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Whether L6 is headed in the direction of being able to host 3rd party plugins in a Helix-like device or not, someone is. Why? Because it is a great idea! I think being able to run plugins from a dedicated floorboard that allows third party plugins to be downloaded and therefor does not require being connected to a computer to run them is definitely coming. 

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Whether L6 is headed in the direction of being able to host 3rd party plugins in a Helix-like device or not, someone is. Why? Because it is a great idea! I think being able to run plugins from a dedicated floorboard that allows third party plugins to be downloaded and therefor does not require being connected to a computer to run them is definitely coming. 

 

It's nothing new—I pitched the idea to my Roland rep back in '98. Since then it's been tried dozens of times. The problem is that you end up with one of two products:

  • A box containing a Windows-based PC that runs a moderate variety of VST plugins, but requires a fan, burly power supply, and other PC hardware. Ends up bulkier and more expensive than a laptop so people say "Meh, I'll just use my laptop."
  • A compact but crippled UNIX box that requires a ton of weird tweaks to get a handful of select obscure-ish plugins to launch properly. Two years later all of the latest versions of the plugins won't work so you end up with a doorstop.

The most successful (only successful?) hardware VST player was Receptor (and by extension, Peavey's MuseBox). There was also the SM Pro Audio V-Pedal, but that ended up vaporware—and the company was purchased by Harmon.

 

But the real brick wall is testing and support. You can't expect every developer to guarantee their plugin works on multiple hardware VST platforms, nor can you expect hardware VST platforms to magically work with every plugin:

 

"Hi, Spectrasonics? I can't get Omnisphere to work on my Helix."

 

"Sorry, you'll have to call Line 6 for that."

 

"Hi, Line 6? I can't get Omnisphere to work on my Helix."

 

"Sorry, you'll have to call Spectrasonics for that."

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Input impedance, connections, etc.; would it be worth considering creating an interface device as a companion to Helix Native? The 'Helix Native I/O interface; input(s) with the same impedance selection analog circuitry that we're used to hearing with our Helix hardware, and perhaps some patch points that would correlate to loops?

I know this would require its own interaction software to get it talking to Helix Native - certainly raises the questions of where things like Loop Send/Return blocks will be pointing within Native...

I know I may be oversimplifying, and perhaps overlaps some with reinventing the wheel, but at minimum, it would be great to have the input impedance solution in a little box to plug into...

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It's nothing new—I pitched the idea to my Roland rep back in '98. Since then it's been tried dozens of times. The problem is that you end up with one of two products:

  • A box containing a Windows-based PC that runs a moderate variety of VST plugins, but requires a fan, burly power supply, and other PC hardware. Ends up bulkier and more expensive than a laptop so people say "Meh, I'll just use my laptop."
  • A compact but crippled UNIX box that requires a ton of weird tweaks to get a handful of select obscure-ish plugins to launch properly. Two years later all of the latest versions of the plugins won't work so you end up with a doorstop.
The most successful (only successful?) hardware VST player was Receptor (and by extension, Peavey's MuseBox). There was also the SM Pro Audio V-Pedal, but that ended up vaporware—and the company was purchased by Harmon.

 

But the real brick wall is testing and support. You can't expect every developer to guarantee their plugin works on multiple hardware VST platforms, nor can you expect hardware VST platforms to magically work with every plugin:

 

"Hi, Spectrasonics? I can't get Omnisphere to work on my Helix."

"Sorry, you'll have to call Line 6 for that."

"Hi, Line 6? I can't get Omnisphere to work on my Helix."

"Sorry, you'll have to call Spectrasonics for that."

