Struggle with Drivers and Software Updates

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 18:01 by salim

So, continuing the saga of setting up the Vista64 Daw.

I have the following audio hardware that requires drivers

1. ESI Wamirack 192X
2. Mackie Onyx Firewire
3. Yamaha Motif ES Rack
4. KORG microKontrol (rarely used, haven’t looked for one yet.)

I have the following software that potentially needed updates in Vista64

1. Sonar 8 Producer
2. FL Studio
3. Gigastudio (Yes, I know they are gone. I bought it way before they planned a shutdown)
4. GVI
5. SwarPlug
6. iZotope Ozone
7. JMT Orchestrator (MIDI Plugin)
8. Swarshala and SwarLibrarian

So the hunt started.

More...

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How did I put an ESI Wamirack PCI card in a PCIe slot

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 16:18 by salim

As I said in my previous post, one of the major stumbling blocks in getting the Dell Studio XPS was the lack of PCI slots in it. So, until recently I am pretty much convinced that the best way to get an i7 machine was to build one. However, whenever I priced an equivalent machine in new egg, it always was close to double the sale price of XPS. This was a major dilemma. Should I pay almost double the amount and go through all the hassles of building and then maintaining a machine or just get Dell with support but lose the Wamirack card. Though I don’t use Wamirack a lot for recording and play back, it is my primary MIDI interface. (May be at the end of the series on my DAW I will give a rundown of my setup)

After searching during the last several months, this time I actually got a verifiable product info about a PCIe to PCI converter card. This is the card from Startech.com. To my surprise the lowest price was found at Dell. I ordered the card even before I bought the machine.

I got the card the day after I got the computer. The first disappointment was that the card had an old 4 pin power connector and XPS does not have a single one of those to spare. I did not have an adapter cable to connect it to a SATA power supply. (I wanted a cable with a white female on one end and a black male on the other.) Even without the power supply, I proceeded to see how I can fit my PCI card to the base. To my horror, I realized that the back plate (riser) of my PCI card is soldered to the card and was not easy to remove. So I got a hacksaw, bent the riser as far as I can bend and sawed it off. Perfect.

My first trial without the power supply of course did not work. It actually made the video card from working. This and the whole hacksaw event did not instill a lot of confidence in me. May be I should just get a USB-MIDI interface. I found a few, but the only one with Vista 64 drivers was the Cakewalk one with four (2 in, 2 out). So the next day, I dragged Shobha out and went to look for the MIDI thingie. I did not find any either in Sam Ash or in Guitarcenter. On my way back, I picked up the power connector. Got home, pushed the card in again, connected the power, turned the computer on. Sweet. The sound of the external box of Wamirack turning on was the best sound i heard that day!

The new unified driver from ESI for the card is much better behaved. It installed without a problem. Except one thing. It thinks two of the 8 outs are digital. hmm, i need to investigate that.

So, if you have an old PCI card lying around which you want to use in a PCIe slot, go ahead, get the Startech one.

(Next, my struggles with Drivers and Plug-ins)

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64Bit DAW, Finally

Monday, 14 September 2009 17:30 by salim

It has been at least two years I have been thinking seriously about upgrading my music machine (will call it DAW – Digital Audio Workstation, just for the ooomph.) However, so many other things stole priority from my music related activities. The old DAW was working fine for the things i was using it for, listening to music and once in a while to play games.

The old DAW was a Compaq that I got on sale. It was a very nice machine at the time I bought it. But, once I loaded all the hardware and software in it, it started deteriorating. May be I was a bit too over-enthusiastic. It started with three internal sound cards, and later a firewire one. I know, I know, that was too much. The drivers for two of the sound cards, ESI pro and Mackie Firewire where quite troublesome. Despite all that, I did all the demo recording and mixing for both my bands and wrote most of my recent songs. So, it did the job as good as it could. Time just grew past it I guess.

For over two years I have been secretly scheming to get a new DAW. First I went to Dell and customized various configurations. Went to New Egg and started two wish lists that I named “My Super DAW” and “My 64Bit DAW”. During one of these sessions, I found the Studio XPS with Intel i7 processor and decided that I will get either that one or will build one on similar lines.

This is about the same time I decided that the next DAW will be Vista 64bit. I have a very different position to Vista both from ease of use and stability perspectives. However, it is not always easy to get a Vista driver for all the obscure hardware I have. It is even harder to get updates for some of the many of the plug ins. Things get even worse when it comes to 64 bit.

While going through all the forum postings and blogs, I found, to my surprise that a lot of digital musicians intuitively ignore 64bit. Their main complaint is the same as the ones I have. They use quite crafty technique of networking several DAWs using iMidi, lpMidi, Ethernet based audio networking plug-ins and what not to overcome the limitations of 32 bit, mainly memory. I have no intention of wiring up a network and diagnose every latency problem for half of the time I get to write music.

So, yet another Studio XPS offer came from Microcenter, I was again very much tempted. This time, I had a better bargaining chip. After a long dry spell in music, I really wanted to get back to it. In many sense it is a much better therapy to life’s problems than anything else. At the same time, buying a Studio XPS is of much less financial significance (and public ridicule) than buying a Ferrari (or worse, a Ford Mustang Convertible).

There was still one sticking point. XPS does not have a PCI slot. My MIDI interface is on ESI Wamirack and I did not want to get yet another interface. I already have two of them and if I could use it in the new machine that will be the perfect way. Last time I searched for an PCIe to PCI converter, all I could find was one from an obscure UK firm with a dubious looking website for close to $100. But, this time I found several of them. One of them was from Startech, who apparently manufactures and sells every niche cards for $60. I actually found that the lowest price for that card is actually at Dell. For $39. This was the final straw. I gave into my desire!!

Stories about setting it up, finding all the updates, upgrades etc. will follow.

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