Where We Go From Here

Thursday, November 4, 2004


Sorry, Iowa. Close, but no cigar.

America, you need to start paying attention.

Later… Joking aside, this map actually gets closer to the truth of the matter. (Though I assume “10/03/04” is a typo…)


Mac OS X Con: GarageBand Etc.

Friday, October 29, 2004


Some jellies on exhibit at the Monterey Aquarium.

[Here are the details for this panel, fully titled “Extending GarageBand: Loops, Plug-ins, and More.”]

[Xander Soren will do this talk. What a crazy name. He’s probably from Alpha Centauri. He’s got a nice-sized crowd waiting for him, wherever he may be from.]

[15 minutes late and we’re finally ready to go. Xander’s using Keynote.]

[Dr. Gerhard Lengeling, the founder of eMagic is here, as well. He was helping set up the projector earlier.]

Xander: Before iTunes there was no legal way to download music off of the internet and we’re very proud to lead in this market. And we’re very proud of the iPods. It’s our vision to take expensive tools and “democratize” them, making them available to everybody. And we’ve made a bunch of investments in the music industry. OS X is built to have an incredible audio system. We have a very flexible and easy-to-use system. Plug-and-play. Built-in MIDI. Audio Units. Why AUs? Before each developer had to come up with their own system. And that was a mess. So now the developers can concentrate on making the plug-ins and not worry about the plug-in system. And GarageBand. Something novices can use, but has the quality for professional use.

[Now he’s just running down the list of features…]

Xander: GarageBand starts with a thousand loops or so. We also sell “Jam Packs” with more instruments and sounds. Each has a couple thousand more loops and instrument settings. We worked directly with Roland to include some of their actual vintage sounds in Jam Pack 2. We also sell Logic Express 7, the next step up from GarageBand. It’s integrated with GarageBand and Apple Loops. And then we have Logic Pro 7. Built for pros.

[Like me.]

Xander: Some of this tech from Logic Pro made its way into GarageBand. Logic Pro also features distributed audio processing. Done through ethernet. Additional real-time DSP. And we also offer Soundtrack, designed for movie editors who aren’t necessarily musicians.

[Some question has been asked and the German eMagic founder is answering. But I don’t understand what it’s about.]

Dr. Gerhard Lengeling the German, Founder of eMagic: Processor footprint between Logic Pro and GarageBand are identical. They actual are the same product at the core. So GarageBand can’t take more processor power than Logic Pro. GarageBand’s visual interface take a bit more processor, but it’s a lower priority than the audio, so the audio footprints are the same. As far as perforamnce efficiency, they are the exact same.

Xander: Apple Loops. This is a way to match loops of different tempos together easily.

[Like Ableton Live does, I assume.]

Xander: Back in the 90s we had to do this sort of thing with a calculator. This, though, is instantaneous. They’re built on the open AIFF standard. They also allow for metadata for tempo, key, and tagging for searching through loops. And some other things such as instrument, genre, and mood. And they’re really easy to find by keyword. You files can be anywhere. And we have a free utility for developers to work with this. Apple Loop Utility is the tool that lets yo add this metadata. And it’s free from developer.apple.com/sdk.

[This is all very, very similar to how Ableton Live works, but not nearly as tightly integrated. I wonder if there’ll be a little in-fight over these standards or whether Ableton will bend and begin supporting the Apple Loops standard.]

[Now we’re out of Keynote and into the actual GarageBand software.]

[He made a new project and he’s going about adding some drum beats. Looking for something “urban.” We’re listening to a bunch of hip-hop beats as Xander decides what he wants to use. He founds one and pulled it into the sample space and made it loop a few times. It’s cool that if you’re playing you track while browsing loops, it automatically fits the loop previes to the song. I have to say, this is really quite a fun toy! You can import MIDI loops from the Apple Loops library, as well, and edit them. Now he’s adding guitars. And now he’s changing up the tempo and key of the song and it all just kinda works. He just doing all sorts of stuff I’m not going to write down…]

Xander: When you’re done, you just do the “Export to iTunes” command and it’s automatically placed in an iTunes playlist in a high-quality AIFF file.

