If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Paying Attention…

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to my nation

– ‘Ball Of Confusion’ by The Temptations

Hello everyone, we’re still alive here in APITEland – hope all of you are staying safe too.

I haven’t posted in a while for a couple of reasons:

1) I wanted the interview with Evan to keep ‘top billing’ for a while.

2) Since posting the above a lot has been going on in the world that I didn’t want to detract from.

But I need to get something out, so will keep it short.

There’s a lot of justifiable anger out there right now. From Black Lives Matter, to the fiasco that is the United States’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis, to Millions of Unemployed, to the whole (quoting literal) Ball Of Confusion we’ve been living in for decades continually bubbling up to the surface from every direction as of late. 

Trying to make the best out of our collective nightmare I’ve been catching up on reading during my off-time from EduCorp®. I just finished Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth, and I highly recommend that you put this on your reading shortlist.

It’s timely, short, engaging, and enlightening, putting into perspective a lot about what is going on with the ‘Average Jane and Joe’ right now. Eric and Mark delineate the differences between Tribal Anger and Public Anger (Echo Chamber vs. Moral Outrage, if you will), and how to tell which is which out there in our firehose of media inundation – and if you are being manipulated by confusing the two by the unscrupulous. Although the book deals with the (as derived from the title) Economic side of things, it really shows that decades of economic inequality is the root of evil for these problems and countless more besides. 

Unlike many other books I’ve dug into lately it doesn’t just say ‘well, that’s why people are pissed off and good luck doing anything about it.’ Lonergan and Blyth present in their final dialog three real-world solutions to our blinding financial inequity that could level the playing field for everyone. They even play by the ‘current rules’ with them – as you would expect a Hedge Fund Manager and an Economist (Lonergan and Blyth respectively) to do. Even if it just gets people talking about these ideas as a launchpad, it’s a welcome change to see them added here. 

You can buy the book from the usual Interwebz® suspects in physical or digital if you must. Buy from Bookshop.org if you want to support your local business. If your local library has it, request it and get it sdelivered if possible. If they support Libby (or other online lenders) you can find it there. But do check it out. It might make you a bit more angry once you finish, but that anger will be tempered towards the ‘Public Good’ rather than ‘Business As Usual’. Because a society is only as free as the least free person in it, and only as wealthy as the poorest soul.

Stay safe, wear a face mask if you go out, and help out however you can out there. Until next time…

The Soul Sounds of Ma Bell: An Interview with Evan Doorbell

(Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Telephone_Booth_Klamath_California.jpg. Ellin Beltz / Public domain)

Hello everyone and my apologies for being absent for a while – told you after the Holidaze® were the busiest time of the year… 🙂

I have an awesome make-up gift though! Through a chance meeting on the Tweet Machine I have been granted an interview with Evan Doorbell.

‘Evan Who?’ you might be saying right now…

Okay, let me back up a bit. Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a passion for all types of technology and especially those who use and understand it to true Mastery. I will happily babble on about Audiocasters and YouTubers who keep it personal, approachable, educational, and entertaining. I’ll watch my pal Brent work in his garage even though I have no interest in cars. Andrew Camarata’s skills will leave me daydreaming of driving skid steers and wanting to build things out of shipping containers – even though it’s miles away from my audio wheelhouse. Over the years I have found so many people creating content that delight and inspire (including many that I’ve linked to on this Blog). But Evan is pretty much where I began this particular journey.

About a decade or so ago I was looking for some telephone sounds to use in a production. While digging in the crates of the Interwebz® I found Evan’s tapes. I listened to a couple and was so floored by his content (the sounds and descriptions of the old phone system were haunting and just silly fun to explore) that I downloaded about half a dozen and listened to them when I got home. I’ve been hooked ever since, and find myself regularly floating back to his pages to grab anything new to enjoy on my limited downtime.

