You are here

Opcode — Behind The Scenes

This month, in addition to all the latest Apple hardware and software news, Martin Russ brings you a behind‑the‑scenes interview with the Director of Sales at Opcode...

Keith Borman, the Director of Sales at Opcode Systems Inc, visited the UK recently as part of an extended international tour promoting Overture, Opcode's new notation program. I took the opportunity to talk to him...

I asked first about OMS 2.0, the forthcoming version of the Open MIDI System for Macs. Keith said that this is due for release early in 1995; beta testing is going on now. Doug Wyatt and the other members of the OMS development team have apparently expended a great deal of effort over the system in order to provide a powerful tool for MIDI applications writers. Keith then mentioned that Mark Badger — one of the main forces behind Steinberg's Cubase Audio — has been working closely with them on the timing parts of OMS. Mark's name will be familiar to any long‑time readers of SOS as an occasional contributor in the early issues.

Two topics which interest most software users are upgrades and compatibility. Keith said that the minimum recommended platform for Vision is probably a Mac Plus running System 7, although a 68030 processor would be preferable. For Studio Vision, the Quadra 800 and 950 are recommended as power‑user platforms, because of their speed and NuBus slots. Since neither of these models is actually current, second‑hand ones may be bargain purchases. Keith explained that Opcode have one person who works full‑time on looking at compatibility issues, which is reassuring given the rapid pace of change in the Apple range. Some Opcode programs are already compatible with the forthcoming System 7.5, and for PowerMacs, the acid test should be if a program is okay with the DigiDesign DAE. Native versions are under development.

In terms of upgrades, the PC version of Vision is due to move to version 2.0 soon, and a Max update is undergoing thorough bug‑testing, to make it as stable and bug‑free as possible, which is understandable, given the wide Max use in academic circles. One snippet which I was not familiar with (because I don't have the Editor part of Galaxy yet) was that Galaxy will use Max Editors if a Galaxy Editor module is not available, which means that you can use Max to make your own synth/module editors for Galaxy.


Keith Borman also gave us a preview of a very late beta version of Overture. Written mainly by Donald Williams, with additional input from some very experienced notation program designers, Overture has a page layout focus and appears to be virtually modeless. If you want to move something, you click and drag it, just as you would in a drawing or page layout program. There is very little use of dialogue boxes — instead, there's a lot of on‑screen 'intuitive' interaction. Smooth, obvious to use, and very impressive, especially to someone like me, who has always been put off by the steep 'learning curve' on many notation programs. A full review is due in SOS soon.


Programming a computer as complex as the Mac can appear quite overwhelming at first, and is best done with a little informed help, not by struggling on your own. Apple provide comprehensive support for developers, but this does have a price tag which reflects the depth and quality of the support. Those of us with limited funds who still want to write programs do have an alternative source of help: the Developer Council. This is a 'not‑for‑profit' organisation for developers on the Apple Macintosh, who are having a series of meetings in a London pub over the next few months. I have always been a fan of this type of 'self‑help' user group and thoroughly recommend anyone with an interest in writing Mac programs to consider joining.

By the time you read this, the next meetings will be on the 9th of November and the 14th of December. The meetings start at 6:30 for 7 in The Phoenix, Cavendish Square, London W1. The nearest tube station is Oxford Circus. Some meetings have speakers from Apple and other hardware/software developers, whilst others are just social events where the gossip is likely to be strongly Mac‑related. Entrance is free to members, and £5 for non‑members (although if you subsequently join the Developer Council, then it will be credited towards the cost of joining, which is £40 per year for full membership).

Tip Of The Month: Customising Extensions Manager 2.0

Here's how to tweak Extensions Manager 2.0 (or EM; see the 'How It Works' box) so that it recognises MIDI Drivers, enabling you to rapidly choose which ones you will use. This is particularly important if you need to switch between using OMS, FMS and MIDI Manager. All you need to do is add a new four‑character 'signature' to the default list that comes with Extensions Manager.

Click on the 'Options' button in the EM Control Panel, then the 'Customise' button, which brings up the dialogue box as shown in Figure 1 (left). Add 'mdvr' (all lower case) to the bottom list as in the diagram, and click the 'OK' button. The result should be as shown in Figure 2. The customised EM should display the MIDI drivers in the 'System Folder' section, and normally only one of the drivers should be highlighted.

On The Net

Drum machine sounds are appearing on the Internet as 44.1kHz, 16‑bit sample files. I found four classic Roland 'TR' sets: 505, 606, 626 and 707. The TR808, TR909 and more are promised soon. Before you all start logging on to grab them, consider the cost of downloading them. Here are the file sizes of the sets — the TR505 is 1.7Mb, the TR606 987K, the TR626 2.8Mb, and the TR707 is 1.2Mb.

