Category Archives: Technology

NO to Mac

After several months of deliberation I’ve decided not to invest my money in the Mac platform although my little PowerMac G4’s a neat little machine. I’ve always used Cakewalk’s SONAR (at least since it’s been out) and before then Pro Audio (from version 7 or 8–I can’t remember–cocaine’s a helluva drug, heh) and I think that the learning curve, the fact that I already have fantastic hardware and the advertised new Audio engine performance improvement and the workflow changes make an upgrade from 5 to 8 a very, very tempting offer. So tempting I ordered my upgrade today.

I think the only thing I’ll miss is the choir AU from Logic Express/Garage Band, but I’m sure I’ll find an equivalent DX or VST synth equivalent in time. Once I have the box in my old hands I’ll go ahead and order the Rapture virtual synth upgrade from Cakewalk as well since SONAR 8 comes with Rapture LE their upgrade price is only $129.

Between that and the formal piano lessions I started to take last month I foresee some creative boosts in the future!

I have several reasons I’m against the Mac platform:

  1. It’s a developer unfriendly environment (e.g. NDA insanity and some App Store Shenanigans
  2. It’s a closed system. I’m no hardware geek but I get by. I’d prefer to be able to build a tower to MY specifications instead of having to spend more than double on a machine that I won’t use to full effectiveness daily.
  3. The most of the cross-platform software I use (mainly Lightwave) seems to be a few months or a year behind in development maturity compared to the Windows platform. Even Adobe has 64 bit versions of their products for Windows while this version doesn’t have 64 bit for a allegedly ‘more mature and elegant’ 64 bit system. This goes back to point #1. Apple refuses to back-port libraries that professional developers are using and forcing them into Cocoa (although it’s very nice).
  4. One doesn’t have much choice with software with Apple. You can purchase 1st party apps such as Logic or Final Cut which is quite mature and seem to be industry standard, but other than those choices they’re bleeding the market by pricing it to the point it’s difficult for a 3rd party to compete against them. Yes, the end-user seems to win, but choice is more important to me than price alone. With the Windows platform I have dozens of choices of Video editing platforms while on a Mac there really is only one (ask anyone what they edit video with on a modern Mac it’ll be Final Cut Express or Pro–even the old Avid guys either jumped ship to PC or switch to FCP).

Now don’t get me wrong. For a consumer Apple is very enticing and easy to use, and I’d love to have a MacBook or MacBook pro to replace my aging Acer (mainly to boot to Windows), but the desktop selection is far out of my league or not enough cowbell for my needs. Id’ still suggest a Mac to a new-to-computers person since Vista although is stable and usable, still has some complexity issues for a new customer (although a new customer in a 1st world country is very rare these days).

I despise the Control Panel layout in Vista it’s WAAAY too busy. Microsoft needs to take a look at the MacOS control panel for some ideas. UAC is great, but I’d like to see an ‘always run as administrator’ option in the shortcut options where it UAC prompts you once but never prompts you again unless the executable’s checksum changes. A modern program shouldn’t need to prompt you for UAC every time it launches, but there are a few legacy apps & games that I launch occasionally that required it.

Logic Express 7 & MacOS

I installed a trial version of Logic Express (casually termed as ‘Logic’ from here on) that I downloaded many months to a couple of years ago when I was just about to purchase a Mac (instead of my Dual Core Acer Laptop that I own), and looking retrospectively I think I may have made a mistake. 

My experience making music so far has been with Cakewalk SONAR (v5) and Project 5 (v2.5). I’ve always had driver and latency issues (even when I was running it on XP). My main box is a Quad-core Q6600 system with 4 gigs of RAM. I use a Roland UA-4fx for my audio input and output, have all the latest drivers and still I had either Audio Engine crashes or terrible latency. 
I plug the same hardware into this G4 Mac, install the drivers and the latency in Logic is non-existent. I’m pretty disappointed. There’s quite a bit of getting used to the details and quite a few hotkeys that I miss (the W key was one of my favs in Sonar & P5), but all in all it’s still set up quite sanely–and sounds fantastic even with a basic, non-optimized mix. My tests so far have been quite successful. I’m not sure if it’s successful enough for me to purchase a new Mac in the next few months though. It IS enough however for me to look into purchasing a copy of Logic 7 (as Logic 8 is out of specs for this machine).

New Project Dual Processor G4 (Complete)

Very good! The refurb power supply came in this afternoon.

Sorry I was a bit too excited to log the testing and then installation of it, but I do have some pics of the system up and running and various upgrades….


