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MacOS X; QuickTime 5

This month Vic Lennard has a first look at Mac OS X and the public preview of QuickTime 5...

I had intended to demystify virtual memory this month, but having had a number of emails regarding the public beta of Mac OS X (available from for $29.95), and having also got my hands on the software for a day or so, I decided to change tack — and I'm still trying to get my head around the new OS before worrying about the music side!


I've spent many years as a Mac troubleshooter — in fact, even now I continue to act as systems manager alongside my job as Production Director at a publishing house. If a Mac crashes, I usually know why; if a piece of hardware dies, I have a reasonable chance of resurrecting it. And if a hard disk goes down, I'd back my ability to recover data from the drive. Yet I have to admit to some serious head‑scratching sessions with Mac OS X. The Aqua interface looks great, and many of the innate features will benefit future troubleshooting, not least of all the protected memory aspect that works with OS X Cocoa (native) applications.

But Mac OS X is completely and absolutely new. It cannot be viewed as an upgrade to OS 9 because it doesn't build on what has gone before, certainly not on an Apple Mac computer. I'd go so far as to say that Mac OS X has as much in common with OS 9 as Windows 98 has — almost zilch!

Troubleshooting expertise is based on knowledge and experience, so even the most guru‑like of Mac users is lost in OS X. When something goes wrong on a machine running in OS 8 or 9, what do you do? Check for system extension conflicts? You can't do that with OS X; extensions as we knew them no longer exist. How about rebuilding the desktop; that standard, weekly procedure we all go through (just kidding)? Can't do that either, as Mac OS X has no Desktop DB files. In essence, the whole concept of a Mac operating system has changed, making almost all of our procedures and resources obsolete.

Why is Mac OS X so different? Because it's based on the UNIX operating system — a fact which certainly won't be obvious to anyone trying the public beta as it's well hidden, much the way that DOS is hidden from Windows users. Most of the time this is a good thing, but when the brown stuff hits the fan you inevitably have to get down to the nitty‑gritty of the OS, which will entail accessing the UNIX‑based files — and then having the tools to handle them.

A further complication is the way that Mac OS X uses 'packages' to hold an application's files. A package is essentially a folder, but double‑clicking on it launches the application rather than opening the folder — no more hunting around for the myriad of files installed in the System Folder at install time. But what if there's a problem? Fortunately, contextual menus allow for the package to be opened but it's not a simple case of recognising documents and applications as with OS 9. There have been many reports of what would have been relatively simple problems under OS 9 requiring a complete reinstall of OS X!

The Old & The New

The old Mac OS has an almost childlike simplicity to it. The System Folder is readily accessible on the boot disk, and within this lies the standard folders of control panels, extensions, fonts and preferences. Open any of these and you see standard files that can be moved to a Disabled folder, if required, or trashed in the case of a problem. We've learned to recognise the symptoms of Finder problems that require the Finder's preferences to be binned, and the same with preferences for QuickTime and AppleShare Prep. When an application refuses to open a file because it has an insufficient memory allocation, you simply Get Info for the application and type a new size. The Finder and its desktop are so transparent in use that many of you probably didn't realise you were dealing with an application! Best of all, probably 95 percent of problems can be solved by moving or removing items in the System Folder and restarting.

The new Mac OS is very different. There is no System Folder and no easy way of getting to the system components. Even if you could, you wouldn't be able to do anything with them. One trick I tried was to install OS X on an external hard disk and then restart with OS 9 and venture into the new OS with Norton's Disk Editor. There are just six folders: the name of the volume, Applications, Library, Mac OS 9, System and Users plus two files: mach and mach.sym. There are also a number of invisible items and folders but these are unlikely to need to be accessed at any time.

At the moment, the new OS does not offer the equivalent of adding or removing items from the System Folder, and a total system freeze‑up is likely to look exactly the same as a non‑fatal crash. And while the Mac OS X public beta is remarkably stable for a pre‑release piece of software, you have to be very adventurous, or have a lot of spare time on your hands, to really wish to get involved this early in its development.

Additionally, many of you will not be prepared to pay $29.95 for the dubious privilege of finding the numerous bugs that are bound to exist. Let's just hope that by the time the real thing arrives in mid‑2001, Apple will have ensured that the various software resources are available to make OS X the joy to use that all previous OS versions have been. And virtual memory? It's on all the time with OS X — but more on that subject next month.

