Yuk Lai's Blog
I am a Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET) in the Windows Sound Team. If you don't know what Windows Sound Team is, then think of it as the Windows Audio Team. We own user mode and kernel mode audio platforms and drivers that together delivers the audio experience in Windows. When I say "own", I don't mean that all these components are ours. It's a Microsoft term that indicates responsibility. The audio experience on Windows platform is together delivered by many partners internally and externally. But eventually when it comes to audio, most likely it involves the work my team does. I have debated with my colleagues on whether our team is a platform team or a driver team, and we are both. We are in a rare team that owns a very vertical stack.
I have been practically working in the same team since I joined the company in July 2005, after my MSEE in Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. I researched in the area of Symbolic Execution of Software. I define my career as a Software Engineer who happens to work on audio features in Windows. I enjoy software development, but I also like to think about project management. I have my opinion about what are the right and wrong things to do both in software and in process, but it occurs to me that my thinking changes with time, for good or for bad. I will write what I think in this blog, but I have no guarantee that what I think is actually right. I guess that's in the definition of blogs.
I just got this question again.
In XP, the steps to mute one of the channels in the OS was very few. The Left/Right balance slider is simply a click away from the volume icon (if I remember correctly). But in Vista, that control is more steps away from the users. Obviously, we thought not many people would need that control at all.
A lot of people I know obviously still watch VCDs that are published for multiple areas. For example, the left channel of the VCD would play the Mandarin track and the right channel would play the Cantonese track, both for the same movie. My friends, my parents, and my friends' parents all asked me how to mute the Mandarin channel. So here you go. This applies to Windows Vista and beyond.
I'm not a UX expert, and I don't know if we made the right tradeoffs here. However, I wish we had noticed how ubiquitous this scenario is in certain regions. We probably could consider mitigations such as making a localized version of Windows Media Player that has easier access to the channel volume?