[Now he’s showing off the built-in effects, especially the guitar amp plug-in.]

[Now here comes Gerhard to show off some stuff.]

Gerhard: We have different layers for different velocities and sustain settings in our sounds, such as the grand piano.

[He’s playing a very lovely piano piece through GarageBand.]

Xander: So that’s a sample-based instrument. We also have physical modelers.

[Gerhard plays around with the keyboard again on a Rhodes piano sound.]

Gerhard: It’s very sensitive about how you play it, so it feel like a real instrument.

[Gerhard plays a groovy little number. And now a crazy synthesizer number. And now rock organ piece.]

Gerhard: The notes interact because of the software modelling. It’s not just simple sample playback. And that adds a lot of character.

[Now drums. Gerhard drums. And now he’s playing with a guitar patch. He’s actually a rather amazing keyboardist. These sound really, really good. I just want to hear him play more… Banjo, now. Now another guitar. And he’s brought up Guitar Rig by Native Instruments.]

Gerhard: It’s fabulous that GarageBand is an AU host. It makes the software a platform for development. There are two types of audio units: the software instruments and the effects like reverb.

Xander: And then Apple Loops is also an open part of this. You can get loops off the web or wherever and just drag them in.

Question: Will GarageBand use VSTs?

Xander: You can find wrappers, but we’re finding people are more interested in Audio Units.

Question: Could you suggest a good, quiet interface.

Xander: There are a ton. Go to the GarageBand website and we have some.

[Oops. Missed a question.]

Question: Can we not use the default skin?

Gerhard: No. Rather than make that feature, we’d rather concentrate on making it faster. And computers get faster. I’d rather invest time in the good interface.

Question: 1972. Some guy made “Switched on Bach.” Can that be done with GarageBand?

Gerhard: You won’t have the detailed ability to tweak the sound, but we have synthesizer sounds available you could use.

Xander: We’re out of time. Thanks!


Mac OS X Con: Developing ProTools Plug-Ins

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Dogs at the beach in San Francisco.

[Here are the details for this panel, fully titled “Go Pro: Audio Production & Plug-In Development for Pro Tools.”]

[Even though I just ate lunch — a crappy fajita with a bit of salad and three rolls at the hotel, complements of Mr. O’Reilly — I’m still kind of hungry. And I have a headache. And though I’m not sure I will be doing a whole lot of plug-in development for ProTools, none of my other conference options look all that compelling and I don’t just want to just fuck around in the upstairs lobby. So here I am!]

[The speaker, Joseph Saracino, works for DigiDesign (makers of ProTools), so this may be in large part sales pitch. Who knows. But that’s offset by the joy of starting up iChat and noticing that it automatically picks up all of the other Macs running iChat within wifi distance… Which is, like forty.]

[Joseph’s going to free-ball it: no mic.]

Joseph: I manage the DSP group at DigiDesign. Used to work at Apple. We’re responsible for all plug-in design and support. We have a very active developer program.

[He’s describing what ProTools is.]

Joseph: …a “word processor” for audio… Very powerful and quick.


Joseph: We have two flavors of ProTools. ProTools LE plug-ins are all host-based. ProTools TDM is the flagship. Plug-ins mostly run on a seperate DSP card, reducing latency. Also takes processing load off of the host computer, increasing flexibility.

Aussie Questioner Guy: What happened to ProTools Free?

Joseph: Well, we’re trying to get our for-pay software ported to OS X first. Then we’ll consider porting ProTools Free. I would love to see it. It was a great thing. It’s just a question of priorities.

[On to control surfaces…]

Joseph: Very important. Makes manipulating the software easier and you get direct metering on the boards. Our flagship controller is ICON, a gigantic desk-sized system with its own monitor and everything. The controls on the boards are just knobs, so you can map the knobs to all sorts of different controls in your software.

[Now we’re going to listen to a lovely demo. The file is called “Salvation Demo.” Yeah! More cheezy sounds. This is a kind of manufactured girl band Ashlee Simpson sort of thing. And we’re looking at a few plug-in effects running. D-Verb. EQ. Delay. Compressor.]

[Technical difficulties with the projector.]

