The New Shiny-Shiny

Well hello there everyone! Yes, I know it’s been a while – what else is new…? 😀

So anyway, I bought one of the new Mac mini’s with (cue Angelic Choir) Apple Silicon. It will look just like the pic I attached to the top of this post and I will etch ‘New guts. More glory.’ into my desktop when it arrives as to have the full Mothership® experience. Delivery App tells me it will arrive very day as I write this. w00t!

So the new adventure here for a bit is to document this machine from setup to (likely painful) transition into a working member of the APITE family. Since most of what I do is the day-to-day rote of EduCorp® as well as a lot of musical work from creating to finished product, I’m hoping to give you a sense of the difficulties of major studio upgrades like this.

I’ve mentioned before that you should never upgrade a workhorse machine to the latest Shiny-Shiny and with that in mind my trusty Intel-based MacBook Pro will still be running Catalina (MacOS 10.5) and my ever-expanding array of plugins and apps alongside this testbed Apple Silicon wonder running Big Sur (MacOS 11). I’ve been here many times before with not only the PowerPC to Intel transition, but a raft of other Operating System upgrades and Software changes.

Based on my experience with those I’m very tempted to name the new Mini ‘Edsel’, but I dare not jinx the Cupertino Gurus at this time. This will likely change.

So there’s the setup – at least for the next several posts here. Since pretty much nothing (at least pro audio-wise) is working on Big Sur at the moment I’ll be running on the Apple Pro Apps with a smattering of Plugins that say they are cleared for duty on OS 11. I will keep you up to date with what is and how it’s going. Shenanigans will ensue.

Stay tuned!

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…