There are dark mutterings against Steve Jobs on planes, trains and automobiles, as Paul Wiffen continues to struggle with phantom crashes and difficult reboots of OS9.1 since installing OSX on his computer...
By the time you read this, I may well have either killed myself or become the Apple community's equivalent of the man who shot John Lennon only hours after asking for his autograph. In my case, it has taken me a bit longer to become so disillusioned with my former idol, Steve Jobs, that I'm approaching the 'his life or mine' point. When others were foaming at the mouth because of his decision to abandon traditional Apple interface ports, such as Serial and ADB, in favour of the disappointing USB and the visionary FireWire, my response was "well, I guess he has to drive the market forward somehow." When he performed the demonic summoning of a 20‑foot‑tall AntiChrist at a MacWorld Keynote speech and other Mac devotees were reaching for their crucifixes and garlic, my reaction was "We'll take Gates' money — it's the least he can give us for messing up the Western world so badly!"
However, the sheer unreliability of my iBook since I tried out OSX last month, found it to be useless for all music programs except Native's B4 organ (even trying the Carbonised 9.1 as a way of running Cubase or Logic) and reverted to trying to run the original OS9.1, as before, has me hovering between suicidal and homicidal on a minute‑to‑minute basis. No‑one will ever read the original opening to this month's Apple Notes, because the iBook crashed just as I was about to save after a couple of paragraphs (now I am saving every two sentences!). "But computers always crash," I hear you cry. "Surely that's not a reason for this homicidal/suicidal rhetoric?" If this were the end of the problem, you'd be right. However after such a crash it can take up to half an hour to get working again. The first 'Ctrl + Apple + Delete' never works properly — the computer boots all the way to the desktop, displays all the icons and the menu bar, but refuses to take any notice of whatever I click on with the mouse.
Restarting with Extensions Off (by holding down Shift during the re‑boot) always gets me back up and running with something like Word, but this is one of the few programs left these days which does not need half a dozen extensions for its most basic functions. Email, Ethernet sharing and any music software will refuse to run if certain standard extensions are not present. And the problem seems to be in these standard extensions — such as File Sharing and Open Transport, without which Quick Time, modem access and other critical things will not run — although I cannot tie it down to a particular one. Sometimes switching off one of these Extensions (now identified as part of the 'Classic Compatibility' package inside OSX) allows the iBook to reboot as normal, but often it doesn't. Bizarrely, running with Extensions off and then re‑enabling the required extension can often solve the problem on that particular occasion, but then half an hour later it doesn't work if you try it again.
I even re‑installed OS9.1, and this appeared to solve the problem for a while, but it turned out to be just a couple of lucky restarts which didn't lock up on arrival at the desktop. A day later I had my longest ever attempt to get back up and running, after a crash that occurred while I was visiting hi‑tech distributor Arbiter. I had to repeat 'Ctrl + Apple + Delete' 15 times to get the computer working again, much to the delight of the PC technical support staff there, who were feeling solidarity with a Mac owner perhaps for the first time! Before, I've felt sympathy for (but also a vague superiority to) my impoverished PC brethren, because it seemed that the hidden price of their thriftiness was an inordinately long time spent looking at boot‑up screens and hoping that all would go well this time, but now I find myself joining them in this soul‑destroying activity. (And, as we all know, a watched boot never happens — Wiffen's modern‑day sayings no. 37.)
The reason I feel so antagonistic towards Il Duce Jobs right now is that we could have had some, if not all, of the mLAN support we need in OS9. We could have been feeling the advantages of OS‑integrated multi‑channel audio support for the last year, without all this radical new OS grief, were it not for one of Jobs' dictatorial edicts, delivered in the mistaken belief that new features in OS9 would reduce the number of people prepared to step up to OSX.
This time last year, at the Worldwide Developer Conference, developers saw the audio side of mLAN running under OS9; I know this because the guy who worked on it and showed it there told me (he has now left Apple, so I can reveal this without endangering the security of his job). But, one morning, Apple's answer to Marlon Brando (one of Apple employees' favourite terms for their leader is apparently 'The Jobfather') appeared and decreed "No new features in OS9."
Clearly, he hoped that saving any new goodies for OSX would create a tidal wave of people straining at the leash to purchase the new OS on its release. Whether or not this strategem has worked, I couldn't say, but those of us trying to do music under the new operating system are now paying the price. I guess that one day we'll all be basking in the warmth of hundreds of channels of mLAN MIDI and audio, available to every single application without the need for PCI card or USB MIDI interface (and OMS to drive it), but for now I'm just going to have to clear everything off my hard drive, re‑install OS9.1 from scratch, and keep my hard drive OSX‑free for a few months more.
The most worrying aspect of all this is that in July, to coincide with the Keynote speech at the MacWorld show in New York, Apple apparently plan to start shipping all Macs with OSX as standard. This presumably means that the new machines announced at the same time will not run under the old OS9.1 at all. The need for the latest OS to support newer features has always pertained in the past — January's crop of new G4s will not run with anything earlier than OS9.1, for example. But if this pattern is repeated, from July (just about as you are reading this, actually) you won't be able to buy a new Mac which will run Cubase or the audio side of Logic, until our friends in Hamburg have solved the issues which prevent these programs from running under the 'Carbonised' OS9.1
Until this glorious moment arrives, my faith keeps me looking onwards and upwards to the day when I can run all my favourite applications under OSX proper, with hundreds of channels of both MIDI and audio flying in and out of the FireWire port in mLAN data streams — despite the fact that, at the moment, my feet plod through the mire of constant restarts and arbitrary disabling and re‑enabling of Extensions. I probably won't kill either myself or Mr Jobs, but sometimes (at the moment) the thought of the latter keeps me warm at nights!
