I’ve done it. I’ve joined the 8-core club. Historically, I always shoot for the sweet spot in terms of price/performance but this time I thought I’d splurge for once and get the octocore (or is it octacore?) Mac Pro. Realistically, it’s a bit overkill. Sure, Hazel now compiles 5x faster but it’s not like I’m doing full builds all the time and it didn’t take all that long before either. Nonetheless, it’s a great machine. There’s one thing about it that bugs me, though.
On my Powermac, when I plug in headphones, it automatically switches sound output to them, even if I have external speakers connected to line-out. Basically, the headphones, internal speaker and line-out are treated as three devices sharing a channel. To me, it makes sense. If I plug in my headphones, it’s because I want to listen through them. If I pull them out, it’s because I want audio to go back through the speakers. Most every piece of consumer audio equipment I’ve used operates like this.
On the Mac Pro, that has changed. The line-out is a separate output and is unaffected when you plug in headphones. So, if you are using external speakers, you have to go into System Preferences and manually change the output audio device to headphones. You could use something like Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource to switch output devices in a more convenient fashion but nonetheless it’s a manual process. This Apple doc describes the change but it sounds like an engineering decision imposing itself on the user. I don’t care if it’s now orthogonal and consistent; I want it to be useful.
Well, the nice thing about being a programmer is that you can solve the problem yourself. So, I went ahead and created headphoned (read it as “headphone-d” like a unix daemon). All it does is sit there and watch for when the headphones are plugged in, at which point it switches audio output automatically. When the headphones are unplugged, output reverts back to whatever device was selected before.
I’ve never touched the CoreAudio API before so please excuse the naivetÃƒÂ© of the implementation. Suggestions and improvements are most welcome. A big thanks to Vincent Gable, author of IMLocation for this article which gave me a big headstart.
There seems to be a problem where the audio will wedge when plugging/unplugging. I found that updating with Apple’s recent audio fix got rid of the problem (or maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part but I haven’t experienced it since). If you find it does happen, just plug the headphones in/out again as that usually unwedges things. Also let me know if you experience this even after updating with Apple’s fix.
And, of course, it’s free (MIT License). Do what you will. It’s a bit rough around the edges (no automatic install), but I figure if you are using a Mac Pro, you are less daunted by the command-line. I’ve included a launchd config. Install it in ~/Library/LaunchDaemons and edit it to reflect where you put the executable. Note that it doesn’t seem to work if it runs as root (I think it needs to run as the console user), so don’t bother installing it at the top level LaunchDaemons directories.
Update [Sep. 5, 2007]:
Rogue Amoeba has now integrated this functionality into SoundSource. The announcement is here. You can grab it from their freebies page (and yes, it is free).