Make a physical mute button for Zoom meetings

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/22/make-a-physical-mute-button-for-zoom-meetings.html

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I’ve got a physical mute button on my speaker phone. Luckily at my job we don’t do video calls just voice but boy do I put a lot of trust in that mute button. There were times where, if the mute button hadn’t worked when I pressed it and let out a string of invectives directed at my co-worker/s I’d probably be looking for another job.

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Looks at keyboard. It’s right there. The F4 key. It even has a little light. I don’t really want another cord hanging off of my laptop.

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Just make sure that’s not just for the speakers. My laptop has a mute speakers button and a mute mic button, but not all keyboards feature the latter (though they really really should).

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now if there was a way to make it work for other digital devices (tablet, phones, etc.) i’d be all over it.

Mine has both buttons, but mute mic is f10.

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F1 is the speaker mute, F4 is the Mic Mute. But good to know ahead of time which is which!

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Plug your headset into a guitar volume pedal and make great swelling sounds when you talk.

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There’s more than one kind of computers, so it’s cool to mention for which OS such a thing would work. This one works for something called “Windows”. It also only works for Zoom, which is a steaming pile of shit you should not use if you can avoid it.

Down the page he talks about using autohotkey to achieve the same thing with a keyboard for free in 5 minutes (also on Windows, of course), that could be tweaked for any other conferencing software.

On MacOS there is many Apps on the AppStore which work for all conferencing apps, some of which are free, and others are surprisingly expensive (but may be worth it if you need that one feature), just search for “mute”, and you’ll see what’s there.

I use MuteKey, which is free, shows status of the mic in the menu bar, displays a brief overlay when you toggle, and you can set it to control all audio input devices at once, so if you plug or unplug your headphones you’re still safe. You can set it to launch at startup, and even configure it for push-to-talk (mic is open as long as you hold the shortcut).

Why? Phones and tablets make it rather simple to return to the current call and mute the mic, that even works when they’re locked. But the Zoom App also supports keyboard shortcuts at least on iPadOS.

Or use one of these babies from the 90ies:

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I’d go with a talk box:

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Alas, I am invited to zoom meetings; I do not invite.

That is sad. But not all hope is lost:

You could use those occasions to inform the host that Zoom is a steaming pile of shit by adding a custom background that spells that fact out in large letters Here’s a wallpaper generator that can handle emoji. :smile:

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simply because of this: when i’m using my tablet for some of my zoom calls, it is typically further than arm’s reach away, so i can get more of my torso into frame, so toggling the touchscreen requires me to bend, stretch and reach that distance to toggle the mic, which gives the others in on the call an up-close-and-person view of my face. not optimal. [EDIT]: meant to add that if i had an external keyboard, those shortcuts would be great, but i don’t (as yet) have one. maybe i need to look into getting one, though.

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or get a headset with a mute button . or get a programmable usb or bluetooth button (first one I found, I bet there’s better and cheaper ones)

I researched this a bit more, and found the following solutions, obviously depending on the connection you want to use.

(1) For a 3.5mm connector, the simplest solution is something like the On Mute Headset Microphone Muting Adapter

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If you’re on a newer iOS device, you can use a Belkin Rockstar adapter or similar to obtain a 3.5mm input.

(2) You could use class-compliant USB desktop microphone with a Mute Button (on an iPad you’d need the CCK), I would assume that you can use a bluetooth headset without a microphone for audio output in parallel, but you’d have to check that on your device, and I would go for a mic with an audio out for headphones anyway. Like this, but this one doesn’t have audio out for headphones.

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(3) Here’s a class-compliant sound card with a mute button, connects to lightning via CCK, you might need a splitter cable to separate mic input from audio out for your headset. Of course you could also use a separate mic and headphones here, e.g. a desktop mic with a 3.5 mm connection that doesn’t feature a mute switch (because if it does, all you need is a splitter cable for $5 for connecting your headphones).

(4) Get a programmable bluetooth button that emulates a keyboard. There’s lots of bluetooth buttons that don’t emulate a keyboard, good luck finding one. Also, there’s no command in the HID spec for muting the microphone, so at least on a mobile device you’re dependent on the actual app on smartphones to support muting the mic via shortcuts (on desktop OSs you can script your way around this, of course). The button I linked above can do this, but needs to be configured on Windows. Meh.

(5) This discontinued device would have been the simplest solution for a DIY project, but could also use the Adafruit Bluefruit for rolling your own bluetooth button array. That shit is timeconsuming and probably more expensive, because all you want is a mute switch, and you can probably find other uses for your evening.

(6) There is loads of “professional” mic mute switches, some of them can even be switched between push-to-mute and push-to-talk, but I found none that has 3.5mm connections, and if you can solder an adapter for them, you can build your own with more features way cheaper anyway, because it’s 2 sockets, and - depending on what you want to achieve, max. 2 buttons and 2 switches, wired up in a box. Example:

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Or you can simply press the spacebar to unmute while you’re talking.

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Or a delay pedal and everyone will think there’s feedback and kick you off the call.

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What do you use for video calls? I’ve used Skype MS teams, Webex. In my experience zoom sucks the least. Skype is a whole ‘nuther level of suck.

Zoom sucks because they prioritize convenience and market dominance over security and privacy of their users, which led to a series of security and privacy problems. That’s why zoombombing is a word.

For work settings I have experience with Ms Teams, Webex Teams, or Mattermost with Jitsi-Integration (both OpenSource). They all work well, and these solutions reduce meeting time to a minimum because they give you focused chat channels where you can start meetings with the right people with one click when needed.

When I just want to make a private call, I use Jitsi Meet. No signup, no client installation, mobile apps available.

Edit: corrected mistake

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