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Metadata; Networking; SCSI; Opcode Studio Vision Pro v4.0

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published July 1998

An unmanaged network hub 'stars' the cables, so you can plug and unplug them without disturbing the rest of the network.An unmanaged network hub 'stars' the cables, so you can plug and unplug them without disturbing the rest of the network.

Martin Russ realises the worth of Metadata, and brings glad tidings of profitable Apples...

Larry Niven, the science fiction author, writes a computer column in BYTE magazine every month. Called Chaos Manor, it describes his experiences with computers over the preceding month. Well, it's not quite been complete chaos here in the Apple Notes studio, but it has got close at times recently. So don't be surprised if there's a slight 'as it happened' feel to the column this month.
It started quietly enough. Last month, I ordered an upgrade to my favourite sequencer program, finally taking the plunge into MIDI + Audio. Big events like a radical change to your working environment are also a good time to get around to tidying up all those loose ends, and so I decided that this was also a good time to move my music software from my FPU‑enhanced (floating‑point unit) 68K Centris 610 across to the PowerMac. Removing the music software from the Centris would also free up quite a bit of hard disk space for more Internet software, so in my mind it was a win‑win situation!
After moving all my working sequencer files across via LocalTalk (you can always spot a Mac old‑timer, because they call it AppleTalk), I took the authorisations off the music software and put them on to the master floppies, and threw the music software away. On the PowerMac, the new software installed fine first time, and it was only when I started up the software to drive my patchbay that I experienced a sinking feeling. All the configuration information had been lost, and I would have to go through and re‑install all my devices again. Still, since I keep written details of exactly how everything in the studio is connected together, it didn't take long to put it all back. But this was just the start, because inside the sequencer, I no longer had the default setup that gives me all my favourite settings. More specifically, the drum machines no longer had named notes. Now that I thought about it, there had been lots of additional setup and configuration information stored on my Centris, and not copying it across meant that it was going to take me quite some time to regenerate it.


A thin‑wire Ethernet network 'daisy‑chain' may be affected when you plug or unplug any computer.A thin‑wire Ethernet network 'daisy‑chain' may be affected when you plug or unplug any computer.

One of the buzz‑words in Information Technology circles at the moment is 'metadata'. It refers to all the extra information that you need in order to be able to use something effectively. For a book, the metadata would be its title, the author, and even the page numbers (try finding something in a book's index without page numbers!). Similarly, SMPTE timecode on a video or audio tape provides the timing information that you can use to log the contents — but if you lose the log, you'll have a lot of shuttling ahead of you if you want to find a specific piece of music.
As you've probably guessed by now, I had inadvertently thrown away the metadata for my sequencer program, and I now had to go through the slow, tedious process of recreating it from scratch. Some of it could be regenerated quite easily — that paper record of all the cabling helped enormously. And an old issue of SOS had some screenshots of my MIDI setup at that time. But the vast majority of the information had to be typed in by hand, including my all‑time non‑favourite task — mapping of MIDI note numbers to specific drum sounds.
So this month's hard‑learned moral is that you should stop reading this magazine now, grab a piece of paper, and note down all the connections in your studio. MIDI port number, instrument or device, MIDI In, Out or Thru, and perhaps a colour‑coding scheme on the cabling is all that is needed. Making a backup copy of all your configuration files is also a good idea — it is probably one of the few things that you can actually fit on a floppy these days!
Incidentally, after all the trouble I had remapping MIDI note numbers to drum sounds on my drum machines, I am all the more determined to make things easier for the rest of you. So when I get around to revamping my web site (now that the Centris has some spare disk space!) I will provide some of my maps as downloadable files. Perhaps my next project should be a set of MIDI drum machine maps? All contributions gratefully received at the usual SOS address!

An unmarked network hub 'stars' the cables, so you can plug and unplug them without disturbing the rest of the network.

A thin‑wire Ethernet network 'daisy‑chain'may be affected when you plug or unplug any computer.


The Mac is at one end of a SCSI chain and a terminator should be at the other. Add in extra devices in between these two end points.The Mac is at one end of a SCSI chain and a terminator should be at the other. Add in extra devices in between these two end points.

In a month filled with change, I also took the opportunity to dump the slow LocalTalk that has been connecting my Centris, PowerBook and PowerMac together, and replace it with a faster Ethernet 10baseT network. LocalTalk's advantage has always been that it was standard on all Macs, it used cheap cabling and was easy to connect together. The disadvantage was the slow speed: 240 kilobits per second — more than four times faster than a 56kps modem connection to the Internet, but still desperately slow for moving big files.
My PowerMac has built‑in Ethernet networking. Also, unmanaged network hubs (using a 'star' configuration similar to some MIDI setups) are now remarkably cheap. It took about five minutes of recabling, and I then had 10 million bits‑per‑second networking between my Macs. Moving big Sound Designer II and AIFF files was suddenly not a good excuse for making a cup of coffee! Of course, when recording from a MIDI sequencer, you should disconnect the network before powering up your Mac, so that the only thing affecting the processor load (and therefore the timing) is your sequencer!