Quick pic of initial install of os…..


Side view….


1.5 Gigs of RAM installed on Logic Board

First boot for install of OS (before I even closed the case)

I upgraded the old DVD-ROM drive with a modern IDE DVD-RW drive (and it works faster, better and is BLACK) as those old DVD readers could not read DVD-R’s.


I also replaced the old 20 gig drive with a more modern 80 gig IDE drive which should perform MUCH faster.


A quick pic of the installed Poweer Supply..

Here’s a screenshot of the Specs from the OS….I’m quite happy with the results of this fun project, and fairly inexpensive project!

I’m using this to test out Multimedia Apps as I mentioned earlier I’m not exactly happy with the DAW capabilities of Vista. So I’ll have this be my pre-Mac mac to see if the platform will work for me. I’m not using the CRT as I’ve become both accustomed and spoiled to the clarity, brightness and compactness on the desk of LCD’s but it does work and when I put this machine on the display case it’ll be a complete, albeit upgraded system.

Total Cost for repairs $194:
Logic Board (not needed/used… a waste): $40

Power Supply (n/i shipping): $80

Hard Drive Upgrade: $44

DVD-RW Drive Upgrade/Repair: $30

New Project Dual Processor G4 (incomplete)

I inherited this particular poor, lost & unbootable PowerMac: this one is a 2000 model G4 Graphite Tower from a good friend of mine: Tom Crane at Crane Advertising.


The box doesn’t boot, I can press the power button hold it down–it just sits there like a brick should and a computer shouldn’t. I first tried removing the battery, clearing the PRAM and leaving the battery and it unplugged for days.

It could be one of three things: The Power Button (which I manually closed the gap on the jumpers as a Power Button would on the motherboard), the Logic Board or the Power Supply. My first instinct was the Power Supply. But a replacement Logic Board was MUCH more inexpensive.

I got the Logic Board in Yesterday and decided to replace it. Here’s my picture log of the electronic brain surgery.

I always loved how these cases opened up.


Here’s the reason why this power supply is so expensive to replace. The connector towards the end of the AGP card is actually a monitor power supply. This is powered by a set of two extra pins on the ATX connector feeding to the motherboard, which makes the Power Supply a fairly specialized item…. the rest of the components are pretty standard–ATA drives (which I plan on replacing), AGP graphics, PCI slots, USB, 1394, etc. This was a time when Apple wanted less cords for their computers. Eventually I suppose that this caused more headache than it was worth and they dropped this design in lieu of just a simple all-in-one LCD monitor like computer.


Preparing to remove the old Logic Board….


A few screws loose and the CPU Heat Sink and AGP card removed…


A pleasant surprise!!! It’s a dual-cpu machine!!!


A few of the Logic board screws removed and the CPU unit removed.


The bare metal case….


The trickiest part of this whole procedure was to set the cpu on board by carefully lining up the socket and gently pressing on it once was lined up perfectly.

After all this, it imitated a doorstop exactly the same as before, so it appears that it probably is a failed Power Supply. I’ve removed it from the case and I’ve taken it to work so that I can have David take a quick look at it and he agrees: it’s a dead Power Supply.

Oh well, good news is that I found a refurb for $80, and we’ll see how it works on the next installment!

If I get an old fossil to work……


Does it make me a “Mac Guy”?

I found this relic (a Macintosh Classic) almost 2 years ago when I bought my house (the garage was full of trash, this little treasure was about the only thing that was even remotely worth considering keeping). It was in pitiful condition. It was full of dust, wouldn’t turn on (turned out to be a bad fuse) and looked as if it had something sticky poured on both the box and the keyboard.

It actually–once I cleaned it up–is not as in bad condition as I once feared after some Windex and some air-compressor action.

Once I got it to boot (and it booted right up once it was getting power), I found that it was quite an advanced Mac for its era.


It as a SCSI hard drive (all Macs with hard drives were SCSI back then) with a whopping 36megs being used. I’m assuming it’s a 40 meg drive.

The OS installed is System 6.0.7 used from 1988 to 1990
It’s got a MASSIVE 2 megs of RAM it appears, and seems quite speedy.

I’m not currently a Mac guy, but since I am in music and media (and programming and web design and system administration and God-knows-what-else), the fact that this little box still runs fairly well is a testament to the old Apple. I might get a Mac in the next few months with my frustration with Vista, the drivers thereof and Cakewalk’s Project 5 locking up on me the last few weeks.