Joseph: TDM means “Time Division Multiplexing.” They run on Motorola 563xx-based DSPs. Most of the DSP market in the 80s were 56xxx-based Motorola. RTAS means “Real-Time Audio Suite.” These run on the host. AudioSuite is the same thing, but they do not run in real-time. You would use these if you just wanted to permanently de-noise a track or something. ProTools LE only runs the RTAS and AudioSuite plugs.

[Projected are a bunch of example plug-ins.]

Question: What is HTDM?

Joseph: Host-based TDM. You can run your TDMs, but routes the audio data through the host. So you have latency, but you can do some other stuff. It’s being phased out and we don’t encourage developers to develop for it. Develop for TDM or RTAS.

Joseph: So let’s talk about the plug-in market. Who buys them? High-end studios and post-production facilities buy the TDM stuff. And they have the deep pockets. Smaller and home studios are more RTAS customers. And people who would use virtual instruments. AudioSuite is used by mastering and restoration houses quite often.

[Now he’s going to show some example plug-ins in a file called “Bad Boy Bill.” Now we’re looking at the d2 Focusrite RTAS EQ. He’s showing us how he can control the plug-in using the external control surface.]

Aussie Questioner Guy: Why are you so hostile to independent plug-in developers? Yous SDK isn’t free. Why?

Joseph: Quality is one issue. We want developers to be dedicated to bringing a product to market. The SDK also contains info that could be used to crack plug-ins. And this is a huge issue for developers.

[Aussie Questioner Guy is in the mood to get into a debate about this.]

Aussie Questioner Guy: One of the reasons VSTs become so popular is because it was so easy to create your own plug-ins.

[Yes, okay. We’re wasting time right now. Random Guy At Conference isn’t going to make Big Company change its mind…]

Joseph: Plug-in features include metering support and control surface integration. We also have MIDI support, like everyone, and surround support (5.1, for example). And they’re C++/56k-based. And we have a GUI framework, though it’s a dinosaur and it kind of sucks ass. We also have a wonderful developer support staff team! And a developers conference every year (coming up next month).

Joseph: If you want to be a plug-in developer, what do you do? Well, it’s a very competative market. Very. And copy protection is a huge, huge issue. Without it, you simply won’t make money. And you have to have good sales, marketing, and distribution. If you want to become a development partner, you can go to our website and request SDK material. The bar isn’t high to get the SDK. We have an “evangelism” staff, though, who help get developer plug-ins out into the market. And they’ll keep up with you. And if you haven’t done anything with it in six months or whatever, they’ll revoke your access to the SDK.

Aussie Questioner Guy: I don’t want to come off as the bitchy guy. But. You guys have changed the way you’ve organized the plug-ins…

[Etc. I don’t really care.]

Joseph: DigiDesign test piles of third-party plugs and we sent off bug reports to the developers all the time.

[The room is filling up with people waiting to hear the next talk about Apple’s consumer audio products… This was a pretty good presentation, though. Good speaker.]


The PowerBook Rockstar

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Here I am (on the left) playing an set with Dillitex (Dylan Reece) at The Creative Research Labs' Heydays event.

I’m giving my talk today at the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference. It’s called “The PowerBook Rockstar.”

You can grab the notes is used for giving the talk and read them over if you’re curious what I had to say for myself.


Mac OS X Con: Improvisation via Ableton Live

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

[I removed this on December 28th after Scott made a comment on this website about it. He didn’t ask me to remove it, but his comment caused me to read over what I had written. And I am a flaming asshole. He didn’t really do that poor of a job, of course — the tone of my transcript comes from a combination of a little competative spark (since I would present something similar later at the conference) mixed with the trick of writing really obnoxious comments as a way to keep myself entertained. Really mature, right? Anyway, I forgot that this weblog is, like, public when I put my harshness online. Scott wants me to put the transcript back. So here it is. Please. Let the rudeness reflect poorly on me and not him…]

* * *

[Here are the details for this panel, fully titled “Modern Musical Improvisation via Ableton Live.”]

[I’m downstairs in the large Magnolia Room, where I will also be presenting tomorrow. Mr. Ableton Hipster has his screen projected with a Betapop graphic on it. He also appears to have an Evolution controller. They have a reasonably nice PA set up, here — good for this size of a space.]