Fast-Forward to late last year when Evan Tweeted he was having an audio issue, and I was happy to step in to see if I could assist. In return he was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me, which I’m very excited to share with all of you. His commitment to The Phone Tapes is something that will inspire and fascinate you in this era where artists and creators jump from project to project, hotbed to hotbed to try and remain relevant. Oh, and he’s never charged a single dime for any of his content. It’s an absolute definition of a Labor of Love and something (IMO) this world needs more of.

With that in mind, enjoy some digging into Evan’s history and currency.

A Poke In The Ear: In your ‘How to Be a Phone Phreak’ series, you describe how you used a piano to match the tones for various telephone company functions. Later on, you used bells and/or whistles for the various tones (and then the ARP Odyssey, but we’ll get more into that in a bit…) I’m assuming you had formal music training in your early days, correct?

Evan Doorbell: Well yes, I took piano lessons for a few years. Also my mom taught me to identify intervals by ear. That started something which just snowballed by itself. Had I had YouTube back then I would’ve learned a hell of a lot more.

APITE: Agreed! Listening to the tapes I’m pretty sure that you have Perfect Pitch (or really good Relative Pitch) – am I correct in thinking this? If you do, it’s a rare and wonderful gift and would explain how you could figure out the TelCo sounds as well as pick out various background sounds later in compiling the various tapes…

Evan: I don’t have perfect pitch except for the sound of a modern dial tone, and that comes from my working with the tapes for the last 20 years.

Whenever I recall a song from the past, it plays in my head almost always one to one and a half whole steps flat.

APITE: When did you start recording phone sounds?

Evan: I started recording on the phone in 1970. The first tape was just a collection of recordings, mostly from tandems, recorded with a microphone held up to the earpiece.

APITE: You mentioned there was a reel-to-reel recorder in your house, and you used cassettes as well. Although I do remember them from the early 70’s, I recall them being a bit of a luxury item (quite expensive for both recorder and tapes). Did you have a job or use allowance money to ‘feed your habit’ so to say?

Evan: Money for cassettes was a problem until I became employed. I don’t recall thinking that because cassettes were expensive.

APITE: When did you get the ARP Odyssey synthesizer? Was it new or second-hand?

Evan: I got the Odyssey new in August 1972. That happened shortly before I went to the Commune, where numerous musical collaborations occurred starting in September 1972 all the way through the Spring of 1976.

APITE: Was the ARP purely for ‘Phone Phreak’ sounds or did you play with bands too?

Evan: I was never in a band but I often acted as the recording engineer and synthesizer programmer for someone’s music project at the Commune.

APITE: How long did it take to understand the ARP’s functions? Was it natural to you or did it take a lot of effort to get what you wanted?

Evan: I used the making of Group Bell jingles as a means to learn about the ARP Odyssey. It was a natural explorative process.

APITE: For the Group Bell jingles and other recordings (like the ‘Dom Tuffy’ vignettes) – how were they recorded? Did you have access to multitrack recording or were you using Sound on Sound techniques (or something else entirely)? Also, did you do any tape editing (splicing) or just fly things in in real-time?

Evan: The Dom Tuffy tapes were produced on an open-reel machine using material mostly sourced from cassettes. Pausing the tape, Sound on Sound, and splicing were all used in the production of those.

APITE: What was your studio like at the time?

Evan: My ‘studio’ for many years consisted of just the Odyssey and a Sony tape deck with its (built-in) microphones. The Sony could do Sound on Sound recording.

APITE: Some of the jingles sound like they have ‘sequenced’ elements in them. Did you have a sequencer or was that just clever use of the Odyssey’s Repeat function (or just damned tight playing)?

Evan: I never had a sequencer during the years I was making Jingles. Sometimes I recorded notes at half or quarter speed on an open-reel tape recorder and speeded them up. That might sound like a sequencer…

APITE: Where did you learn the techniques for recording? Trial and error? Magazines or books? Friends or other people?