Fascinating, thanks for the lowdown. You were waaaay ahead of the curve on this. I can see some of the inherent challenges you point out having been showstoppers, especially the cross-company support issues. Having worked on some fairly complex systems myself that spanned not only several intra-company departments but also multiple software and hardware vendors, I have been through too many emergency conference calls with various parties claiming it was the other guy's software/hardware causing the issue and batting it back and forth until someone (usually) tracked down the root cause. I have personally experienced the problem you are describing. I can also understand the limitations of a relatively static OS and application implementation if the plugin technology continues to outpace it. Being able to nimbly update a "Helix III's" OS/application might well be instrumental to its longevity. It would not hurt to see plugin extensions/hooks get standardized to the point where it was simpler for various devices to interface easily and reliably with them. Maybe not yet, but at some point someone will get this at least half right and if anyone can do it Line6 would not be a bad company to bet on. I hope you guys reintroduce the idea when the time is right. A Helix descendant that could also run at least some/many of the available stable plugins would be one nice piece o' gear to own. I think these two worlds - standalone floorboards and computer based DAWs, are headed towards each other at ramming speed even if they move at the lumbering pace of a large ship. Reassuring to know the idea has been out in the wild for a while now. That means it will be that much less time until fruition assuming that there is a resolution for the issues you have detailed.

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An idea could be to take a more "controlled" approach for this ala what Propellerhead did with Reason and introducing Rack Extensions. After years of everything being internalized with a "you get what you get with this program and that's it", all the while people clammering for VST support, they created the RE protocol. This opened things up for third party developers and ports of existing products but didn't sacrifice any of the program's rock solid stability.

 

An approach like this could be a good starting place/remedy and keep the overall system stable as well.

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An idea could be to take a more "controlled" approach for this ala what Propellerhead did with Reason and introducing Rack Extensions. After years of everything being internalized with a "you get what you get with this program and that's it", all the while people clammering for VST support, they created the RE protocol. This opened things up for third party developers and ports of existing products but didn't sacrifice any of the program's rock solid stability.

 

An approach like this could be a good starting place/remedy and keep the overall system stable as well.

 

Sure. Or Universal Audio's approach—Home baked and third-party plugins that are designed to run on your DSP platform. Waves does this as well with their SoundGrid system.

 

I think what some people really want is some road-worthy $300-500 box that'll magically load all their cracked plugins and run a dozen of them simultaneously with negligible latency, super-fast switching time, and hardware DSP-level stability. That will never happen.

 

What I might suggest is a Mac Mini running nothing but MainStage with your live setup set to autoload so you don't have to launch anything. Connect it to a Blackmagic Design or Marshall Electronics rackmount LCD and control the whole thing from a RJM Mastermind controller. Closest VST/AU solution to a Helix Rack/Control I can think of.

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IMO hosting VSTs is impractical, both because you'd have to provide a full OS emulation, and because there are eighty bazillion plugins in various states of disarray out there that you don't want to support.

 

Providing an SDK for third parties to build "native" Helix blocks seems to me like a much better plan. Developers would have to do the work to port their stuff, but running on Helix would be a huge benefit to them, and the fact that Line 6 was able to go the other way, porting Helix code to Mac and Windows, is a hopeful sign that the translation isn't prohibitively hard.

 

The work Line 6 would need to do for that would be to create a reasonably developer-friendly block loader, and provide documentation and developer support. They would NOT have to write a whole emulated environment that doesn't exist at all now.

 

I know that's stll a lot, and neither the Helix ecosystem or Line 6 are exactly dying without it, so I don't expect it'll happen. But I do think it would benefit users, third party developers, and Line 6.

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I think what some people really want is some road-worthy $300-500 box that'll magically load all their cracked plugins and run a dozen of them simultaneously with negligible latency, super-fast switching time, and hardware DSP-level stability. That will never happen.

 

Never say never. I remember (many years ago) when I was told Variax would never have alternate tunings, here, on this forum, from someone that worked for Line 6... Maybe he was on crack eh?  ;)

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Never say never. I remember (many years ago) when I was told Variax would never have alternate tunings, here, on this forum, from someone that worked for Line 6... Maybe he was on crack eh?  ;)

 

What year was this?