[He’s using Live 4, I believe.]

[So far: Terrible. He’s just babbling about the features in no particular order.]

Scott Tusa: BT uses this. So does Sasha. Sasha runs Live through Logic. Delays are cool. Like the Ping-Pong Delay and Filter Delay.

[Here come some cheezy dance beats. He’s showing off how it automatically fits the loops to the tempo.]

Scott: Longer audio files you have to beat match yourself.

[Now he’s playing music. He has a mic hooked to an input channel and is singing into it and adjusting the filter on it. It’s also reverbed out into a washy pulp of sound. And has Erosion applied and a bunch of other effects.]

Scott: Resonator is very cool, kind of like a vocoder. You can use it to make chords or whatever. This opens up all sorts of possibilities.

[Now more of the same music — now with a piano loop. And some kickin’ kick drum.]

[Someone’s asking about the resonator so Scott’s showing it off. Now we’re getting into MIDI mapping.]

[Now he’s go the beat back and is playing a drum into the mic. Not sure what it’s doing in the computer. Oh. I guess he recorded a loop with it live. He’s now moving the start and stop points in the sample view so their right around his drum solo sound. And now adding some effects. Still have the cheezy techno beat plodding along in the background. The loop is a bit off, so he’s fixing it. Live has a little metronome built in that helps him. Kind of a cool feature.]

Scott: I’m going to add some delay. You can’t really go wrong with delay. I’m adding a filter delay.

[Now we’re getting into using MIDI, the big new feature in Ableton Live 4.]

[Some guy is asking about using Live while playing another instrument like a keyboard. Scott’s giving some workarounds to make life easier in the situation, but it seems like you’re not really going to be playing the piano and running Live at the same time. Though, Scott says, you could dedicate a few keys on your keyboard (if it’s MIDI) to control Ableton Live. Pretty clever solution, I must admit.]

[Guy asking the question just said he’s mostly seen Ableton Live demonstrated as a DJ tool, not for “real musicians.” Ooh! Fighting words… He looks like a metal band roadie.]

Scott: Once you get into the app you can do whatever you want.

[We’re doing MIDI sounds, now, though the loops he plays are still kind of generic, cheezy techno beats, unfortunately.]

[In Live, tracks are either solely audio or solely MIDI.]

[Now he’s got Impulse running — that’s the beat sampler that somes with Ableton Live 4. He’s recording some loops in using his external keyboard and Impulse. Trying to sound like a real drum kit. Showing us the quantize feature.]

Scott: Stuff I’ve done is with other laptop artists. You can use this with bands, too, if you’re a drummer or just the “laptop guy.” U2 brings huge rigs to run sequences while they play live. And it’s so easy to edit while you’re on the road touring.

Scott: Live 4 fully integrates Audio Unit plug-ins.


Scott: So I use Battery and all my Native Instruments stuff. And all my other plug-ins.

[This music is, um, terrible.]

Scott: This is a more traditional DJ set, like if you want to have a party with your friends.

[Opens up a new file and plays some very, um, cheezy techno. No other way to say it, really.]

Scott: Sometimes I add a beat marker every 32 or 16 (sometimes 8) bars when I’m pulling in long audio files of other people’s tracks. I can then mix these in with my own stuff. I can also use the fader to mix between to tracks like a DJ. A lot of these loops I just found on the internet and in GarageBand.

[That explains a few things…]

[Scott appears to subscribe to the “throw piles of mediocre loops together at once” school of electronic composition.]

[I have to admit, though, that integrating Live into a full-on DJ set with other artists’ tracks is a neat idea.]

[Scott doesn’t know the price of Live 4… Does that mean he might not have actually paid for it? Shocking!]

[Afterthought: He didn’t do an absolutely terrible job, as it might sounds reading this description. I just don’t care for that kind of music and the sheer density of the nerd population at this hotel has me feeling edgy.]


Mac OS X Con: Run Your Own Software Business

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

[Here are the details for this panel. I came in about fifteen minutes late to this, the first panel I attended at the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference. So we’ll start in the middle of an answer…]

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: A couple big software distributors control most of the software distribution market. Big chains will only distribute from them, making life difficult for small software publishers. So. We have to use aggregators — companies that will scoop up a bunch of software packages and sell them to the distributors. They take a hefty slice off the top (sometimes 20%). And the software company still has to cover all of the costs.

