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When a hardware product fails demonstrably to operate correctly, the phrase "It doesn't work" is applied without qualification. All sapient bipeds will agree that the device in question is in fact, unequivocally, definitely, not working. The justifiably disgruntled owner will then ask the retailer, "Can you fix or replace this faulty machine that you sold me please?" with a reasonably high expectation that their wishes will be granted.

When software fails to operate correctly — ie. it crashes — all traces of sapience evaporate. The air hangs heavy with talk of System Extension (INIT) conflicts and hardware incompatibilities. Then comes that old chestnut, the totally irrelevant: "WELL OUR SYSTEM WORKS OKAY". Would you accept that response from Dixons regarding a faulty VCR?

For customer, retailer and distributor, the practical consequences of software bugs are no work done (so no income), hours of fiddling, and days of peak rate international telephone calls.

Eventually a free 'maintenance' release or a costly 'upgrade' emerges. The new release either fixes the bug (that apparently didn't exist and in any case wasn't the publisher's fault) or the game begins again.

Even more frustratingly, some software bugs are non-repeatable, making proof of non-functionality an impossible task. However, it seems that even repeatable bugs do not, as far as some publishers are concerned, constitute a program that "doesn't work". Why? How many current Mac models does an application have to crash on before it is declared 'not working'? Is it fair exchange that a loyal customer should be made to act as an unpaid beta test site? Isn't this an untenable situation?

SOFTWARE GUARANTEE



On behalf of an increasing number of disgruntled end users. I'd like to suggest that, like a faulty VCR, software that repeatedly crashes a current Apple Macintosh model (running only Apple Extensions) is a (soft) machine that quite definitely DOESN'T WORK. Afflicted customers should have their money refunded, or their faulty software exchanged for an application that can cut it.

Putting it less emotionally, it's clear that some kind of legally binding framework needs to be set up to protect both the end user and the retailer/distributor, whose margins are soon swallowed by telephone or personal customer support.



"With the likes of Digidesign, E-magic, Passport, Roland and Steinberg all signing up to help develop OMS, Opcode anticipate that future versions will offer serial port independence and real-time multi-tasking of MIDI applications."


Suggestion: How about a publisher-defined, bi-annually updated Minimum Compatibility Software Guarantee? For example, a manufacturer might state that their application is guaranteed to run on platforms X through Y, running system version X.X (including all Apple authored — and named — INITS). Is this an outrageous request? Some might say so, but any software company prepared to offer their customers this kind of guarantee would be demonstrating not only excellence in customer care, but confidence in their own product.

CLAIRE & HER NEW FRIENDS



Claire - Opcode's personal ear training program.

Opcode's bi-annual new product and update binge includes Claire, who for a sum of £149.95 acts as your personal ear trainer. Claire produces tones and scales that you can try to match pitch-wise by singing into your Mac's microphone. Claire then tells you how you fared, adjusting proceeding exercises to match your abilities Claire offers over 100 exercises based on the traditional solfege (singing) curriculum, and plug-in modules for specific instruments will follow. Mac owners without audio inputs can use external digitisers, such as Mac Recorder.

MUSICSHOP



Opcode's MusicShop entry-level sequencer offers notation editing and printing.

Of interest to educators is MusicShop (£149.95), a hipper version of EZ Vision, (Opcode's entry-level MIDI sequencer), offering notation editing and printing facility (EZ Vision is thus reduced to £99.95).

For the FE and HE sectors, Opcode have upgraded Max (their £399.95 object orientated MIDI programming language) to version 2.5, adding colour and custom menus plus support for QuickTime movies, Apple Events, and an 'snd' Object that can replay six sounds simultaneously through the Mac's internal speaker.

Opcode's Edit One librarian.


EDIT ONE LIBRARIAN



Opcode ditched their range of single-device MIDI librarians several years ago in favour of a universal librarian application called Galaxy Plus. However, the one-off librarian has surfaced again in the guise of Edit One (£TBA). In effect a disabled version of Galaxy Plus, the choice of target instrument is set in stone on installation.

Opcode intend to offer an upgrade from Edit One to Galaxy Plus and Galaxy Plus Editors (prices £TBA). Apropos of universal editors, 'Apple Notes' January '93 noted the similarity between Mark Of The Unicorn's UniSyn and Dr. T's X-oR. Your highly perceptive Mac correspondent has since discovered that this is largely, if not entirely, because UniSyn IS X-oR. The latter program is no more — MOTU bought it. (Opcode prices include VAT).

THE OPEN MIDI SYSTEM IS BORN

As reported in last month's 'Shape Of Things To Come', Opcode have decreed that their Opcode MIDI System shall, from version 2.0 onwards, be known as the Open MIDI System. OMS is a System Extension and setup application that 'knows' what MIDI instruments and interfaces you have attached to your Mac and how they are patched, MIDI-wise (you have to tell it first — see Galaxy review SOS Oct '91). Any OMS-aware software can use this information to display equipment names in dialogue boxes and flip menus. Further, OMS-friendly applications will understand each MIDI device's abilities and limitations without further prompting. With the likes of Digidesign, E-magic, Passport, Roland and Steinberg all signing up to help develop OMS, Opcode anticipate that future versions will offer serial port independence and real-time multi-tasking of MIDI applications. Apple have given their official seal of approval to OMS, so their upcoming version of QuickTime — which will offer MTC and LTC facilities — should do so via OMS. It's also likely that Apple's MIDI Manager will be subsumed into OMS.

Apart from the promise of new facilities, power users who need regularly to swap between OMS and non-OMS applications will appreciate being released from the need to restart the Mac each time a non-OMS application is run.



"With the likes of Digidesign, E-magic, Passport, Roland and Steinberg all signing up to help develop OMS, Opcode anticipate that future versions will offer serial port independence and real-time multi-tasking of MIDI applications."


Incidentally, Opcode claim that the current version of OMS (v1.2.1) overcomes the "PowerBook problem". First mentioned on this page back in September '92, every MIDI Macintosh developer I spoke to had their own explanation as to the nature of the problem. The best explanation I have received so far comes from Steinberg, who say that, in an effort to reduce the chip count on the PowerBook, Apple used its serial port controller chip periodically to check the battery voltage. The result is that lengthy System Exclusive data streams or multi-port (fast mode) interfaces are unreliable, since the data stream is interrupted when the serial port chip checks out the battery voltage.

Opcode claim that "neither [modem and printer] port on the 140, 145, 160, 170 and 180 is reliable with non-OMS software". However, this is no longer true, since the first of Apple's modular extensions to System 7 — System Enabler 001 — also solves the problem. It's free from any Apple dealer.


STOP PRESS: LC II/III PRICE CUTS

As we went to press, Apple decided to annoy all recent LC II/III purchasers by announcing price reductions on said models. From May onwards you can buy an LC III for the price of an LC II. The financial details are:

LCII 4/80 (16MHz '030) including keyboard, mouse and 14" colour display is down 30% to £850.

A similarly equipped LCIII (25MHz '030) is down 35% to £1,150.

Centris 650 and PowerBook Duo prices are also reduced when purchased with specific hardware.


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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 - Jun 1993

Topic:

Computing


Previous article in this issue:

> Atari Notes

Next article in this issue:

> PC Notes


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