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Re: Building a rackmount looping computer as an alternative to the Receptor for Mobius

On 10/15/05, Kris Hartung <khartung@cableone.net> wrote:
> > No, the key is to never refresh unless absolutely necessary!
> That sort of goes without saying, but you do have to refresh "eventually"
> based on the evolving technology, whether that is a new OS, or a new
> application that won't run on the old OS, etc. So, my point stands. You 
> to refresh.

But you have to look at the reason for updates.  Are you updating the
OS because it fixes a problem with the current audio software you're
using, or because the new version of the audio app requires a later
version of the system, or because there's been a security upgrade from
the OS manufacturer, or what?  If a rock-solid performance machine is
the goal, you're not going to update just because it's available.  And
since you're probably using more than one manufacturer's audio
software on this machine, you can find yourself in a situation where
fixing one problem causes another.

> > Updating the system software means that you'll have to update the audio
> software, which means forking out more money and eventually running
> into a terminal incompatibility.  One of the downsides of
> computer-based music making is the amount of tinkering that needs to
> be done to keep everything running.
> This is not a problem for me, nor for most computer users I know. I work
> well with computers, total migrations
> from one PC to another, etc. I dont think your comments apply 
> though...back to Jeff's bet to you.

Yeah, but for most computer users I know, it is.  And I've worked
extensively with computers for all my adult life, and the a total
migration is not something I'm going to approach lightly if there's a
deadline at stake.  The investment required to formulate, test and
successfully deploy a migration or disaster recovery plan is
considerable, and if  it's not your job it's all time that comes out
of the time available for making music.  Or, sleeping.

> My VST effects ran on Win 2000 and they still run on XP. And I expect 
> will run on the next OS, because
> the VST companies will come out with updates to my existing applications,
> which I will buy faithly because I
> love them. Updating the computer, OS, apps, etc, it's all intertwined, 
> is no big deal to me.  Updating is
> just a part of the responsibility of owning and using a computer.

For responsibility one could substitute "hassle", and I say that as
someone with five computers running in my house, and another four in
my cube at work.  I'm not a technophobe, but I'm not going to just
wave my hand and say "Well, of course one has to do a little bit of
maintenance and backup, no big deal..."

> > Why would you two not consider a laptop roadworthy? Roadworthy in what
> > respect?  My laptop is my only computer for work. I use it at home, 
> it
> > around the house with wi-fi, take it on the road for business trips,
> etc....,
> > Yeah, but I control all my high-end floor gear with my feet, while
> wearing shoes, while it's sitting on grotty cafe and club floors, and
> it all still works.  I don't see a lot of laptops on the floor at
> shows being stepped on.
> I hear there are these things they make these days, call MIDI controllers
> and MIDI
> interfaces, and I hear you can hook them up to a laptop. :)  I don't see
> your
> EDP on the floor, why would you expect the same of a laptop?

Because someone told me I should "Treat it as any other piece of high
end floor gear, and we'll be fine."  And I keep all floor gear on the
floor when I play.  The rack-mountable gear I put in a rack, but a
lap-top is not easily rackmountable.  Which is another of things I
don't like about them--the form factor prevents rackmounting.  All the
lap tops I've dealt with in the last few years have connectors or
access doors on at least three sides (of course, I've only been using
sub-$4k consumer junk).

With rack stuff, everything mounts the same way, connectors are on the
back, it's much easier to integerate various components into a
"block".  If I was going to switch to a lap top based system, I'm
guessing I'll need the laptop, an external audio interface (probably
connected via a firewire cable).  Hopefully the audio interface also
includes a MIDI port, otherwise I'll need another box (and cable for
that).  Then there's the MIDI controller on the floor.  And unless I'm
religiously dedicated to the idea of 100% of the audio being processed
on the laptop, there's a few external effects boxes that need to be
integrated into the the setup.  Hopefully the firewire audio interface
has some flexible routing options, otherwise I need an external mixer.

If I'm performing two or three times a week, it'd be nice to bolt all
this stuff down so that the number of connections and setup I have to
make at each gig is minimized, but the laptop resists easy integration
into the typical solution to this problem: a rack.  Even if I fasten
it to a slide out rack shelf, the large display means that I need
either a 10 or 12U rack, or I have to slide the laptop all the way out
on its shelf to get the flatpanel open to where I can see it.  Which
means I've now go a poweradaptor cable, firewire cable, and maybe a
USB cable which have to make it back into the rack without getting
tangled up or unplugged.  I used to use a non-rackmounted mixer in a
similar configuration, and finessing the cable harness each time was a
pain in the ass.

For me, the idea of carrying everything around and then setting it up
on a table onstage isn't viable--to many connects and disconnects, not
enough room on stage for a table with everything arrayed on the same
level, too many cables out where stray venue workers or audience
members can trip on them, etc.  Plus, I always perform standing up, so
I'd need a tall table to put everything at a comfortable height.

> > To me, roadworthy stuff has thick metal cases, and sturdy jacks, and
> the option for mounting it inside an armored carrying unit (i.e. a
> rack).  Think about it--which would you rather have knocked off a
> table onto a concrete floor--a laptop running some VST emulator, or a
> rack unit in a rack?
> The answer to that is obvious, but it still doesn't address the point 
> even
> you use gear not in a roadworthy rack (on the floor), and you can just as
> easily drop your heavy rack on one of those, or someone can dump a pint
> of beer on them, etc, etc. There are risks with whatever you choose.

Yeah, but none of those things cost anywhere near $4K, and they're
built to be stepped on as part of their normal use.  They're much more
rugged than any laptop.

> just
> trying to avoid the generalizations here and not bash laptops when there
> here
> plenty of people using them with success...maybe not you, but many who 
> not problems with them. You treat them with care and precaution. And 
> are ways to secure a laptop so that it won't drop on the floor. There are
> ways
> to add more level of security around anything, if you want to take those
> steps.

Yes, there are ways, but it's more difficult with a laptop than with
purpose designed musical equipment.
> > Hands up for everyone whose had to foot the bill
> for a laptop display that took a tumble at a gig?  Ouch.
> Hands up  for everyone whose had to foot the bill for
> "anything" that is damaged on the road. How about Phil
> and his EDP at Y2K5?  Being roadworthy does not safeguard
> for all types of damage.

I'd certainly favor a racked set of gear versus a laptop on the table
(the most common way I've seen laptops in use during performance) when
it comes to the drop test.

> > Maybe consumer laptops are relatively "disposable) but not high end
> > commercial models,......
> >But, as you said, musicians aren't buying those.
> True. But they should. Pro musicians don't go for the cheap bargin deals
> when they buy
> their gear...why should they vary when it comes to laptops?

What's the definition of "Pro"?  My definition of a professional
musician is someone who puts "musician" as the occupation on their tax
return and doesn't have a wife or family or another non-music job
helping out with the bills.  Everyone else is a non-professional.  I
don't think there are more than a handful of professional musicians on
this list, and I think they might delegate the entire discussion to
their roadies.