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Koan Pro 2; Firewire Drivers

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published June 1999

Koan Pro 2 provides comprehensive control over the music generation. Lots to play with — and the result can be tiny files with long playing time and sophisticated content!Koan Pro 2 provides comprehensive control over the music generation. Lots to play with — and the result can be tiny files with long playing time and sophisticated content!

This month, Martin Russ steps back and overviews the Macintosh for any newbies, and revisits an often overlooked bit of routine maintenance.

Sometimes, I get so hooked into the ongoing developments in the Apple world, that I forget that there is also a constant undercurrent of new readers — perhaps reading Apple Notes for the first time. So, not wishing to leave any new Mac musicians out in the cold, this month I'm going to introduce some of the secrets of the Macintosh. Readers familiar with Apple Notes might also find one or two new things sprinkled in this column, so don't turn over the page quite yet!

Macs & Music

As you can see, my drive is ill and needs repairing!As you can see, my drive is ill and needs repairing!

Computers and music don't go together very well. You need to provide patience, skill and talent if you are to produce something worthwhile at the end. But a Mac is arguably one of the easiest ways to combine technology and music‑making — although to make the most of it, quite a lot of knowledge acquisition is required. Let's begin with a plain ordinary Mac.

Out of the box, a Mac can be used to move files around, make a few silly beeps, write notes in the Notepad, paste pictures or text from the Scrapbook, and a few other tasks. To do anything more sophisticated, you need software. Claris Works (now known as AppleWorks) and Microsoft Office are two of the general purpose 'workhorse' software application programs (known as 'applications') that you tend to find bundled with a Mac. Only in rare cases will you find music software in a bundle, a situation which reflects the main uses to which people will put their new Macs: word processing, spreadsheets and games.

Unfortunately, this focus on the non‑musical extends to the hardware too. Standard Macs do not come equipped with MIDI Interface sockets (which is quite a shock if you're upgrading from an Atari ST!), and the audio input and output are typically 3.5mm stereo jack sockets. So you need to add a MIDI Interface before you can control MIDI sound sources — although it is possible to turn your Mac into a synthesizer using programs that do so‑called 'soft synthesis', including the built‑in QuickTime Musical Instruments. If you have an old‑style Mac, as opposed to one of the current brightly coloured iMacs and G3s, then MIDI Interfaces are easy to connect up and get working: you generally use one of either the printer or modem serial ports (or sometimes both!). Serial‑port MIDI interfaces often incorporate a switch that lets you bypass the interface to connect through to the printer or modem. There have been reports of potential problems on UK mains‑powered devices, and so you should beware of switching those serial connections whilst everything is powered up and running. From my own (unconnected) distressing experiences with a separate serial switch box, I don't recommend anything other than direct unswitched connections.

New‑style G3s and iMacs, however, don't have any serial ports at all — and, like their ancestors, they lack built‑in MIDI ports. If you want to connect a new Mac to MIDI gear, you have two options. One is to seek out an interface which works with their USB (Universal Serial bus) port. USB MIDI interfaces are just starting to appear on the market now, but the technology is still in its infancy, and there have been reports of technical problems. The alternative — and the best way to ensure optimum MIDI timing performance, on any Mac — is to install a PCI card which adds serial ports (dual‑ and quad‑port versions are available: I recommend Hinton Instruments as a manufacturer to check out — see and use these ports to connect standard MIDI interfaces.

On a similar theme, older Macs have a relatively slow built‑in SCSI port: if you have such a machine, use this port for connecting CD writers, scanners, and other peripherals which you don't use for recording multitrack digital audio. Music‑specific SCSI devices, such as external hard disks for audio recording, should be connected via an add‑on SCSI card — as fast and wide as you can afford — to maximise the transfer of data between the computer and the external device (thereby maximising the number of simultaneous audio tracks you can record). If you have a new machine and you want to use external SCSI devices, you'll have to install a SCSI card in any case (the new Macs have no SCSI port — instead, they have much faster FireWire connections, but there is at present virtually no compatible hardware available).

PC‑style soundcard has never been needed on a Mac because Apple have always provided good built‑in audio capabilities

Mac beginners often ask about soundcards. Now the PC‑style consumer soundcard has never been needed on a Mac, because Apple have always provided good (in computer terms!) built‑in audio capabilities, with built‑in sound generation that has evolved over time, culminating in the current excellent QuickTime Musical Instruments and Sound Manager facilities. As on the PC, however, those wishing to go beyond basic stereo audio I/O can take advantage of a number of specialist audio recording cards such as the Yamaha DSP Factory, MOTU 2408, and Event Layla. These offer various combinations of features including multi‑channel analogue I/O, balanced low‑noise analogue inputs, 24‑bit analogue‑to‑digital converters, on‑card effects, sampling and synthesis, and digital audio interfaces to cope with AES‑EBU, S/PDIF or ADAT data streams.