How It Works: Extensions Manager 2.0

Normally, my advice to Macintosh users with problems is simple: remove all un‑necessary fonts, INITs, CDEVs, preferences, extensions and anything else you don't recognise that litters the System folder, and then reboot. But there is one exception: Extensions Manager. The current version of this (2.0.1) was released in July 1993. It is a free 'unsupported' system software enhancement, so although it comes from Apple, it is not supported by them. It is an invaluable tool for anyone who uses a Mac for more than just one task, and can even be useful for people who only use their Mac for MIDI music.

Extensions Manager (or EM) adds a set of folders to the System folder. It then moves INITs, CDEVs, fonts, extensions and any other similar 'Mac‑enhancing' software into 'disabled' folders when they are not required. Since the Mac only registers the existence of many of these enhancements when it boots up, you may need to restart to see any changes. There are two major ways to use EM: either put it into the Apple Menu Items folder, or set it so that it pops up when you restart your Mac. Mine is set for both. When the Mac first powers up, I can choose the enhancements that I want from the EM Control panel, and can still change them later on by using EM from the Apple Menu. Being able to choose extensions at power‑up can save a lot of 'restart' time.

I have defined several named sets of enhancements, so that I can quickly configure my Mac to use OMS, FMS, MIDI Manager, QuickTime, CD‑ROMs and more. EM lets me change my MIDI drivers far more easily than moving files in and out of folders all the time! A simple pop‑up menu allows rapid selection of all the defined sets of enhancement. The standard EM does not actually cater for MIDI drivers, but this month's Tip shows you how to customise it so that it does.

EM also enables you to turn all the 'enhancements' off, and then restore them one by one; this lets you home in on the specific ones that are actually causing problems. It can thus be a valuable troubleshooting tool.

The screenshot (above right) shows part of a System folder organised using EM. I have used the colour labelling feature of the Finder to make the 'disabled' folder yellow. I have also started to copy across the folder icons for later editing — though only the 'Apple Menu Items folder' icon has been copied in the screenshot shown above.

Extensions Manager is available from AppleLink; from and many other archive sites on the Internet. I thoroughly recommend it.

Apple News In Brief

    MPEG decoders for Macs are expected by the end of 1994 from Apple and Radius. Software decoders like Sparkle consume lots of processing power, but with prices predicted to be as low as a few hundred pounds, adding hardware to decode VideoCD‑encoded CD‑ROMs could be this year's Christmas purchase for computer video enthusiasts.
    Price wars seem to be about to hit computers of all types. Intel have been lowering the price of their 50 and 66MHz Pentium processors, and new faster PowerMac models will probably have the now 'traditional' mix of higher clock rate and lower price: 80MHz and even 100MHz versions of the Motorola 601 chip are likely. The 9100 PowerMac is also rumoured to be soon joining the existing 6100, 7100 and 8100 models.
    PCI‑equipped PowerMacs are now unlikely to surface until the middle of next year, which is good news for NuBus users. The existing PCI specification covers bus speeds up to 33MHz, but apparently no clear decisions have yet been made on an 'industry standard' 66MHz version. Regardless of which speed turns up, PCI will be considerably faster than NuBus: 32‑bit transfers in burst mode can reach speeds of over 100 Megabits per second on a PCI bus. Chip manufacturers are already providing the support chips for PCI: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has just announced a single chip which brings together SCSI‑2, DMA, boot ROM and PCI bus support.
    Opcode Systems' Overture music notation package should be available by the time you read this. It mixes music notation with DTP‑type publishing features to give powerful layout capability, whilst still retaining MIDI playback and editing features. Contact MCMXCIX on 071 258 3454.
    There are rumours that US telecom giant AT&T may be about to buy Apple. Although this seems to be echoing the trend for telecom companies to try and get into multimedia, it might also be connected with the AT&T DSP chip, which was used in the AV Macs.
    If you are unsure who your nearest Apple computer supplier is, try ringing Apple on Freephone 0800 127753. They have a database based on postcodes — so have the first part of your postcode ready to quote to them.
    Claris have overtaken Microsoft as the seller of the most items of Mac software: over 2 million programs in 1993. A major contributor to this success was ClarisWorks 2.0, which is probably due for another major upgrade (to version 3.0, perhaps) next year. ClarisWorks is a superb 'do it all' program — it combines a word processor, spreadsheet, database, drawing and painting, as well as communications (email etc) into one neat, compact and very capable application. If you use your Mac for music, but would also like to use it for personal or business computing, then ClarisWorks could be all that you need to buy (about £185). Just announced is ClarisDraw, a brand new version of the 'classic' MacDraw application — but with lots of extra features designed to make drawing easier and quicker. MacDraw was one of the first Mac programs I ever used, and it has passed through II and Pro generations to reach this renaming to ClarisDraw. Contact Claris Updates on Freephone 0800 929005 to update any Claris software.