SCSI — Sodding Confusing, Silly & Irritating?

Lots of music for very little effort, thanks to Opcode's Pulse window.Lots of music for very little effort, thanks to Opcode's Pulse window.

You may remember that my first days with my PowerMac were plagued with inexplicable crashes whenever I tried to copy files. Well, I'm pleased to report that although they came back temporarily, I now know what caused them. I tracked the problem down to the chain of SCSI peripherals that I had assembled on the PowerMac's external SCSI buss. Serves me right for trying to use all those old 40Mb hard disks!
It seems that when I connect more than four or five SCSI devices, then the risk of having a mysterious lock‑up while copying files seems to increase. Having honed down my SCSI boxes to four essentials, everything has been OK since. That's until I got a CD‑R writer. One more device... surely no problem? Think again!

The Mac is at one end of a SCSI chain and a terminator should be at the other. Add in extra devices in between these two points

Yep, putting the CD‑R writer into the SCSI chain brought back all the previous problems. Everything would work perfectly for a while, and then the Mac would suddenly hang — with a reset being the only way out. Powering down your Mac, recabling the SCSI and the restoring the power is slow, but it soon showed me exactly how many devices I could connect together reliably.

So here's a new set of SCSI hints:

  • Power down your Mac.
  • Disconnect all your SCSI devices.
  • Connect one device, and terminate the other connector.
  • Power up the Mac, and check for problems.
  • Add extra SCSI devices one at a time, remembering to always power down the Mac each time you make a cabling change, and to make sure that the end of the chain has a terminator. Changing cables might (or might not) make a difference.

Apple News In Brief


Apple's new iMac is the long‑awaited low‑cost Mac, and at $1,299 in the States, its 233MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 32Mb of RAM, 4Gb hard drive, built‑in 24xCD‑ROM drive, 33.6kbps modem, Universal Serial Bus (USB), 15‑inch built‑in colour monitor, and stereo surround sound should give PCs serious competition (though whether the dollar price will have a sensible sterling equivalent when the iMac appears here in August is anyone's guess). But the translucent casing harks back to the badly capitalised eMate (and if you check out the US‑only, G3 All‑in‑One Mac, the specs are very similar to the iMac, except that the iMac lacks the PCI ports and floppy drive, but gains the USB).

Commentators have been quick to point out that this price area is heavily congested, but if anyone can succeed with a quality product there, it is Apple — and don't forget that many big‑name PC manufacturers have tried and failed. I just hope that the iMac makes people pause to look before buying a PC.

From a Mac musician's point of view, there's only one minor difficulty — the lack of a floppy drive means that the copy protection schemes used for music software delivered on CD‑ROMs may require the purchase of an additional external drive! This is the first CD‑ROM‑only machine that I've seen, and I don't suppose it will be the last; perhaps the days of the now pitifully small capacity floppy disk are numbered. I hope so.


Apple are firmly back in profit. The last two quarters have seen a gradual consolidation of performance with two sets of figures in profit, and the company now seems back on track again after a worrying time. Steve Jobs seems to be established back in the driving seat, and sales are gradually picking up. The new G3 Macs seem to have the right combination of power and price, the 292MHz G3 PowerBooks are fast and very, very nice (especially with a built‑in DVD‑ROM drive) and the iMac has restored Apple's reputation for leading‑edge design and style. In fact, I can't think of a better time to buy a Mac instead of a PC.


The UK Apple Store allows you to put together your own Mac, have it built in Ireland, and then shipped over to you — all from a web page. Apple claim that the US version of this page has been a major contributor to the recent return to profitability!

A Man Of Vision

Once I had re‑keyed all the Metadata relating to the assignment of MIDI notes to drum voices (see main text), I couldn't resist using the Pulse window in Opcode's Studio Vision Pro v4.0 to make the most of all that work. I've always liked being able to run loops of different lengths at once so that you get complex sounding drum patterns from simpler underlying patterns, and this window makes it very easy. While the bass drum kicks along at four to the bar, all the other loops are either shorter or longer. By using odd numbers of beats, the total number of events before the drum pattern repeats can get enormous. In the example shown here, this asynchronous looping technique needs more than 72,000 beats before it repeats — the equivalent of 10 hours worth of 120 bpm drumming!

I've mentioned this before, but it is worth noting here that the update to v4.0.1b4 of Studio Vision Pro was available from Opcode's web site when I got my upgrade CD to v4.0. It's a big download, but a very good way of getting the absolute latest bug fixes. Contact SCV (0171 923 1892) for more details.