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Future proofing old files

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Future proofing old files

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:06 pm

I have separate Macs for music and general use, and up till recently they were both 2011 Minis. The office machine recently gave up the ghost, and I replaced it with a nice new iMac, but it got me thinking about the longevity of the music machine.

The music box is still running Mavericks (10.9) and plenty of new software just isn't supported; even the interface (A&H Zed R16) is a now-obsolete Firewire unit, so when the machine pops its clogs I'll be looking at a recording refit.

Now, I used to use Logic Express 9 (found it awkward), dabbled with Tracktion (unstable), and am now on Mixbus, which is fine. I still have projects buried in Logic and Tracktion that contain useful elements, even if the mix isn't great. I keep meaning to go through and rescue various recordings, temporary mixes, whatever, with a view to making sure the things I want to keep for a rainy day are still useable. The size of the job is mostly what's put me off...

I don't expect my old software to survive well any transition to a new OS. Do other people have this concern, or do you just forget it and move on? What kind of procedures do you have in place for future proofing either complete projects or bits and pieces you like but haven't found a home for yet?
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Janneman » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:17 pm

Hi there, there are adapters Image
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Dave B » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:34 pm

For music, I had a similar issue. I was a long time Cubase user (Atari-iMac-PC-Mac) and was ok for a while as Cubase read old Cubase files. Then came Cubase4 and all support was dropped. Which was annoying but I could have had an older version run to import and update. I then moved to Logic (9express then 10) and found that I had to either hope that I'd rendered the files, or find a solution to running Cubase.

So I set up a VirtualBox VM which was running an old copy of Snow Leopard, installed C4, told it about the usb dongle and it happily ran. It's almost useless as a DAW but for rendering files out (both midi and audio) it does the job fine.

I'm now wondering if there is an Atari simulator which will allow me to get hold of my very old Cubase files.... ;)
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Mixedup » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:49 pm

Janneman wrote:Hi there, there are adapters Image

Not for Firewire from Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C. To do that you need either to cascade two adapters (TB3 > TB2, TB > Firewire) or use the 13-port OWC dock. Neither solution is 100% reliable or ideal for all Firewire devices. Eg. RME state on their site that the FF800 will work via the cascaded adapters, but with a 20% CPU hit as the price you pay.

Long story short, while you may be able to get them working for a time with a modern Mac, it's not hard to imagine it becoming impossible in the near future... so if you want to keep FW devices going a Windows machine with dedicated Firewire card may be a better option.

(I remember when the R16 was launched I was wishing it had MADI or ADAT connectivity for the onboard converters, not just FW!)
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Mixedup » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:51 pm

Dave B wrote:I'm now wondering if there is an Atari simulator which will allow me to get hold of my very old Cubase files.... ;)

Google says yes! And since it's basically just MIDI arrangements it should be less problematic than resurrecting the early audio/VST FX projects...
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby desmond » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:55 pm

The problem is the dongle...
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby desmond » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:12 pm

There are a bunch of issues relating to being able to access old files - you have media problems (floppy disks, quick disks, zip disks, Syquest carts, SCSI HD's etc etc) and you may no longer have drives to read them (or the media itself may fail).

Then you have proprietry file formats, so you can't access the file contents without a working install of that software.

Ten you have how you organise and maintain your files. It wasn't uncommon to see people start their projects in their DAW, and record their audio files to one standard "Recording" folder, so you ended up with thousands of generically named audio files like "audio_23b_4.wav" etc. Good organisation means keeping everything a project needs in it's project folders - not just audio, but MIDIfiles, sysex dumps, project notes etc etc.

Luckily, being an informed Logic user ;), I can still load all my projects going back to C-Lab Creator days in the late 80s/early 90s. I do have various Atari ST emulators with backups of my old Atari hard disk so I can access old Atari files should I need to (handy for loading those obscure synth editors to get out your saved sounds), and I also have various PC and Mac VM's to do the same.

(I actually had some earlier projects I found when I used the Alesis MMT8 - I had some tape dumps and sysex dumps of these, and before I sold the MMT8, I loaded them all in, and saved them all as sysex dumps (there is a program that can convert MMT8 sysex dumps to midifiles) and also recorded them into Logic as MIDI data).