Evan: I learned my recording techniques by hands-on experience. Analog tape was remarkably forgiving when it comes to recording. It had a way of smoothing things out that digital doesn’t do.

APITE: In the Atlanta Centrex tapes you mention that you upgraded to a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer. Did you find the transition from analog (with the Odyssey) to digital (with the DX) confusing? I personally *hated* programming the DX series back then although I find it surprisingly fun today…

Evan: Learning to program the DX-7 was just super cool to me. I jumped in with both feet, having not yet realized that by 1986, over 70% of the sounds it was capable of made it making had pretty much all been discovered.

My best patch for the DX is one that I have sadly lost. It was unique: a bell sound based upon my harmonic analysis of the Big Ben chimes. It was quite beautiful and I’m really sorry I lost it.

APITE: Do you still have (and use) any of the old synths today? Have you bought anything new(er) recently?

Evan: Nowadays I’m not doing anything with music, there’s just no pleasure in it for me including listening these days. I hope that changes.

APITE: It’s also obvious you have a bit of Electronics knowledge (wiring amplifiers to the phone network to make your voice louder early on certainly stands out). Like the question above, how did you acquire this knowledge?

Evan: I was always interested in electronics as a young child. Once when I was four years old I went into a TV repair store where there was an obvious electrolytic capacitor hanging over the desk. The guy at the repair shop was surprised to hear a four-year-old boy say “that’s an electrolytic capacitor.“

APITE: I should also get into your computer programming skills (modding the Apple II to understand voices is absolutely brilliant) with ‘demon dialing’ and analyzing phone calls. How did you find your way into it?

Evan: My learning to program in Apple machine code began while I was waiting for the manager of a Disco to show up with whom I was going to ask for a job. I brought my 6502 (Apple’s Machine Code (or ‘Assembly Language’) protocol from the early 1980’s) book and waited him out. I got the job and was also on my way to programming in Apple II’s Machine Code.

The AutoJan program is what led to the other telephone inventions with the Apple II. George followed pretty quickly it was only a natural progression for me. (Check out his Early 80’s’ Programs1 through 3 for more info on these systems)

Eva, an invention which I haven’t made the program to explain yet, Was a device that made a super high-capacity talk line using the Bell Systems’ new transfer feature. That turned into a small business which ran from 1984 through 2004. What ended that business was changes in the industry enabling competitors to compete with us for no charge to the users. You can’t compete with free except by doing it free, which we couldn’t do because our business had a completely different model.

APITE: I may have missed this in the tapes (I’ve listened to a lot, but there is just so much I haven’t heard!) but did you ever actually work for a TelCo? Seems like you would have been an amazing technician/engineer for one of them…

Evan: Never worked for any telcos.

APITE: Is there anything about your early recording/editing that has influenced what you have done career-wise since then?

Evan: I’ve never had a career involving editing sound or producing audio. I can say that once you start working with sound, that awareness and skill just snowballs. I don’t think I would want a career producing audio, because currently I have a volunteer project (the Phone Tapes series) which pretty much uses up my entire capacity for audio production.

Voiceover work is completely unpleasant and very difficult. I’m constantly dealing with phlegm, hoarseness, mouth clicks, And a general inability to control my voice. I’m constantly having to spit into a rag and edit every two or three words together. It sucks.

Being a Club DJ was the best career I ever had. The only reason I left business is because the music started sucking. There is absolutely nothing like it. I was a natural for mixing, and about a year into my career, Steve (DJ Friend and Mentor) and I worked out a system for programming music that has never been surpassed.

I was the first DJ in Atlanta to use a computer in the DJ booth. But the computer was just a library system containing all the records, their tempos, musical keys, and transitions that had previously been identified. It doesn’t really help in the science of music programming – that’s more a matter of being very sensitive and analytical about the music and I have really high standards.

APITE: Can you estimate how many tapes you have recorded (or acquired) over the years?