[Everyone here has their Powerbook flipped open. And most of the people that I can see from the back of the room where I sit have a web browser or Word document or something open. Are they all listening, or just fooling around?]

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: So now I’m no longer at Omni. Through several rounds of sales, OmniWeb has probably never received a check for their store sales. Overseas distributors are better. I recommend Act Two software. They take care of some of the manufacturing and they pay you every month. I trust the Act Two guys. Note: If they do a localization, make sure you own it!

[Ex-OmniWeb Guy is in the mood to complain.]

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: You can also go with the independent Apple dealers, though they’re fading away.

Steve Dekorte the Shareware Guy: I started doing donationware, but that didn’t work at all. Then I gave away useful amounts of the software away and required registration to unlock the rest. That worked well. Then I tied the serial numbers to the machines to prevent users from spreading the software around. I got some flack for this, but I made a lot of money that way and have basically no piracy at all. I’d also recommend selling online and using PayPal — they make things easy.

Moderator Dan Wood: How do you price your software and how many pieces do you expect to reasonably sell?

Brent Simmons [NetNewsWire Guy]: We figured our market was anyone who checks the news on their Mac. So we priced it at less than $50.

Steve Dekorte: I take my new software to a bunch of friends and ask, “What’s the highest price where you wouldn’t think about buying it?”

Oliver Breidenbach [Red Shirt Guy with German Accent]: The price will always be wrong if you listen to the feedback.

[My Rendevous is picking up, like, twenty other computers…]

Skinny Guy Panelist: I see a lot of software that’s priced too cheap.

Striped Shirt Guy Panelist: $19.95 should be a minimum or else it won’t be perceived as serious.

Steve Dekorte the Shareware Guy: It’s sometimes better to write your own piracy protection code. Third party tools are more likely to be cracked since they have a much larger user base.

Moderator Dan Wood: Make finding the hooks into the copy protection difficult.

Nerd in Audience: Make your prices an even number — not $19.95. And don’t price yourself out of the market.

Oliver Breidenbach: I’ve got a degree in psychology and you may not think that $19.95 trick works on you — but it does. I would like to price my software at just $40, too.

Ex-OmniWeb Guy: OmniGraffle was very successful and that was the first time we split a software product into pro and not-pro versions. And the pro features weren’t even that well used, though the software was priced three times as high. But the pro version sold five times as much as the not-pro version. And it still does.

[Sorry I couldn’t figure out everyone’s names. But now I leave for another talk about Ableton Live…]


Hipsters with Asperger’s

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hey, everybody. Long time no write.

I’m in California this week at the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference. I’m presenting about using your Mac to play music live. That happens tomorrow.

I’m trying to take notes, though, on the different panels I attend. So. I’ll try to post them here promptly.

Okay. Have to go. I’m about to walk out in the middle of one talk into a better one that’s about to start…


At 360 Uno

Sunday, August 29, 2004


Blue skies a few months back...

Everyone not working here has a laptop. Six of us. We sit at our individual brushed-steel tables in our perky red vinyl chairs, facing west into the sun rays that run obliquely from the windows across the people, furniture, variously placed ceramic plates and mugs, crumpled napkins, and red Segafredo napkin dispensers, leaving sharp, snaking geometrids and shiny quadrilaterals on everything they touch. Each of us type importantly, holding the same slightly round-shouldered posture. The three women closest to the window hammer away at a collective writing project of some variety — a script, maybe. The two men behind them — Trilogy Software employees according to a brief conversation early in the evening — flit hither and thither through various windows of code and compilers. I sit behind them writing this, enjoying the opportunity to invade the privacy of others by watching the work on their screens.

Haley works here, now. At 360 Uno Café right at Loop 360 and Westlake. I stopped by out of curiousity and ended up with a cup of minestrone, an iced mocha coffee, free samples of about a dozen flavors of gelato, and a hard-boiled egg. I hope I haven’t spoiled my dinner.