One music‑relevant Mac innovation is often overlooked: the Apple Desktop bus (and the USB connection which has replaced it on current Macs) allows multiple keyboards, mice, and other similar peripherals to be connected to one Mac. In my studio, I have the Apple Extended Keyboard I'm typing on now in front of the monitor screen (along with the A5 graphics tablet and mouse), but there's another much smaller Standard Keyboard Blu‑tacked to the top of my master keyboard around the corner, which I use for shortcut keys to drive my sequencer. Multiple keyboards and mice make very little sense in a business environment, but in a music studio, they're wonderful!

For general Apple music and MIDI information, a good place to start is

Apple News In Brief

  • KOAN PRO 2

Sseyo's Koan Pro 2 algorithmic music generator is now available for the Power Mac. As is frequently the way these days, browser plug‑ins to enable you to playback Koan‑produced music when you visit a web page are also available (at 300K, it's a reasonably fast download). The Koan Pro demo is a 3.75Mb file, though, which equates to a quarter of an hour or so download time with a 56K modem! There's a lot to explore and experiment with, and there is still a PC Soundcard/SoundFonts bias, but there's no denying that this is totally unlike the 'paint by numbers' that you might be expecting. SSEYO have put considerable effort into producing this Mac‑ported version, and one of the 'Read Me' files had probably the most densely packed set of relevant information that I've ever seen (not what you normally get with a demo!) and so the download time is thoroughly justified. I can now see why there was such demand from Mac users for a version!


I try to avoid monthly reports on profits, losses, and sales figures, but just for once... So if you hate statistics, then stop reading now. You've probably heard about the iMac's success (!), and so it may not come as a complete surprise to learn that in February of this year, Apple's share of the US retail computer sales put it in third position: 12.5 percent of consumer sales. That's below Compaq and Hewlett‑Packard, but above IBM. This is the best figure in more than five years, but I'm resisting the tempation to do a graph and go truly 'Financial Times'‑ward.


There are now quite a few USB floppy drives (along with Zip drives and other extended floppy formats) available, and these are now being joined by FireWire hard drives. Manufacturers with hard disk drive release dates of around now include La Cie, Mactell, VST (no relation to Cubase VST!) and Yano.

To support the increasing numbers of non‑video FireWire peripherals, Apple's FireWire software version 2 was released in March, and can be downloaded from the Apple web‑site (see" target="_blank, part of the Apple Technical Information Library, for futher information). FireWire is a hot‑pluggable serial interconnection standard which is about 30 times faster than USB, and so is well suited to video (the initial adopters) and other applications requiring high‑speed access — so look forward to a SCSI v FireWire head‑to‑head comparison sometime in the future.


It was my local Unix guru who told me. This is a person who types into command lines, greps documents and writes in shell script, who isn't overly keen on PCs, and is only slightly warmer about Macs. This is also the person who came to me and excitedly said "Hey, look at this! The source for MacOS X Server! Downloadable for Free!"

You've probably noticed that software often costs money. In fact, given the time and effort that goes into making even a comparatively simple piece of software, even 'free' software has cost lots of money to produce! But there are companies who believe that some software should be free, and interim Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced in March that Apple were joining them. The Linux operating system, Netscape Navigator web browser and the Apache web server are just three examples of software where the source code is free, and where other programmers are free to make their own enhancements or changes, so long as they also make them freely available to other people.

So now Apple have made some significant parts of the MacOS X operating system for servers available for download from their site. They still charge for the full server software, and for those parts that have a MacOS style graphical element, but the essential elements of MacOS X Server are there for the experienced to download and play with. I should point out that you may need quite a bit of experience to make the most of the software, and that this is not a free update to the next MacOS!

Disk First Aid

Ever had a Mac freeze on you? Ever had a Mac crash just before you were going to save all that work? I can forsee lots of nods and grimaces, so I'll ask you what you did once you had hit the 'Programmer's reset' button, or used the special key combination to reboot the machine. Did you just carry on as normal once it had got back to the desktop?

Okay, so it's a leading question. We both know that the first thing you did once you had the desktop back was to go to Disk First Aid and verify the boot hard disk, and repair it if necessary. Not.

Hey, I'm guilty too. I really can't be bothered to restart from my Norton Utilities CD‑ROM (a thoroughly recommended purchase for PC or Mac, as Martin Walker points out in PC Notes this month), and repair the boot hard disk, and then reboot again. Instead, I trust to luck, and assume that all of those files that were left open when the Mac fell over won't affect anything too badly. If you can smell disaster coming, then stop reading now. (I do walk into these situations, don't I?)

First off, the Mac stopped shutting down, but froze instead, and so I removed the power at the mains. I would get round to repairing the hard disk one day, I kept telling myself. Then, a few switch‑offs later, the external 2Gb drive with all my music work refused to mount onto the desktop, and it took quite a bit of Norton Utility‑ing to get it back. That's when I repaired the boot hard disk (the 'Startup disk' in Mac speak), defragmented my 'severely' fragmented drives and generally tidied up everything. When you get a warning, you are ill‑advised to ignore it. So I'll pass on the advice to you now: use Disk First Aid regularly to check for problems, and repair them!