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Software Support

Hints, tips & news from the world of Music Software

Steinberg and Gajits supply the latest news and tips for users of their software.



Certain PC circuit boards are blessed with five expansion slots, also known as ISA slots (Industry Standard Architecture), but how do we get around the problem of interfaces on computers which do not have any expansion slots, like the Laptops, Notebooks or some PS2s? Simple — we use a serial-type MIDI interface that connects directly to the serial port of any IBM PC compatible computer.

There are points to consider about this type of interface: because it is an external add-on, this type means constant plugging and unplugging if being used with a portable computer, which in turn might lead to damaged ports, but, like everything else in life, this type of interface does have its pros and cons.

For instance, it is a lot easier to install than an expansion card (you simply plug it into the serial port). All that is left is to activate the driver and tell the computer which serial port the interface is connected to. On the other hand, with the expansion card you have to set the DIL switches or the movable jumpers on the card, making sure at all times that the IRQ# and Base Address does not conflict with others already in use by the computer.

To those of you who are dumbfounded by the terms IRQ# and Base Address, obviously you haven't been reading your Software Support!

Serial ports are convenient in certain cases, for sure; if you don't have an ISA slot on your computer you have no choice anyway. Here comes the big BUT... Serial port based interfaces are not always a good solution to MIDI connectivity and the PC computer. It's as simple as that. Why? The serial port on the PC computer can be configured to run up to 9600 baud — that's a measure of the data speed that the port will expect to receive on and to send data at. MIDI data is transmitted at a very much higher rate of 31250 baud. Now most PC computers will actually manage to transmit at a higher rate than the normal PC specifications — that's why PC-Fax modems can work on MOST machines at 14400 baud. In fact, most machines will actually support 19200, but it is NOT guaranteed.

That still leaves us with the 31250 baud rate of MIDI. Some PCs will not handle it. Software tricks and buffering are used to ease the problem, but this does mean that at busy times MIDI data will be significantly moved around or even lost. There is no fix for this. It is a limitation of the concept of using serial-type MIDI interfaces. And it's another one of those 'don't call us' situations. The problem simply lies outside our sphere of influence. It is a technical fudge (in my personal opinion) to pretend that a quart will fit into a pint pot — perhaps it will if you put plenty of towels around to mop up the mess.

The problems can be multiplied by the number of MIDI ports a serial port-based interface has. There are some with one In and four independent Outs. And guess what? The chances of a problem on a particular computer increase with the amount of data you try to squeeze out.

And what of SysEx data?...

So what is the solution? If you must use a serial port interface and you have not already bought a computer, then check that it really does work. If you are involved in professional music making, where it matters that it works, all the time, every time, I would strongly recommend a PC computer with an ISA-slot based interface.



Sequencer One owners who still haven't upgraded to Sequencer One Plus need to do so now. The upgrade offer will end on 31st May. You don't need to send in your Sequencer One disk to take advantage of this offer, as the upgrade kit installation procedure checks your Sequencer One disk. The upgrade kit costs £39.95 plus £1.95 p&p.

The latest version of Sequencer One Plus on both the Amiga and the ST is V1.3. New features include:

Improvements to standard MIDI files: VOL, PAN and PRG are now saved as track data and can be extracted from imported MIDI files.

Improved block operations: the Tidy Block operation is noe carried out automatically for Cut and Copy to prevent "hanging" or "ghost" notes being created.

When selecting an area with the mouse, the step and bar editor screens now scroll automatically when the mouse is moved off the edge of the display to allow larger blocks to be defined.

Transpose has been improved to handle certain "overlapping" note situations.

On the ST version only, a disk utilities page has been added (format disk, create/delete folder, rename/delete file). The Amiga version already has a delete file option.

Registered users of Sequencer One Plus can update to V1.3 for £6.95 plus £1.95 p&p.

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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


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