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MOTU FreeStyle

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published October 1994

Martin Russ brings you the latest Apple news, starting with MOTU's new Freestyle package.

Mark of the Unicorn are breaking new ground with their recently‑announced FreeStyle sequencer. Whereas most other music software companies have only one sequencer, MOTU now have Performer (and its direct‑to‑disk big brother, Digital Performer), and FreeStyle. And don't expect corner‑cutting: Freestyle isn't just a cut‑down or simplified version of Performer — instead, it takes a completely different approach to the way that musicians work with a computer. Freestyle seems to be based around improvisation and jamming, with automatic looping, instant riffs and a 'trackless' environment.

And this poses an interesting question: how far along the route of adding features should a sequencer go? Should the designers continue to incrementally improve the user interface of their flagship products until they are so complicated that you can in theory do almost anything (but in practice only when you have taken the considerable time necessary to learn about them), or should they use their experience to produce products that are optimised for particular ways of working? Freestyle certainly seems to be the latter, since it looks and feels very unlike Performer, and is instead rather similar to some of MOTU's competitors!

Freestyle also concentrates on immediacy and ease of use (words which don't usually come to mind in most reviews of sequencer software!). A sequencer is often regarded as a tool for a nit‑picking techno‑perfectionist, who can tweak a lacklustre performance into a gem, given enough time. But Freestyle aims to capture that idea for a riff that flashes momentarily through your mind, and which all too often gets lost forever while you set up the sequencer...

Contact Sound Technology on 01462 480000 for more details on Freestyle.

Tip Of The Month: Using Two Keyboards

I never quite got used to the small keyboard that came with my IIsi when it came to proper typing, so I decided recently to move up to an extended keyboard, with cursor buttons and lots of extra function keys. But I also kept my old keyboard. I have the Mac just to the right of my SY99 master keyboard, and the new extended Apple keyboard sits in front of it. The standard keyboard is now blu‑tacked to the top of the SY99, where it lets me use the numerous keyboard short‑cuts without having to turn sideways. All you do is connect the Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) from the Mac, through the first keyboard, then through the second and on to the mouse.

I now have the best of both keyboards: big for typing, and small for music. I got the keyboard second‑hand from the knowledgeable and helpful people at ExMicro in Nottingham, who have always proved to be life‑savers. Contact them on 0115 945 5077.

How It Works: The Apple Desktop Bus (Adb)

This month's tip made me think that this might be a good time to briefly examine how you connect mice and keyboards to a Mac. The Apple Desktop Bus (ADB in Apple‑speak) is apparently due to be replaced with a new and much cleverer bus in a future series of the Power Macintoshes, but until this happens, the ADB remains a neat and very useful way of connecting peripherals. The obvious ones are the keyboard and the mouse, of course, but there are others.

The ADB is a simple local‑area network, optimised for low‑speed input‑only devices. It has a power feed and a serial bus which connect to the Mac via a 4‑pin mini‑DIN plug and socket. It was introduced in the Mac SE some years ago — previous Macs (Mac, 512, XL and Plus) used a different system, with separate keyboard and mouse sockets. The ADB can support up to 16 different peripherals — like extra keypads, graphics tablets, tracker balls and even certain touch‑screens.

Some Macs have two ADB sockets, whilst some only have one. In either case, you can connect devices in any order, as the 16 available 'addresses' are used in a way that is very similar to the channels in MIDI — the mouse is normally on address 3, for example. The address tells the Mac which device is sending the information, which is how the 'two keyboard' tip works — both keyboards send messages with addresses which indicate they are from a keyboard, and the Mac does not mind that they are from two different keyboards. In fact, you can have more than one mouse as well. I have two mice connected to mine, and I suspect that they are both on the same address!

