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Apple Notes

Following several hours of disabling system extensions, running Norton Utilities and generally panicking, a friend of mine was advised by his retailer to reformat his hard disk and re-install all his music software. The reason for this — the hi-tech musician's worst nightmare come true — was a particularly vicious system crash. The crash occurred immediately after installing a software update disk...


The sorry tale described above illustrates that software's biggest attraction — its updatability — is also its greatest failing. While the prospect of a new upgrade is appealing for those of us owning maybe one or two applications, software updating is an all too frequent trauma for the power user or professional MIDI programming suite. However, the end user is often left with little choice in the matter as updates are not always distributed to provide new features. Frequently they are released to fix bugs, hiding behind the euphemism of 'the maintenance release'.

Being far more sophisticated than say, a word processor, MIDI and digital audio applications throw up far more bugs, a higher proportion of which have the potential to wreck a hard drive's boot blocks. Then there are compatibility problems: All Mac MIDI and digital audio software is required to work with hardware add-ons such as MIDI interfaces and DSP NuBus cards. Music software is also intended to run in tandem with other applications; sequencers with editor/librarians for example. Applications must also be made compatible with system extensions like the Opcode MIDI System (OMS) and Apple's MIDI Manager. Musicians and recording studios have become an unpaid army of beta testers.

Each update to Application A results in the need to upgrade Application B, resulting in the need to upgrade Application A ad infinitum. Fortunately, updating Apple's System 7 should be less hassle. From System 7.1 onwards, Apple promise that system upgrades will be modular. For example, when the new Macs arrive later this month, they will not require a new version of System 7, but a system extension. If you don't buy the new models, you don't need the extension. The modular upgrade concept frees up Apple's release schedule considerably, which is just as well considering that the Cupertino whiz kids plan to release over 70 — yes 70 — new products this year.


So does a software driven system ever reach steady state? The answer is yes — but not for long. The steady state condition occurs for one of two reasons: either the publisher decides to stop supporting the product, or the user decides to stop buying the upgrades. Unfortunately, both paths lead nowhere fast. For example, the Kurzweil 250 is supplied with a Mac application called Quick Load System that saves and loads 250 samples to disk. QLS hasn't been upgraded for several years and consequently, will not run on most Macs released since 1990, or on any Mac running System 7. When asked if an update would be forthcoming, Kurzweil replied that the 250 was no longer a current product, but that they would consider updating QLS for a one-off payment of $20,000.

So what about our second steady state* condition — when the user decides not to upgrade? To some, this might seem a strange, but there are many reasons to stick with a particular version of software. For example, it may provide all the functionality that the user requires; it may be a particularly stable release that works well with a specific set-up. It may be that the new features offered by the update are of no interest.

Consider your own MIDI sequencing software: How many menu items or dialogue boxes have you never really explored? How much have you paid over the years for features you never actually use. It would be interesting for a music software company to duplicate a survey undertaken into feature usage of the heavyweight word processor Microsoft Word 5. The results showed that 95% of Word 5 owners use only 5% of its features.


Good news for PowerBook owners looking to upgrade their on-board RAM, internal hard drive, or both. Ideal Hardware have released a 120M internal PowerBook hard drive for only £299 excluding VAT. With 8MB RAM upgrades costing around £250, the Ideal Hardware drive makes good sense, since by using 8M as virtual memory, you get a hard drive and (pseudo) RAM upgrade in one go. Call Jim Hawkins at Micro Rent on (Contact Details).

Also new are five new editor modules for Opcode's Galaxy Plus Editors, their universal editor/librarian. The new modules support the Kurzweil K2000 (see screen dump), the Emu Procussion and Proteus 3 World, the Alesis D4, and the Roland U220. The modules are available as the Galaxy Editor Update Set #2, which includes librarian support for many more devices including the Korg 03RA/V and the Roland JV80. Call MCM on (Contact Details).

Finally, news of a UK MIDI application called Symbolic Composer. Described as "The Ultimate Composition Environment", the Wakefield-based author claims that his program can "use any information structure as seed material for generating musical parameters. Create music from 3D data, astronomy, physics, maths" and so on. I wonder what this article would sound like... Tonality Systems can be reached on (Contact Details).

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Atari Notes

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Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Feb 1993



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> Atari Notes

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