Briefly Burning Bright

The latest big news for Mac users is the release of Tiger, the fourth incarnation of the OS X operating system. Reviews, on the whole, seem to have been good, with the inevitable caveats (Apple x.x.0 versions are always too buggy; ninety quid is a lot for what’s becoming an annual major upgrade routine). Attention is, quite justifiably, focused on the latest additions to the GUI, particularly Dashboard. Called up with a simple mouseclick or keystroke, Dashboard is a temporary, transparent layer, superimposed over the Desktop and containing a (customisable) selection of small utilities known as Widgets… anything from train timetables or dictionaries to live stock market statistics or the latest uploads to Flickr.

Well, being something of a hopeless OS X fan, I was bound to grab my copy of Tiger sooner or later. In the interests of responsible personal finance, though, I didn’t just go out and spazz the full £89 on the first day of release. No, I waited *eight days* and then bought it. HA! EVEN THE MIGHT OF THE APPLE CORPORATION IS POWERLESS AGAINST MY CUNNING AND DEVIOUS MIND.


Anyway, I got the thing installed, using the safe and sensible “archive and install” method rather than the more paranoid “erase and install” option. And all was good. It’s a beautiful OS, just like its predecessors… to be honest, there seems less of a general improvement than there has been with previous upgrades (particularly compared with the huge boost in speed from 10.1 to 10.2) but the new apps are the big difference this time. Dashboard looks great and will, I’m sure, become part of my instinctive Mac use in the future, as will Automator, while the RSS capability in Safari makes me realise I need to learn more about what I can do with RSS. Spotlight… well, that one seems a bit “er, whatever” to me, but then searching my hard drive isn’t something I do regularly. I just know where things are. As for the newly redesigned Mail… unlike (seemingly) a lot of people, I love the new design, but I’d definitely like to see some sort of progress display in the main window, without having to open the ugly Activity Window.

So, a triumph overall, but there’s one big problem.

Much of my Mac’s work involves music. I record all of my music on here, using Logic and Reason, and I spend a lot of time listening to music on iTunes, both upstairs in the “work room” and downstairs (via an AirPort Express). For maximum sound quality (rather than using the minijack output on the back of my G4) all of these programs run through Apple’s Core Audio system and out via my Digidesign Digi 001 interface/soundcard. And here’s the problem…

Digidesign’s Core Audio drivers haven’t supported the Digi 001 (itself EOL’ed a good year or so ago) since version 6.4 (they’re now up to 6.9) and even then, there’s a couple of features which don’t seem to work under OS X. Nonetheless, it works sufficiently for my purposes, offering 8-in/8-out PCI audio and MIDI in/out, compatible with Logic, Reason and iTunes. But… not with Tiger. None of the current Panther-compatible versions of the Digidesign driver work under Tiger, and according to the Digidesign tech support people, there won’t be anything Tiger-compatible for 8-10 weeks. Given the gradual erosion of official support, I seriously doubt whether there’ll be any way of getting the Digi 001 to work under Tiger *at all*. Damn. This leaves me in a sticky situation… do I stick with Panther (which is, after all, a superb OS… just not Tiger) for the foreseeable future, or do I spend money on a new recording interface? Gah!

This isn’t really a rant at Digidesign… the £700 I spent on the Digi 001 back in late 2000 was one of the smartest purchases I’ve ever made. I just wish there wasn’t such a gulf in compatibility between products, especially over a period of only five years.

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