Because the ADB is a serial bus, you connect the devices together in a chain, starting at the Mac's ADB socket and working outwards, and usually ending in a mouse. Macs with two ADB sockets make it easy to connect up the keyboard and mouse separately, whilst with only one socket they both end up on the same chain — you just add them in. Note, however, that Apple recommend a maximum of three daisy‑chained ADB devices per ADB socket.

Most Macs can supply up to 500 milliamps (mA) from the ADB sockets (although see below for PowerBooks). A typical mouse takes 80mA, whilst a keyboard takes about 25mA. Some miniature disk drives even take their power from the ADB bus.

Don't connect or disconnect ADB devices when your Mac is powered up. This can cause all sorts of problems (I have seen Macs reboot, which can cause lost data!) as the bus can get very confused. Unplugging anything that is powered up is a bad idea, whatever it may be, so always shut down the Mac before changing your ADB.

  • Don't overload the ADB on PowerBooks. Each device uses up some power, and whilst most Macs can cope with this easily, PowerBooks can only supply a much more limited amount of current: 50mA. In fact, they require special devices — which are indicated by a mysterious 'circle with a flat bit' symbol, which meant nothing to me until I was told that it meant low power. You will also drain your batteries faster with extra ADB devices.

Apple News In Brief

  • APPLE EXPO '94
    The only place for a Mac user to be in mid‑October is Olympia's Grand Hall. This year's event runs from the 12th to the 15th of October, and features over 250 leading suppliers. There is a Mac Applications Area, where you can try out (almost certainly non‑music) software under the guidance of experts, and there should be plenty of Power Macintoshes to try. I have picked up quite a few amazing bargains over the years, especially at the smaller stands. You might even see me — say hello if you do! Phone 0181 984 7711 for free tickets [trade only though, there's the catch — Ed].
    Mac Developers on AppleLink have been busy trying to explore the MIDI possibilities of QuickTime 2.0. It appears that the Music Configuration Control Panel will be available shortly, and it is this that lets you route the output of the MIDI/music 'movies' to the software synth using the Roland samples, or to the MIDI port. This explains why I couldn't get it to work!
    By the time you read this, Studio Vision Pro should have reached version 2.1, which adds in support for Session 8. At the risk of sounding like Sesame Street, Session 8 is now supported by sequencers from manufacturers whose names begin with E, M, O and S. Can you work out who? Contact MCM for more details on Opcode Software on 0171 258 3454.
    After a bit of panic when the Power Mac first came out, Wall Street seems to have recovered its faith in Macs. Apple have now sold more than 345,000 Power Macs, including upgrades to Quadras, and have made a profit of just under 60 million dollars for the quarter year ending in July 1994.
    The rumours just won't go away. Apple is about to license the Mac Operating System to third party computer manufacturers. Names rumoured to be involved include IBM, Motorola, Olivetti, Vobis, Fujitsu and Toshiba. Dell and several Taiwanese companies which have been mentioned in previous rumours are not included this time. Cynics might speculate that any licensing is too late, given the huge success of Microsoft's Windows on the PC.
    If anyone doubted that digital audio was here, then Digidesign Inc's financial reports for the first quarter of 1994 make interesting reading. They generated net sales of 8.7 million dollars, and now have an installed user base of over 32,500 systems, which is quite a lot of Pro Tools and Audiomedia users (and even some PC users!). Contact Digidesign on 0181 875 9977.
    OSC have released Trans*Port, which, despite its name, is a piece of conversion software which works with Deck 2 and Pro Tools using the Open Media Framework (or OMF). The OMF was developed by Avid Technology as a standard way to exchange digital audio, video, graphics and other multimedia information.

Deck 2.2 has also been announced by OSC, and now adds Sound Manager 3 support, which enables it to work with a wide variety of new and old Macs. It also has a new 'plug‑in' architecture, which enables the easy addition of functionality. The idea of 'plug‑in' software modules has spread from graphics software, and promises to see great activity in the next few years, since it allows you to customise your software with your own choice of plug‑ins. Contact MCM for more details on 0171 258 3454.