The Worldwide Developer Conference at Apple's HQ in San José this month gives us the best hope, as it lists three very specific presentations on OSX mLAN implementation. (As behoves your Apple correspondent, I had spotted these myself, but I am grateful to Kendall Wrightson, late of this parish, and others, for emailing me the info, in case I had missed it.)
The third of the aforementioned presentations (see the Apple Developer Conference box on the previous page) covers the implementation of MIDI with the OSX operating system. In the past, there was a standardised implementation of MIDI hardware as a 'bolt‑on' to the serial ports, so that no extensions were needed for suitably written software (pretty much everything, a couple of years back) to address simple MIDI I/O devices. Now, for the first time since the débacle with the Beatles' version of Apple 10 years ago prevented Apple Computer from developing and refining MIDI Manager, the Mac OS itself will handle MIDI messages. I would suggest that this alone is a cause for dancing in the streets, but even more exciting is the fact that a presentation on audio through Apple's desktop (208) is scheduled for the conference — though the phrase 'multi‑channel' is not included in the rubric. People writing new audio and music software from scratch also seem to be well taken care of, as the second seminar (209) covers the basics of music sequencing and digital signal processing.
So not only is there information on the way to help implement the new features of OSX specifically for music (ie. mLAN), but Apple are even actively encouraging new music and audio software development, which has not always been the case. I guess if you have chaps beavering away night and day on new features and support of a major new protocol, it pays to tell developers that these features are there, and explain how to use them. Nevertheless, I still think it bodes well for Apple musicians in the long term!
The following sessions were scheduled to take place at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (text from Apple's web site):
- 208 — Audio Services in Mac OSX
This session discusses audio services available to applications, including the basic Audio I/O model and how audio hardware is presented to an application. Java APIs that provide access to these services will also be discussed.
- 209 — Audio Processing & Sequencing Services
Mac OSX provides developers with advanced audio‑processing capabilities. This session details how to create and use custom Audio Processing Units for applications. It also provides an introduction to creating Music Sequences using the Audio Toolbox. Java APIs that provide access to these services will also be discussed.
- 210 — MIDI In Mac OSX
With Mac OSX, MIDI developers have access to professional‑quality MIDI services as a core part of the operating system. This session will discuss the MIDI APIs and services available to applications and how to interface with MIDI hardware. Java APIs that provide access to these services will also be discussed.
After some nice comments about my mLAN coverage (he should like this month's column, then!), Johan Van Maldeghem writes from Belgium "As an interface designer and usability consultant (in my day job) and a songwriter (in my evening 'job') I have become a Mac and Yamaha believer in the last few years. Your series made me feel as though I had always chosen the right platforms. Until yesterday, that was. I was considering adding an AX88 ADAT interface from ADB (as an 8‑in, 8‑out solution) to my Yamaha DSP Factory card, but then I hit the following url: www.adbdigital.com/ax88/ax88outo.... My first question is this: is it true that Yamaha have discontinued the DSP Factory card and its support? Do you have any news on Steinberg Cubase VST 5 support? I can't imagine that Steinberg would keep upgrading the software for a discontinued card."
Our reading of the announcement at this site is that the ADB AX88 has been discontinued, rather than the DSP Factory. Instead of getting an AX88 for ADAT interfacing, Johan could put a card such as the RME Hammerfall Lite 96/32 or the Frontier Wavecentre PCI into his computer and feed ADAT audio in and out via that. The audio would not be routed through the processing of the DSP factory, but Johan could record directly into Cubase, then change his routing to output the audio through the DSP factory for processing.
However, Johan continued his question by positing a completely different setup, which I also want to comment on: "From what I have learned from your series of articles, a possible upgrade of my system (in the long run) would be to add an 01V, and install a Firewire card on my beige G3 to interface with the 01V through mLAN. Hence, my second question: for an upgrade path as shown below, do you have any news from the trenches, with any particular pitfalls that I should be aware of?"
I'll take Johan's suggested upgrade steps in turn, and give my verdict (and that of other users, as reported to this column) on each:
- Fitting a beige G3 with an XLR8 G4 processor upgrade: I have no direct experience of this upgrade myself, but have heard good reports of it from Sonorus and Frontier users. I'm still trying to track down the loan of one, to try out.
- Moving to a multi–processor G4: provided you use the Cubase Audio System Setup, left, to determine how radical the multi–processor operation is (basic or advanced; Advanced mode yields faster operation, but more applications tend to fall over), you should be able to get most plug‑ins to run OK under Cubase (and Logic, for that matter). There should be a good, if not unbelievably great, increase in processing capability. Do note, however, that a few plug‑ins are still not multi–processor compatible, and need multi‑processing mode turned off.
- Upgrading Cubase 4.1 to Cubase 5: completely safe, in my experience; I'm sure I would have heard by now if there were any major problems.
- Changing from Mac OS 8.6 to OSX: avoid like the plague for now (see main text)!
- Installing a Firewire card in the Mac for mLan interfacing with an 01V: Again, I have no direct experience of this, and you will have to wait until the 01V version of the mLAN interface ships in the Autumn (see last month's column for more info). However, it shouldn't present a problem.