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QuickTime v.2.0

Apple Notes By Martin Russ
Published August 1994

Martin Russ dishes up the latest Apple news, explains how to make your own aliases, and even casually prophesies the death of MIDI. But first, he sets the record straight concerning Quicktime v.2.0...

After some very confused musings in the computer press about the muscial aspects of the forthcoming QuickTime 2.0, there now seems to be a much clearer idea of what Apple's intentions really are. It turns out that Apple and Roland have announced an agreement, by the terms of which Apple are licensing Roland's musical instrument sound technology for use in future versions of QuickTime.

As a result, it looks like the QuickTime Music Architecture (QMA) will incorporate MIDI compatibility, and will use Sound Canvas‑derived samples for audio output. It should also offer an easy upgrade path to Roland computer peripherals. Although neither Apple nor Roland actually mention it, it could be that QMA will also be General MIDI compliant — so you may well be able to use more than just Roland equipment... With a vast and ever increasing resource of GM modules available for computers, I can understand Apple buying a sample sound set from Roland, but I suspect that compatibility with GM is also important to Apple.

Apple say that Standard MIDI Files (SMFs) can be converted directly into QuickTime music movies, and that MIDI devices can record directly into music movies. This suggests that the QMA is just an encapsulation of MIDI data into a QuickTime‑friendly format. Apple's intention seems to be to make QMA easy to use, with automatic selection of the Roland samples when no MIDI devices are present, and the hiding of the complications of MIDI channels and SMFs.

This all sounds wonderful — anything which makes MIDI and music easier for the computer novice has to be a good thing for the music business. Once hooked on QMA, the logical step upwards is into MIDI and hi‑tech, and so a new generation of MIDI users may be on the horizon.

Bye‑Bye MIDI?

You can use your Mac to make music in two ways. The obvious way is to buy a MIDI Interface, run a sequencer and connect all your MIDI gear up to it. The less obvious way is to use Digidesign's TDM bus to connect a whole host of hardware and software modules together inside a Macintosh, and then produce music without the aid of MIDI modules. You will of course need a MIDI master keyboard, but all the sounds can come from the Mac.

This heretical thought obviously brings cries about the price — after all the Mac and sequencer solution must be much cheaper than the TDM solution... But is it? Taking into account the average cost of the MIDI equipment in a serious music production facility, the two look much closer in cost. And with a huge range of CD‑ROMs and sample CDs ready to be used as sound sources, the TDM‑based solution begins to look very attractive indeed. Imagine — no MIDI patchbay, no Sysex hassles, no need for a huge mixer...

It could just be that technology has got to the point where MIDI is no longer quite as essential as it once was. Computers and multimedia may be getting so good that MIDI could soon be obsolescent. Luckily for readers of Apple Notes, you already have exactly the right computer and experience!

Apple News In Brief

    The 601 PowerPC chip may be powering the current PowerMacs, but problems with the low‑power 603 chip has meant that PowerPC‑based PowerBooks may well be delayed. This news has been gleefully leapt upon by Intel supporters as evidence that the PowerPC is failing, and indeed, pressure from Wall Street in the States has reduced the price of Apple shares. In all the media hype, don't forget that revisions of microprocessor chips happen all the time — Intel is just releasing new revisions of its Pentium chip, for example, and yet noone questions its whole existence on just that evidence. For Mac, Apple and PowerPC users, the good news is that we have the PC‑compatible/Intel crowd very worried.
    The latest version of Microsoft's PC‑compatible graphical user interface, Windows, has just been sneak‑previewed to journalists in almost its final form. Windows 4 adds all sorts of 'new' features: like 'plug and play', where you don't need to reconfigure your machine each time you add some new hardware to it; or a File Manager with folders and files in a neat and intuitive desktop metaphor; or long file names... The intriguing question is: why has it taken Microsoft so many versions to re‑invent the Mac user interface? It must have cost them lots more to develop than it would have to buy the interface from Apple...
    QuickTime is always thought of as a way of putting video onto a computer screen, but there is lots more to it than that. Computers Unlimited have just released SoundEdit16, which is designed to allow editing and synchronisation of CD‑quality soundtracks to QuickTime digital video. Contact Computers Unlimited on 081 200 8282 for more information.
    System 7 Pro now seems to be likely to become part of System 7.5, which will include the long‑awaited QuickDraw GX, a new replacement for Balloon Help (do you know anyone who has it turned on?), and a new version of PC Exchange. System 8's main feature seems to be OpenDoc, which will allow you to assemble a document from the best parts of several programs — but without jumping between them. Even further in the future is the idea of the 'intelligent agent' — a software gopher that goes away and finds things out for you, then reports back with its findings.
    The QuickTime 2.0 developer kit for the Macintosh is expected to be released in mid‑1994. QuickTime Music Architecture promises to be very interesting to MIDI and music application writers. Might this also involve the overdue overhaul of MIDI Manager, I wonder — and what will happen to OMS/FMS?
    Rumour has it that a PowerMac exchange scheme will be in place by the time you read this. Existing PCs (or perhaps even Macs) will be assessed and assigned a 'trade‑in' value against a new purchase of a PowerMac. Contact your local Apple dealer to see if rumour has become reality.

How It Works: The Alias

One of the most useful features of System 7, the Alias, also one of the least well understood. I use them all the time — they can help clean up your desktop, speed up access to files, and generally make things easier to find. With just a few simple steps, they are easy to set up, too.

Suppose you have a file buried deep inside several nested folders. Getting to it is quite a tedious series of mouseclicks. What is really needed is some sort of shortcut, or a pointer to the file. And this is exactly what an alias is. Double‑click on an alias and you directly open the file itself, regardless of how deeply it is hidden away in folders.

To make an alias, you first need to find the file, and click on it once to select it. Don't double‑click, because this will open the file — the last thing we want to do! Once selected, you then go to the 'File' menu in the Finder menubar, and select the 'Make Alias' option. After a second or two, what looks like a copy of the file will appear, but with the name in italics, and 'alias' added to the original name. This file is your alias. Select it and drag it to your desktop, the Apple Menu Items folder, or even another Finder window on the desktop — preferably one nearer the top of the folder hierarchy. At this point, you can rename the alias. I often remove the 'alias' part and abbreviate the rest so that I can squash lots of aliases into a small space, but you can do whatever takes your fancy. Double‑click on the alias to test it, and you should launch the relevant application and open that file. That's all there is to it!

Aliases are very small files, so you can have loads of them on your computer without using up very much space — remember, they are not copies of the actual file, merely pointers to it. Advanced users might like to try other alias tricks, like making an alias of a folder, or making aliases of files on a floppy disk and moving them onto a hard disk. When you subsequently click on the alias, the Mac will ask you for the named floppy disk, so you don't have to remember which floppy it was on (providing, of course, you give your floppies names — and you always do that, don't you?).