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IIRC give or take a year or 2, after the 1st variax was released. Maybe sooner. I remember at the time the Roland VG-99 was a hot item, and we wondered why if it could do alt tunings why couldn't the Variax do this too. That's when we were told here, the Variax would never do this. Iirc, the guys nic that told us this was Hugo, or something like that...

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IIRC give or take a year or 2, after the 1st variax was released. Maybe sooner. I remember at the time the Roland VG-99 was a hot item, and we wondered why if it could do alt tunings why couldn't the Variax do this too. That's when we were told here, the Variax would never do this. Iirc, the guys nic that told us this was Hugo, or something like that...

As soon as Workbench became available for the original Variax, alt tunings were available. As I recall, when it first came out, there was a cap over the VDI/Cat5 output with no talk of what it would do. Just that something was coming down the pike. So you couldn't do it yet but the capability was ALWAYS in there. Just waitin for Workbench to come out. I don't know who told you that but they was lyin' to you.

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I don't know who told you that but they was lyin' to you. 

 

 

 

Yes I realize that, but he did say that, here. We argued with him about this, and the abilities of digital not being able to do this especially since Roland was already doing it. And he was a representative for Line 6. Water under the bridge now of course, but the point is once again, never say never about anything cause as soon as you do...

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IIRC give or take a year or 2, after the 1st variax was released. Maybe sooner. I remember at the time the Roland VG-99 was a hot item, and we wondered why if it could do alt tunings why couldn't the Variax do this too. That's when we were told here, the Variax would never do this.

 

Well, if by "Variax" he meant Variaxes at the time, he's right—they didn't have enough DSP horsepower to ever do tunings. If by "Variax" he meant any possible technology related to Variax that could possibly come out any time in the future (JTV was announced in the fall of 2010), then I suppose, yeah.

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Well, if by "Variax" he meant Variaxes at the time, he's right—they didn't have enough DSP horsepower to ever do tunings. If by "Variax" he meant any possible technology related to Variax that could possibly come out any time in the future (JTV was announced in the fall of 2010), then I suppose, yeah.

 

 

I have had alternative tunings on a version 1 Variax, released wayyyy before the JTV was even announced DI, so no, he was just wrong (or couldnt tell us the truth because of NDA's or trade secrets) when he stated that the Variax would never have alt tunings, period. I have both models of Variax BTW, so I ballpark know the timeframes involved too. Almost a decade apart it seems like now. It's also normal for companies and their sales staff to deny the worth or usefulness of an attribute they don't currently have in their product, that another company in the same business does... Gotta keep up the competition no matter what. All this happened way before the JTV was ever on the drawing board. I remember what I remember he said, here, and if you think I'm making this all up that's ok too. I'm not and I don't work for Roland either.    :)

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The whole VST topic has prompted a question for me that I'm curious about. 

 

If there's a useful feature that could be added to Helix Native (say, VST hosting) that would break the compatibility with Helix, which wins? Put another way, is Native more aimed at being an add-on for Helix owners, or an attractive plugin for people who don't own Helix (a potentially much larger audience)? 

 

I can totally see why adding VST support to Helix would be a very significant effort (if even possible. Are there non-Intel VSTs?). Adding it to Helix Native would be much less effort, but would mean my Native patches that include VSTs wouldn't transfer over to the Helix. For a Helix owner, that's possibly a big deal. Would that be prioritised over potentially attracting new Helix Native users?

 

Cheers

Malcolm

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I would rather Native matched with my Helix rack unit in "every way" possible 1st and foremost, versus adding any VST or AU support that would make that matchup between the Helix and Helix Native software suffer. 

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Just wanted to point out that I would not be surprised if the Helix was running on some kind of Linux kernel. Liniux can run emulated Windows environments, heck the iOS is essentially a Linux OS now. It is not out of the question that the current or a future version of the Helix could run an emulated Windows or Mac environment that could theoretically host a proprietary or third party DAW to run VST or AU plugins. Might not be possible with the current hardware but it certainly could be done if the Helix was designed from the ground up with the goal of being able to run these plugins. I guess the proof is in the pudding and the future will tell the tale.

