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.