Don’t worry about the light/dark bands on the screenshot, as it’s just the refresh rate of the black and white CRT playing tricks with my camera, the screen is as beautiful as it was back in the day.

Vista Driver Issues

As I’ve mentioned earlier I’m a Cakewalk SONAR & Project5 user and licensee. Since I’ve upgraded to Vista last year I’ve noticed lots of nasty driver issues. Audio engine stops, etc. I’m going to do a system-wide search for updated drivers for all my audio hardware this week and if the problems aren’t corrected I’m probably going to revert back to XP.

Now understand I’m a nerd. I’m a Linux server guy and a Windows Desktop guy, if I can’t get the drivers to work with my hardware & software after the OS has been release for over a year, then there’s something substantially wrong with Windows Vista and/or its support.

Don’t get me wrong I LIKE VISTA. The interface is a step ahead (still lagging in some ways, but still much advanced to XP–except the overly complex control panel layout).

iTunes STILL doesn’t start without a black application screen about a third of the time. I believe this is an ATI issue–I haven’t seen it happen on my main desktop nVidia 8800 system, but I don’t run iTunes often on that box, as iTunes doesn’t listen to Multimedia Keyboard player controls.

Pro audio support lags. I’ve got a quad core 6600 system with 4 gigs of ram, there’s still a bit too much latency–even set at ‘very fast’.

I really hate to do it, but I seem to be following the crowd and reverting/keeping XP as my home box, although I’ll probably still keep it on my Laptop as Vista’s power options are far superior to XP’s.

I’d go Linux on the desktop, but there are no good pro-level music creation apps out there and gaming is a joke.* I am dual-screened my Server/Desktop screen is right next to my Windows box screen so I can use either system right next to each other for development or compatibility testing. I really, really like Ubuntu 8.04 (not that I didn’t like 7.04 or 7.10 just improves every version and every upgrade on that system has been smooth as silk) but without 3rd party application vendors supporting it, it’ll remain my choice for a web-browsing desktop and my choice for a server.

* Yes I’m aware of open source apps and wine and native binaries of some popular games, but it still pales in comparison to the support that Windows gets. I’m constantly testing new apps and I’m always left disappointed in sequencing software.

Why do retail stores suck????

This is re-posted from my Warhammer 40,000 Orks blog and posted here in case someone doesn’t care about 40k (lots of you out there, and that’s great!):

Why the heck doesn’t Circuit City and Best Buy keep digital cameras in stock? Don’t they have market researchers who are supposed to anticipate these trends. Both stores lost 160-200 because they didn’t have a camera I needed in my price range in stock. “Oh, we can order it for you” or “Oh, maybe check back tonight.”

The whole purpose of a Brick and Mortar store is convenience. I want to walk out of there now with the product I want. If I’m going to order one, I’ll order it from a cheaper place–I’ll certainly not order it from the place that’s higher, charges tax, and doesn’t have great customer experience/service. It’s not like I could call them and get someone on the phone without having to make 4 calls and waiting 30 minutes just to see if they have it in stock.

Newegg.com got my business once again, folks….I’ve not gone wrong with them yet.

Also, if it’s on the DISPLAY COUNTER it BETTER WELL be in-stock unless there’s an out-of-stock little sign. Waiting 10 minutes for an employee to help another customer just to tell you that they don’t have said item is also pretty freakin’ annoying.

Ok, sorry. Rant off 🙂

heh

Mild rant concerning retail stores…

Why the heck doesn’t Circuit City and Best Buy keep digital cameras in stock? Don’t they have market researchers who are supposed to anticipate these trends. Both stores lost 160-200 because they didn’t have a camera I needed in my price range in stock. “Oh, we can order it for you” or “Oh, maybe check back tonight.”

The whole purpose of a Brick and Mortar store is convenience. I want to walk out of there now with the product I want. If I’m going to order one, I’ll order it from a cheaper place–I’ll certainly not order it from the place that’s higher, charges tax, and doesn’t have great customer experience/service. It’s not like I could call them and get someone on the phone without having to make 4 calls and waiting 30 minutes just to see if they have it in stock.

Newegg.com got my business once again, folks….I’ve not gone wrong with them yet.

Ok, sorry. Rant off 🙂

Edit, Addendum:
if it’s on the DISPLAY COUNTER it BETTER WELL be in-stock unless there’s an out-of-stock little sign. Waiting 10 minutes for an employee to help another customer just to tell you that they don’t have said item is also pretty freakin’ annoying.

heh