I also went through a huge pile of floppies and CD/DVDs before clearing them out, just in case they had anything valuable, and recovered a bunch of stuff from those, again, before binning the PC with the drives necessary to read them. Oh, I also dug out my old hard disk recorder, restored any backups from CD/DAT and dumped those to the computer too.

So for me, I basically have everything I've ever done available to load up in Logic, apart from a period where those files weren't in the last Atari hard disk backup (I still have the Atari hard disk, but it no longer powers up). I'd like to have those projects back, but it's not a huge deal, and not worth the cost of resurrecting the drive.

So it really depends on your exact needs. Do you really need to convert your old projects into a modern DAW now, or do you just need to be able to do it when you want to dig out one specific project? If the latter, then I suggest setting up an old computer, or a VM, with a working copy of your old software. You can always them export whatever audio, MIDI and other bits you need to access.

If you are going to embark on a conversion process, then arrange things so it's easy to do a bit at a time, and take it step by step as an ongoing task...
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby nathanscribe » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:17 pm

I bow to your dedication, Desmond!

I'm more musing about the best way forward at the moment, I've got lots of rubbish kicking about that won't merit any attention, but finding suitably compatible ways to file things is a good idea.

As for the FW adapters, yeah, they look like trouble. I don't trust anything that needs three different dangly bits to work.

Having been inside the Zed R16 to fix a broken channel, I did think it would be good if A&H released a retrofit TB board to replace the FW card in there. Commercially unrealistic, I know, but hey.
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby paul tha other » Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:36 pm

I'm now wondering if there is an Atari simulator which will allow me to get hold of my very old Cubase files.... ;)[/quote]


let me know if you find that..ive got a old atari 30 meg (i think) hard drive full of old cubase tracks

although ive no idea how i would get to the files... i plugged in my old atari a few moths ago and its a goner...im amazed it lasted as long as it did really
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby desmond » Tue Dec 04, 2018 7:10 pm

paul tha other wrote:I'm now wondering if there is an Atari simulator which will allow me to get hold of my very old Cubase files.... ;)

let me know if you find that..ive got a old atari 30 meg (i think) hard drive full of old cubase tracks

although ive no idea how i would get to the files... i plugged in my old atari a few moths ago and its a goner...im amazed it lasted as long as it did really

Running the software actually isn't much of a problem - there are some really good emulators out there for the most popular platforms. The real problem is, as usually the case, the copy protection :(

Software like Cubase requires the dongle to run - the dongle calls are regular and very time sensitive. There is no way to plugin in the dongle to the ST emulation, which basically means the *only* way these programs will run properly on an emulator is if either: a) someone reverse engineers the dongle and makes some kind of emulator for it, or b) someone removes the dongle calls completely.

Both of these things are *hard* with the protection systems used (which was, after all, the point of it). The someone better news is that there generally are older versions of things like Cubase and Notator which have been cracked in this way - to varying degrees of success - so if it's to get at your old files only, and you own the software anyway, then I don't see a problem using a hacked version in an emulator just to recover your files and export them into a more future proof format - if that's the only feasible way of doing it.

(Many people in the Atari community have tried to get Cubase and Notator versions released and freed of their copy-protection, but the rights holders just don't want to do it, for varous reasons - either they can't, it would be too much work, the old code and development systems are long gone, they'd prefer you junk your ST and buy a more up-to-date version on a modern system from them, or they have IP tied up in the code which they don't want to release. Bit of a shame, as many other companies and software authors *have* indeed freed their old commercial software to the community in this way.)

The alternative is of course to buy/borrow a working Atari ST system, and use it to export your files, but even this can be tricky as you likely have to export to floppies, and then get a floppy drive-equipped computer to read them and save them onto your computer. With an Atari hard drive, you might need to go that route in order to pull the files of the drive anyway.