Evan: There are about 53 open-reel tapes on 7 inch reels. Most are recorded at 3-3/4 IPS, 1800 feet, Four tracks per tape.

There are approximately 1415 cassettes, most of which are C-60’s, many are C-90’s. (60 and 90 minutes total run time, respectively.)

APITE: How many of the tapes have survived quality-wise over the years? We’ve always heard about tape deteriorating over time and I’m curious if you’ve had to resort to anything like creative editing, or even having to bake a tape to get it to unstick…

Evan: Only one of the tapes was noticeably damaged and that was because it was one that was stored in an un-airconditioned room in New York for many years. Other than that one, there were no noticeable degradation of the tapes.

There were some tapes that I had to bake, but those were defective from the start and baking really did help.

As we all suspected would be the case, the cassette tapes made by TDK show no deterioration of any kind whatsoever. The Maxell cassettes also fared well, however they tended to print-through loud dial tones rings and busy signals right from the get go.

The Scotch brand tapes were flawless, but only the actual tape itself. The pressure pads (which keep the tape pressed against the playback head on the cassette player) all deteriorated requiring me to break open the shells, which were not secured with screws. (some cassette shells can be opened by removing 4 or 5 screws, while some are physically glued together.) There are still little blue shards of Scotch cassette shells hidden in various corners of this room…

ED Tape Xfers

APITE: Are the tapes pretty well cataloged or do you have to listen through and take notes to find out what’s on them?

Evan: The thorough cataloging won’t be done until long after I’m gone. However since most of the tapes were a single subject, I do know what each of those are. There are probably less than 20 cassettes recorded by Ben (Decibel) that have multiple subjects and would need to be gone through for me to know exactly everything that’s on them, but I don’t expect to find any big surprises. Or I should say I don’t expect that any big surprises will be found in this tape collection.

APITE: Do you digitize tapes first before listening/cataloging or do you just take them one at time?

Evan: The digitization process started in 1999 and ended in 2017. The cassettes were all digitized using a freestanding CD burner made by Tascam. Various methods were used to make sure everything was done right. At the very least, I’ve looked at every waveform display to make sure there were no abnormalities. Most of the tapes were manually set to the correct speed when digitized. I’m talking about minor speed variations which would make dial tones, etc. off pitch. Some of the cassettes were recorded by more than one cassette machine and have speed variations within the tape. Those will have to be speed corrected later. I have a whole set of reference tones that I use to get the speed exactly right.

APITE: How long does it take to make an episode, from subject(s), research, scripting, editing, etc.?

Evan: It takes longer than you would ever imagine to produce a narrated tape. The fastest ones to produce are the short phone trip stops, each of which takes about a week of full-time work. The ones that take the longest are the ‘How I Became a Phreak’ series, the first of which took me four years to complete. Actually, it didn’t take four years of full-time work, it just took me four years to get through my cognitive difficulties involved in making it happen. That began in 1998 and it wasn’t until 2002 that I figured out how to end it.

Generally, these take about three months of full-time work. Episode 10 was the most efficient. I think I got that done in less than a month – it was a miracle.

APITE: Let’s talk about how you edit the tapes. You’ve talked about computers (and computer issues – like all of us!) so it’s clear you’re compiling and editing there. Which software are you you using? Have you switched programs over the years?

Evan: I got locked into Adobe Audition when Cool Edit Pro was bought up by Adobe unfortunately. That company (Adobe) shows a contempt for their users in the way they design things but I don’t feel like bitching about that right now. I have to stay with Audition because over the past 20 years I’ve learned to remove extraneous hum from the tapes using its algorithms. Removing hum from the phone tapes is totally an art, and anyone who tries to do it is going to screw things up royally and it would be better to not even try.

Hopefully I’ll have time to put out some how to videos before I die. I don’t expect to die anytime soon but you never know… Any processing of these tapes that produces a result that could not have been recorded in the 1970s is a no-no as far as I’m concerned. I mean if it’s full of digital artifacts, what the hell have you got when you have one of these recordings? You don’t have anything. Better to leave the hum in then fuck it up into some sort of abomination that doesn’t represent anything that ever happened anyway.

