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Re: recording setup? (ot)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Zvonar" <zvonar@zvonar.com>
To: <Loopers-Delight@loopers-delight.com>
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 02:42:AM
Subject: Re: recording setup? (ot)

> At 11:36 PM +0100 4/21/03, Steve Goodman wrote:
> >"lack of hardware standardization in the PC world"?  I'm afraid this 
> >substantiated with more than a flip comment.
> Really?  I thought it was generally accepted that PC hardware can be
> a crapshoot. PCs and PC boards and peripherals are made by a wide
> variety of manufacturers and there IS a lot of shoddy merchandise out
> there.

The reason PCs, boards, and peripherals are made by a wide variety of
manufacturers is that, unlike Apple, IBM didn't sue the pants off of
everyone who developed hardware and software for the platform without their
blessing/payoff.  There was a specification for all sorts of peripherals
that was published to potential hardware and software manufacturers in 
which except in some bizarre cases has been adhered to.  In terms of
"bizarre" I refer to cards mainly, which existed before computers (well, 
actually) broke the 1MB barrier: video cards with "enhancements" that
required software to function at all; memory cards with extended and
expanded memory add-ons that required interesting drivers.  Not a lot of
that really, with the only full-on confusion existing with respect to 
standards in the pre-1MB+ world - Lotus/Intel/Microsoft had one way of
dealing with expanded/extended memory, and there was another 'standard'
supported by three other companies, of which Ashton-Tate was one (I worked
there and I've only had one cuppa joe so far this morning).  When Windows 
came along, the new architecture from Intel had already been developed,
making the 1MB problem a thing of the past for good; and, in addition, the
bizarre and antique hardware one could plod along with was now no longer
useable, period.  This last cleaned out the platform as far as I'm
concerned, and it was both necessary and good standards-enforcement.

The only occurrances of what one could call "shoddy merchandise" have come
from (surprise!) Asia, but even these, based upon already tried-and-proven
technology, were able to emerge from the goo before the big crash of '98
wiped out the little guys in the area.  I've been quite pleasantly 
by the hardware coming out of the Orient since '98 actually, especially
memory, which you might think would just be the crap - but as a result of
being able to produce a reliable and cheaper product, and forcing the major
vendors like Kingston to lower their prices - resulting in a world-wide
reduction of not just memory but all the peripherals that use it have been
reduced in price, whether they were produced in Asia or not.  I don't think
I need to expand on the benefits there, as we've all experienced them 
and out of computers.

In terms of hardware conflicts that have occurred recently, and persist, 
only one I can think of is the infamous "VIA chipset vs. Creative SBLive
crackling problem", which has been resolved by BIOS updates from VIA.
Creative still hasn't ever talked about what exactly made it happen beyond
the occasional comment about interrupt conflict in newsgroups.  But even
that one's history as far as I can see.

> Since I don't use PCs myself I can only rely on the many complaints
> I've heard from friends who do use PCs (and who are careful to check
> out specific compatibility issues with different mother boards, video
> cards, etc.), from friends who are computer music consultants, from
> tech support acquaintances, and from computer music retailers. The
> general consensus among these people is that you have to be well
> informed about the specific items you are trying to assemble into a
> system.

One should be informed about anything that money gets spent on, especially
if it's your money.  I can easily say as a result of years of assembly,
implementations, rollouts and diagnosis/troubleshooting/support, that all 
the problems such as described above were the result of bad implementation
by someone who wanted to be thought of as a "PC expert" but lacked any kind
of technical know-how whatsoever.  I found myself as a result of
professional osmosis (and all of the above effects, I suppose) being
appointed MIS Director at Jobete Music Co. by 1996.  At this stage I
realized that the role of Troubleshooter-Installer is going away, thanks to
more stupid-proof and less-flaky software installs (though I still have 
vendors on my "bad list", Symantec amongst them).  Things aren't as behind
technically in the UK as they like to strangely boast about here - the same
level of hardware/software exists here, and despite the interference of 
monopoly (though nobody dares call it that), DSL is being implemented
gradually.  The main difference here from the US seems to be that
proprietary software - much of it developed in the UK, and apparently only
used here as well - is utilized a lot, and not only for its obvious use.
It's also a great way to keep those awful foreigners from stealing jobs 
blah blah etc.  But it works, for them anyway.

> As for myself, the majority of my PC hardware experiences have been
> frustrating (PCI boards not fitting, components coming unplugged in
> transit, etc.). I haven't had these sorts of problems with Macs
> because 1) most of the major hardware is made by Apple and 2) Apple
> is traditionally pretty strict when it comes to specs.

You forgot their legal department's actions against potentially-competing
manufacturers, but I'll let it go. :)

I can't account for people not being able to use the screw to fasten the 
card to the chassis, much less making sure that the card is seated
correctly.  I think perhaps that cards are the only 'scary' bit for users 
PCs nowadays.  The rest is pretty much well, plug in, install the software,
and go.  Of course once again, if the person who sets the PC up in the 
place doesn't know what they're doing, it's most likely the crap shoot you
describe.  I don't mean to seem absolutist in this regard, but it's been my
experience in a fusillade of consulting visits since 1995.

I should say that, when I got to Ashton-Tate in 1984, having developed a
reputation in terms of UI programming in dBASE (remember that one?), I had
for the most part finessed my way through every hardware install I'd ever
done.  I got pulled aside by another new employee who taught me that if I
didn't know what the hardware was doing, I'd better give it up - so I got
taught gestalt hardware from the ground up, and haven't lost that
appreciation.  But then I learned to balance the idea of wanting to get the
job done as quickly as possible, with the idea of making sure it's right 
that you don't have to go back.  Let's face it, I don't think of the IT
sector as an Employment Medium. :)

Of course the New Platform is always coming.  I was asked on my last
consultation (that's all I can get here, thanks to protectionism) "when 
I stop having to upgrade my hardware?"  My answer remains, "When it's all
running with fibre instead of copper."  I think that, at that point, a
number of manufacturers may try to prevent it from happening just for the
purpose of continuing existence - but eventually it'll level out, and those
of us around now will be pleased as hell.  I'm equally sure that folks who
aren't around now will be wondering why it's so slow -- Perhaps we should
keep a few 4.77MHz IBM PCs with 256KB, two floppies, no hard drive, and a
monochrome monitor, to keep perspective alive... :)

I suppose you can guess what my greatest glee is about all of this: There's
not a damned thing the RIAA or MPAA can do about it.  Better and better
recording/processing tools are available all the time, to paraphrase Das

Steve Goodman
EarthLight Productions
http://www.earthlight.net/Other - Quasi-daily Cartoon
http://www.earthlight.net/HiddenTrack - Cartoons via Medialine!