ports going, off an internal header on the card. It turned out there were four(!) ways you could get this silently wrong, and I got it wrong in one of them. Now the upper built-in front port works fine, and – even better – is a true root device.

The second front-facing USB case port, I covered in electrical tape in a way that makes it effectively invisible, which is perfect. And the aforementioned new USB hub – which I plugged into the card, in back – is also up front, and looks much better than a straggly cable connected to the front of the case with endlessly-sticky velcro.

endlessly sticky velcro is just… ugh. i hate it so much.

Then, I figured out – with yet more ancient documentation pulled from websites – what the bloody hell was happening with the front audio panel.

So get this: this Compaq case, which shipped in the late 2000s, shipped with a front-facing audio header that used the AC97 header standard. That’s a standard from 1997, a.k.a. the previous century. They did that instead of using the HD Audio spec.

My motherboard, of course, uses the HD Audio spec.

So it’s utterly unsurprising that it never worked. The two are different, even thought the internal connectors are identical!

so mad. But!

There is a hax to deal with literally this, and if you dig enough, you can find it. It’s not even complicated – it’s a single registry edit in Windows 10, basically telling it to ignore the plug detection system because AC97 didn’t have that. But first, you have to figure out what the hell is going on, and that’s not so easy, because nothing in software will tell you what’s happening.

And I set it, now the front panel just works. It’s there, it’s active, and you can use it. Or, well, I can.

Very little of this matters, like, at all, for this machine’s primary uses. I don’t use the onboard audio for anything, really – though that’s changing now that I’ve got some Windows 10-based synth emulators, but even then, the onboard sound would be only for previews, and any music made will be straight to WAV files and imported over into the Linux DAW, never touching the onboard card. Because ugh.

But it’ll sure make BASHY BASHY easier in PC Overwatch, particularly with Overwatch’s weird issues talking to my microphone. I can just plug into the front panel and bypass the problem entirely.

And I think we all know that’s what really matters. (⌒▽⌒)