I highly recommend Evan’s ‘How I Became a Phone Phreak’ series if you want a great starting point into his Phone Tapes. He goes into exquisite detail of how he got started doing these recordings and it’s just a great tour of telephone history and and enjoyable listening experience as well.

If you liked what you read here, please click the links I’ve highlighted above and spread the word to anyone you think might find these interesting You can find much, much more over at his Soundcloud page. Consider it his ‘Audiobiography’. 🙂

Thanks again to Evan for his time and patience with my queries, and until next time…

Catalina Capers

So, I took plunge. I did a clean install of Catalina (10.15) on my MacBook Pro.

It’s been an adventure.

It was time to clean all the upgrades, shareware, betas, and just things I wanted to test off the hard drive and start anew. The ‘experts’ say this is a good idea to do every year – I do it about every three, because like most of you I have a life and actually want to get things done with my technology.

The installation went fine. Made a bootable flash drive of Catalina, went though and deauthorized everything that needed to be on the old System, and then popped the USB stick in and restarted while holding down the R key (Recovery Mode). Used Disk Utility the Recovery Partition to wipe the drive (no low-level format this time, but did check the SSD integrity) and then let 10.15’s Installer do its thing.

All in all took about 4 hours to get to this point. For some perspective, I usually plan an entire day for this whole adventure…

Apple is always improving getting you up and running after an OS install or update. I can remember when putting in all of the details after a new installation used to take like 20 minutes just to get through all the pages and selections and preferences. It’s getting close to just a few minutes now. Kudos.

After checking all of the stock Apps to make sure my mail settings, bookmarks, and other bits and bobs made their way down the iCloud pipeline, I started the process of installing the ‘must-have’ Apps – 1Password, Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, Bartender, and a few other utilities that were blessed with Catalina Compatibility. Sadly, there are a few I like to have that have not, but I installed them anyway because somebody’s gotta test this stuff out. 

One nice touch here. Catalina makes better use of the Apple Watch for not just logging into your machine, but for bypassing a lot of the BS when installing Apps – including having to type in your password five hundred umpteen times. Just double-click the Side Button on the watch and it goes from there. Might actually shave off a half-hour from total time spent doing this. 🙂

Of course, you need an Apple Watch to do this. The Mothership® will always reel your wallet in somehow…

Next comes the potentially scary stuff – music and audio apps. I know I’m going to run into problems with at least half of what I want to install, so I ignored the ungainly list of everything that I had before and just concentrated on what I ‘absolutely’ needed. It’s all going to get put back on anyway so it’s just a matter of time before my machine is as cruffed up as the old system was.

I went with two DAW’s – Logic and REAPER. Plugins were limited to what had Catalina compatibility at the time. Universal Audio had just released their 10.15 update (yes!) and FabFilter said they were compliant since Summer. Eventide had updated their installers. Arturia had as well. Cockos had dropped a 10.15 compatible version or REAPER just after my installation, but the older version worked fine after telling MacOS is was okay to open it. As of this posting, REAPER has been update to version 6 with full Catalina support and lots of extra goodies to boot. Since logic is an Apple product, you can probably be sure it’s going to work – or at least 86.3% functional. 😀

Izotope was a no-go, and as of this posting is still waiting for an update (2+ weeks after installing 10.15). Bummer

Soundtoys teased with an update, but alas was their last 32-bit version. Again, 2+ weeks later I’m still waiting. Also bummer.

I can’t work without Valhalla plugins, so they had to be installed and tested. Sean at Valhalla has been signing Catalina installers, but the old versions seem to be working fine in my tests.

I decided to push the envelope and install a few AU and VST plugins that I wasn’t sure would work (and developers had yet to comment on). Nothing like living dangerously (you can see a few in the screenshot below).