Double Quick Time

Shortly before writing Apple Notes, the US‑only QuickTime 5 'public preview' version appeared ( Now this is very much a matter of 'do what I say not what I do' because despite my warnings last month about avoiding US‑only versions of system software and updaters, I decided to take the plunge and install QT5. Why take the risk? The Aqua interface is pretty and many of the new features, such as MPEG1 Local and Streaming playback, support for Flash 4, higher quality DV decompress and more reliable Internet Streaming, are really useful for desktop video, multimedia and Web content creators, but the area that really interests us is the new QuickTime Musical Instruments. Is it better than the soundset in QT4?

My first reaction was very positive. Again based on the Roland soundset, instruments and reverb appear smoother and there's a little less background noise. I'd go so far as to say that it's useable as a software synth within a sequencer, especially as the latency appears to be almost zero. You'll need to be a registered QT3 or QT4 Pro user to install this and I'd recommend waiting until the International English version is available, but the initial signs are good.

MidiSport Drivers

The latest drivers for the four Midiman Mac USB MidiSport interfaces have fixed problems introduced by minor changes to all Macs that shipped after July 17th. These include the Dual G4 machines, Cubes and the newest iMacs (Indigo, Ruby, Graphite, Snow and Sage). Download the latest drivers from (

Apple Updaters

Powerbook Firmware Update 2.7 is intended for Powerbooks with built‑in FireWire ports running Mac OS 9 from a local drive and it improves support for FireWire. Download from (

Downloadable Goodies

The biggie this month is VST Wrapper v2 for MAS ( which enables users of MOTU Performer and Audio Desk to run multiple VST plug‑ins at the same time, with numerous plug‑in windows open and functioning simultaneously. It also adds support for various VST 2.0 Instruments including Neon, VB1, ProFive, PPGWave and ModelE. It's a free update for version one users; otherwise the demo is fully functional but emits a little blip every few seconds.

Audio Ease has also released the Nautilus bundle boasting three MAS plug‑ins. Riverrun is a real‑time granular synthesizer; Periscope offers a 24‑bit, Altivec‑aware, 32‑band equaliser with incredibly sharp +36 to ‑144dB bands; and Deep Phase Nine is a phaser with up to 24 notches per channel. The demo beeps every 7 to 10 seconds.

If you're into professional DJ presentations, then check out the latest version of MegaSeg ( which allows you to consolidate all your music on your hard drive and then segue between tracks without the need for extra CD players or mixers. Version 1.4 now imports files from any folder on any hard drive and allows multiple folders to be imported into its library. It includes Proteron's N2MP3 encoder and the demo is fully functional for 15 minutes per session.


Throwing a party Friday night? Then you need Digital Juke (, an MP3 music file player that acts as a jukebox. It can be used in 'full screen' mode, with the menu bar hidden, operated entirely by mouse or keyboard alone, and allows you to select any number of tracks from the playlist to be played in sequence — it can then revert to random play if no other tracks are 'queued'. It can even speak the track name after the song has played!

Easy beat 1.2, a new music authoring program (, uses QuickTime to play songs on a Mac. It features 16 song tracks, MIDI File, QT movie and AIFF file import/export, GM/GS instrument support, various editors and score printing.


  • Adaptec Toast Deluxe/Standard 4.1.1: offers 'burn proof' support on compatible drives, digital audio playback under Mac OS 9 and additional drive support. From (
  • Sonnet Crescendo‑Encore 1.4.5: driver for the G3 & G4 upgrade cards. From (
  • Paris 2.1: many improvements and fixes from version 2.0. From (
  • BayTex Party! Pro 2.5.2 (shareware): several bugfixes included the AutoMix button bug. From (
  • GrooveRecorder 1.1 (shareware): several new features. From (
  • MPlay 1.4.8 (freeware): playlist bug fixed. From (
  • PlayerPRO 5.7 (freeware): huge number of new features including saving VST Effects settings in music files, bypass Global VST effects and real‑time pitch adjustment. From (
  • Sound Byte 1.8.1 (shareware): various bug fixes. From (
  • Sound Studio 1.4.4 (shareware): Fixed a bug with opening and saving 8‑bit WAVE files. From (
  • Virtual Composer 2.6.5 (shareware): Various new feature and bug fixes. From (