In the last preparation/clearout for a move, I dug out the old, much-used and much-loved Atari ST, and while it still booted, the floppy drive was dead (and the hard drive) so it actually didn't offer me much scope to recovering anything else. So it got binned, sadly enough. I still remember the Atari ST times fondly... I did a heckuva lot of stuff with that machine...
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby paul tha other » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:24 am

oh yeah ...the dongle :headbang: :headbang: ..ive still got mine and the c-lab catridge..or maybe i binned it when the st went to the recycling plant..it would be more a nostalga trip..i doubt id use any of it..also i had about 4 synths and a drum machine and another st we used as a sampler...getting that sounds would be tricksy..i think my dad might still have a working falcon somewhere..ill need to ask
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Dave B » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:09 pm

Whilst I have owned a variety of versions of Cubase over the years, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen an Atari version which wasn’t cracked and didn’t need the dongle! I’m sure that there must be an image floating about somewhere. Although that will no doubt result in a visit from the Steinbert mafia to explain the evil of such an attitude and, coincidentally, to call for an ambulance to treat these mysteriously shattered kneecaps ... :bouncy:
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby johnny h » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:46 pm

Some DAWs have a version of “Export all tracks to separate audio files”

It’s unlikely WAVs will become unreadable anytime soon ..
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:31 pm

This is the question that keeps me up all night, but then again I haven't needed a 24 track reel to reel in awhile either so I can clear that shelf I suppose.

I've heard the US Library of Congress spent hundreds of millions cataloguing all sorts of precious artifacts in medium they can no longer read and can't get funding to reverse engineer whatever platform they used to digigitze (spelling be damned) it in the first place.

At least I had the sense to format my archive storage in FAT23, not that that'll help in 5 years.

@desmond...dude, you are dedicated!!!
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:32 pm

I think I still have a dongle for the Windows version of Cubase 3 or 4 I think. No use to me so if anybody needs it (but I imagine there are plenty of cracked versions out there).
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Funkyflash5 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:58 pm

I export stems as wav files, and then keep them in folders per track/album, if I'm archiving something as a work in progress or likely to be remixed if used. Otherwise I just export the finished stereo wav and it goes with the rest of the old stuff on to a separate external drive that is kept at home, and an extra internal drive on both the studio machine and my home one, such that to loose anything there would have to be simultaneous disasters at both locations. that said, I'm also considering adding a cloud storage solution after hearing about a friend who had his main drive fail and a backup program mistake it for the files being deleted intentionally such that the backup mirrored it and cleared the whole drive. He was only saved by having a 3rd backup in the cloud to fall back on.
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby desmond » Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:55 am

Watchmaker wrote:@desmond...dude, you are dedicated!!!

Not really, I just don't want to lose irreplaceable stuff, and like having it available.

For instance, preparing for a move, I had a few boxes of cassettes, so I sorted them out into good/not good tapes, and stuck a pile to dump into the computer next to it, and just changed tapes until it was done. (I could then sort out the recordings at leisure). Result: Got rid of more physical stuff, haven't lost anything, and have safely backed up the content.

That's all my archiving really - going through physical media, uploading the stuff I want, binning the rest, and then sorting it out bit by bit once it's on the hard drive. I still have some stuff to go through - I've only digitised about 1/3 of my old video camera tapes, for instance - so I'll probably get on to moving that forward a bit over the Christmas period.

Any large task is usually easily broken down into small steps - you just need to make the next step as frictionless to do as possible, and keep doing the next step until the whole task is done. :thumbup: It doesn't really matter if it takes weeks, months, years, whatever...
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby Dave B » Mon Dec 10, 2018 1:04 pm

I really do need to sort out all my data. I have a mirrored raid array but should also use a cloud backup - I have one set up and it just needs me to sort thing into 'must have' and 'meh' folders ...

:)
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 10, 2018 1:26 pm

Dave B wrote:I have a mirrored raid array but should also use a cloud backup
I can recommend Backblaze. It is limited to storage devices physically connected to one computer (i.e. not a network drive), but that's not such a big problem if you configure your system to comply.
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Re: Future proofing old files

Postby FrankRaz » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:57 am

Assuming you use midi with hardware synths or VSTi's in whatever DAW you use, a good habit to get into is to export your tracks as MIDI files when you're done. While you may not be able to open your DAW files in years to come MIDI files hopefully will still be universal.
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