So after installation comes the really scary part – will the Audio Units actually pass Validation in Logic, because there’s nothing like  seeing this:

Plugin Manager

Yeah, I realize that PaulXStretch was a bit of a (ahem) stretch as I had no idea if it would work of not, but at least a got a pic for the Catalina Verification. 🙂

When installing new plugins, sometimes something seems to get tangled up in Apple’s Validation System. Most of the time you can pop into Logic’s Plugin Manager (pictured above) to select the Plugin and choose ‘Reset & Rescan Selection’ at the bottom left. Most times the Plugin will happily Validate and you’re back in business. Sometimes a Restart and then doing this will get the Plugin to work.

Not with Catalina, bub.

Look at that Error Box above again. It says it won’t scan because the ‘developer cannot be verified’…

So if you try the ‘Reset & Rescan Selection’ button with one of these, you get this lovely message in the AU Validation window ad infinitum

Validation Fail

Try it as many times as you like. Restart until your battery dies. 

Same result.

So apparently now all you can do is wait for an update.

Or do we?

Fortunately, it looks like someone was looking out for us there at the Mothership®

Some Installers (like Universal Audio) will kindly tell you to go to the Security & Privacy System Preferences Pane to allow them to be installed, but many do not – and this tip just might be your savior with a few that are 64-bit savvy and have yet to be ‘formally Signed’ for 10.15:

First, install your Audio Unit Plugin as you normally would by Installer or dragging to the Components Folder. Again, make sure the Plugin is 64-bit compatible!

Next, open Logic. It *should* Validate any new Plugins, but if they don’t seem to show up on the Channel Strip or in the Plugin Manager restart your machine and launch Logic again.

Sidebar Rant: this problem has been around for years now Apple! When are you going to fix this issue?

If you get the validation warning like the one shown above, head over to the Security & Privacy pane of the System Preferences window:

Security Override

See that little blurb under ‘Allow apps downloaded from:’?

That Open Anyway button will allow you to install (pretty much) anything unsigned and hopefully, get your ‘Unauthorized’ plugin(s) to work.

One interesting thing I found when testing this – sometimes the ‘Open Anyway’ button shows ‘Allow Anyway’:

Allow Anyway

I think this might be for those plugins that you have to add to the Components folder manually (no Installer Helper) – you programmers out there can happily correct me on this. 🙂

I’ve tried this with a few plugins that I didn’t think would work (like Airwindows, Voxengo (the Correlometer shown above) and Waldorf’s PPG Wave 2.v and Attack) and surprisingly they’ve worked just fine on Logic and Catalina. Once they pass Validation in Logic they will show up in REAPER (or any other DAW that can use Audio Units) as well.

These ‘tricks’ allowed me to open some needed (and wanted to test) AU’s until the properly signed versions arrive. I haven’t stress-tested those I’ve installed, but for the most part they seem to work as normal for my needs. Hopefully this helps some of you out there in the interim before your fave effect or instrument gets an update to the latest MacOS.

I will also stress (I’ve I’ve mentioned here before) – never update a critical system to untested software! Just because I did it doesn’t mean you should…

Until next time…

…This Weird Trick

Here’s a Thought Experiment based on some of Laurie Santos’ work. You can find more like this at her audiocast The Happiness Lab. Well worth checking out…

Step One: Think about all of the things in your technology world that are actively trying to eliminate personal interaction with other living breathing Human Beings. We’re talking in-person, face-to-face, actually having to speak to another one of us here.

Step Two: If you can’t eradicate that technology because reasons, then how can you disrupt that technology so you can personally communicate IRL? 

You’ll be amazed at how deep that Rabbit Hole goes…

Addendum: Checking for 10.15 (Catalina) 64-bit compatibility

Been asked a few questions on how to check for Catalina compatibility from the last post. These might help you if you haven’t discovered them already.

