Apple Archive

Macs, Making Music, and Crashes in OS 9

- 2003.08.08

For the past three weeks I've been taking a summer course on how to create electronic music using the computer. It's a very interesting course, and I've learned a lot.

I've also learned how many times Mac OS 9 can crash in two hours. The computers we have access to are eMacs running Mac OS 9.2. They certainly look nice. The screens are bright and sharp - and they're very fast.

Unfortunately, that's where the pleasure of using one of these machines ends.

Mac OS 9, compared to other operating systems three years ago, wasn't too bad. It didn't crash too often if you had it properly configured - but if anything was corrupt, it would crash just as badly as Windows would.

These days, it's a little bit outdated compared to Mac OS X but still not too unstable.

My beige G3 tower, running OS 9.2, rarely crashes. Of course, the most intensive application I really use on it is Photoshop - believe it or not, it's never crashed with that running. The only thing that seems to cause crashes is Internet Explorer (somehow that doesn't surprise me). Even AOL hardly ever causes problems (connecting to AOL via TCP/IP and staying connected is another thing entirely, though).

Mac OS 9 is stable, of course, if you're not pushing it too much. The software we've been using in the course was ProTools, Sound Studio, and SoundHack. Each seems to have their noticeable bugs. For example, Sound Studio won't let you preview things without the computer crashing. ProTools won't open if Sound Studio is open. It's the little things that all add up - and then when one program, has a glitch the whole system crashes.

Everyone knows how much fun it is to redo something you were working on when the system crashed, even though you were just about to click Save when it went down. Even the idea of save often doesn't work - when you save, it crashes! Unfortunately, the free version of ProTools (which is what we used) doesn't run in Mac OS X, so they're stuck using OS 9.

The problem, I think, is not so much a buggy OS or buggy hardware, but buggy software. Apparently there is a new version of ProTools available, and I am only hoping that it isn't as bad as the version we used.

The course director talked about some of the other alternatives to ProTools, Cubase and Logic Audio being the main two. I've had a chance to play around with Cubase a little bit, and it seems to be slightly better than ProTools - and definitely more stable. If I do decide to get into electronic music, I'll probably end up using Cubase.

I've heard some bad things about Mac OS X and audio software, especially OS X's MIDI capabilities (although this course didn't really go heavily into using MIDI). Most of the current hardware attachments seem to be USB or FireWire, so I won't be able to use them with my beige G3 unless I decide to add a USB/FireWire card - and I'm not sure how much more money I want to put into that computer, considering I recently upgraded the RAM and added a new hard disk.

This, of course, leaves me with my PowerBook, which only runs Mac OS X. I'm sure any issues with OS X will be solved in the future, but in the meantime, since I can't boot 9 on my PowerBook, I'll just have to wait.

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