Roaring Apps Compatibility Checker – Bryce Cameron makes a great searchable database of OS compatibility. As of this writing a lot of the 10.15 Apps are mostly blue Question Marks (unknown or no user tested data available), but worth checking out nonetheless. As we get closer to the release date and more info comes in these will get updated. Keep in mind that some of the more obscure applications might not get updated – I have seen this in the past here… Regardless, it’s still a great resource.

St. Clair Software Go64 – a fantastic little App that digs down pretty deep into your System to find out what won’t work. Helped me dig up some of the Installer/Uninstaller info from the last post.

Roaring Apps has a Compatibility Checker too, but as of this writing their App doesn’t show any info for Catalina – so just use the website until it gets updated. 

You also have 64-but checking built-in to your Mac, to a degree. The System Information App (look in your Utilities Folder) will show you 64-bit compatibility if you choose Software>Applications in the Sidebar and wait for the window to show you everything you have installed. It only shows Apps (no Plugins), but can help root out a few that might need updating or purging. See the pic below for an example:

SysInfo

Just so you know, the Components Sidebar pane will show you Plugin info (for Audio Unit Plugins as well as System and other Media Components) but doesn’t give you any 64-bit info unless there’s something I’m missing…

CompInfo

I would like to add that both St. Clair Software makes some great Apps (Default Folder X being one) in addition to Go64. If you find either of these useful please buy one of their other products you might find useful or at least drop them a donation to show some support. It’s people like these that make our world just a little bit nicer. 🙂

Hope you found this helpful, and I’ll update this topic as it seems necessary.

Until next time…

The New Shiny and a Little Temprament…

(Image from wallpaper cave.com)

Hi everyone!

Sorry it’s been a bit since some rambling on here – Summertime is always the busiest around APITEland and EduCorp®. Things should get even busier as the Holidaze® get closer… 🙂

So The Mothership® showed off a bunch of new Shiny Shiny this past week as they do every September. Hope all your Credit Cards (or that Shiny Shiny new AppleCard) are paid down and ready for the onslaught. Still not sure what I’m going to get (do I *really* need anything new?) but that’s not what I want to talk about this go ‘round anyway.

We need to talk Computer Updates and the next big one from the Kids in Cupertino.

Back in the days when an Operating System update was way more than a year between changes and came on something called a CD-ROM or (heaven forbid) a Floppy Disc, the Technorati (and anyone else who actually liked to get work done on their machine) had a simple plan – never upgrade a ‘Mission Critical’ computer.

You might have a ‘secondary’ machine that you would test a new update on (Operating System or even Application!) and if it passed muster, didn’t crash, and added something that you didn’t already have (or really wanted) then you would take the plunge and install it on your main system(s). If you weren’t blessed with a ‘Testbed’ Computer, then you scoured the Trade Mags for info and talked with other users about their experience to see if it was worth installing or not. But sometimes you just had to take the plunge because you really, really wanted some new feature that was available.

And every time I did the last thing I always got bitten where the sun doesn’t shine…

I’m telling you this as a bit of a warning, since I’ve been testing the latest MacOS (10.15, a.k.a ‘Catalina’).

If you’re doing Music Creation or Production you seriously need to wait a bit before upgrading your main machine.

Let me say that one more time: Don’t upgrade to Catalina when it’s first released in October!

But why?

The 64-bit requirement is probably the biggest issue.

“A-ha!” You might say. “All of my software has been 64-bit compatible for years! I’m taking the plunge…”

I thought that too – and then I did a bit of digging…

You see, even though the software might be 64-bit compatible some of the embedded libraries it relies on are still 32-bit.

I’ve seen this in nearly every DAW I’ve checked and many other music/media Apps too. The culprits are usually Propellerheads’ ReWire or QuickTime-related, but there are others too…

And until they are updated or worked around, NONE of them will function properly in 10.15.

Some examples: As of this writing ProTools won’t even launch on any of my machines running Catalina. Ableton dropped a note saying that Live 9 is not and will never be 10.15 compatible (meaning you’ll have to upgrade to 10 when they get the fix done for it). Reaper seems stable but I’ve had issues I’ve never seen before. I’ve read blurbs from many other Music Software companies with similar problems running 10.15.

Some further lurking revealed that Apple’s own Final Cut Pro, Motion, Numbers, Pages, and Keynote are still showing incompatibility with Catalina! These will be fixed before launch certainly, but talk about waiting until the last minute…

What about Plugins?

Again, most are 64-bit ready, but several on my system are not. I’m not a Code Junkie, so all I can really assess are the ones that have companion Standalone apps. All are 10.15-incompatible on my setups. I will say that most without Standalone Apps seems to work as normal though.

But that leads us to Installer Apps. None of them are 64-bit ready on any of my systems (this goes for the Uninstallers too). Izotope shows Dialog Box after Dialog Box of warnings when you try to install a plugin, ultimately leading to Catalina saying is wasn’t installed properly. I tried Eventide, Korg, and Valhalla as well – only Valhalla would actually install without issue. Go Sean! 🙂

So will Plugins already installed on a pre-Catalina System update just fine? I’m running a clean installation of 10.15 in a Container so I can’t say at this point. I will be upgrading one of my ‘less critical’ machines from Mojave to Catalina, so I’ll update you with what happens when the official release comes out.

But as Han Solo would say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

It’s been about a decade since I’ve warned people about updating a Mac OS, and since those issues were resolved a few months later I’ve never hesitated in telling anyone to go ahead and install the latest version. This will happen again very soon, so don’t worry about sitting on the sidelines for a bit.

Until next time…

Just as a disclaimer: my intention is NOT to panic anyone out there with this post – it’s merely my own observations with some age-old wisdom attached. I’m certain MacOS 10.15 is going to be a powerhouse when it’s ready for Prime Time – the functions and security are setting the pace for OS’es to come in the next decade.

But I have decided I’m not going to upgrade any of my Macs that I actually need to do work on, and I’m recommending that you don’t either if you’re in the Music and/or Media Production Industries. I’m lucky enough to have a Testbed Machine that I will keep checking upoming updates (both OS and Apps) on, but until everything I need is ready and working as it should I’m happy to stay put on 10.14. Apple doesn’t force anyone to upgrade, and going Bleeding Edge just because it’s the new Shiny Shiny is not worth losing work (and money) over! These issues will get resolved, and for all I know everything might be perfect by the time I hit ‘Publish’… If that does magically happen, I’ll provide an update to this post. 🙂

Amazon Music Loudness Normalization Arrives

From Saint Ian’s website – caught this on the Tweet Machine this morning:

Amazon Music Loudness Normalization Arrives – Production Advice

In related news I was dropped this the other day. The takeaway quote:

The least predictable (but not entirely surprising) resistance to externally mandated loudness controls seems to come from new, emerging “producers” and “mastering engineers.” In this new production paradigm/workflow—one mostly lacking a traditional professional infrastructure of managers or “gatekeepers”—these new “mastering” practitioners interact only with their respective artists. Many decisions in these relationships are invariably one-sided.

And that’s the disconnect: It’s not an overreach to say that artists are preternaturally insecure. After all, their job, if you will, is to absorb the heartbeat of the current culture … to translate this matrix of influences, not limited to affairs of the heart and politics, and blend in ideas, often abstract and ephemeral, then render it all musically. Does “accountability” have a place in the artistic zeitgeist? Does actual technical competence? What about an artist doing technical advocacy?

Loudness Normalization is the new Normal, so not making your mixes conform will only work against you and your art in the long run.

Learn, practice, and understand your craft if you want to have lasting appeal and longevity in the game.

Or just go for the Brass Ring, turn everything up to 11, diversify into anything and everything, and bitch about why you’re broke and unsuccessful after a year or so. The choice is yours.