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Possible HO, but by the time that's in place Helix may be sitting on the shelf next to my Vetta2.

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Just wanted to point out that I would not be surprised if the Helix was running on some kind of Linux kernel. Liniux can run emulated Windows environments, heck the iOS is essentially a Linux OS now. It is not out of the question that the current or a future version of the Helix could run an emulated Windows or Mac environment that could theoretically host a proprietary or third party DAW to run VST or AU plugins. Might not be possible with the current hardware but it certainly could be done if the Helix was designed from the ground up with the goal of being able to run these plugins. I guess the proof is in the pudding and the future will tell the tale.

 

 

iOS and MacOS aren't based on Linux. They both use microkernels based on Mach instead of the monolithic Linux kernel. iOS takes it a step further and removes unnecessary backwards compatibility to simplify the OS and avoid security problems.

 

iOS is currently targeted to run on Arm processors that are not at all binary compatible with Intel's, and the Helix uses an Analog devices SHARC series DSP for its grunt work, which is even further away from being compatible with existing VST/AU plugins.

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iOS and MacOS aren't based on Linux. They both use microkernels based on Mach instead of the monolithic Linux kernel. iOS takes it a step further and removes unnecessary backwards compatibility to simplify the OS and avoid security problems.

 

iOS is currently targeted to run on Arm processors that are not at all binary compatible with Intel's, and the Helix uses an Analog devices SHARC series DSP for its grunt work, which is even further away from being compatible with existing VST/AU plugins.

I stand corrected, you mention "Mach" which is correct but you omitted that OS X, although not based on Linux, is based on BSD UNIX (I got my UNIX flavors wrong). I actually misspoke and meant to say OS X rather than iOS although iOS is based on OS X (feeble attempt to save face). So much for whipping off a quick post given the level of expertise and exactitude required on this forum. ;)

 

My point is that despite the flavor of UNIX - BSD, Linux, or whatever, if the OS of the Helix is a Unix variant/descendant, then some level of Windows emulation may be possible. A Windows compatibility layer like "Wine" which runs on several Unix variants including BSD, OS X, or Linux could perhaps allow it or at least a future Helix version to run Windows applications like a DAW. The lack of technical accuracy on my last post notwhithstanding, I think the main point is that devices like the Fractal or the Helix which likely runs some variation of a Linux kernel/OS (DI feel free to chime in although this may be proprietary info), if not this generation then certainly in the next couple should be more than able to run at least a small subset of Windows applications like a limited DAW that could run plugins. Even if the Helix OS does not use a Linux type kernel/OS (which would surprise me) that does not mean a Windows compatibility layer could not be written for it, at least in a future version.

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Possible HO, but by the time that's in place Helix may be sitting on the shelf next to my Vetta2.

 

No doubt, but I believe at some point we get something that is standalone and inherently as powerful and full featured as the Helix and also allows third party plugins to run. As perhaps a stepping stone I also like Zooey's idea of an SDK (and firmware and perhaps hardware changes) that allows third party developers to write plugins specifically designed for the Helix or a Helix II. Let's hope I live that long. I suspect that it won't be that far in the future though.  :)

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It really couldn't be easier to run VST's with Helix. Using a DAW or Mainstage or even standalones and a simple USB cable creates a super flexible unimagenebly poweferful and completely unnecessary tool of sonic doom placeable anyqhere in your signal chain

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I think the main point is that devices like the Fractal or the Helix which likely runs some variation of a Linux kernel/OS ...

Totally understand this is not your main point, but I'd tend to doubt it would be based on Linux due to the viral nature of the "open" source GPL license which essentially requires all changes and updates to be made freely available. Doesn't mean companies don't do it, but if so they do open themselves up to be sued to release their source. It has happened in the past. The BSD variants don't have this viral nature and are often used in devices you'd never expect, like cameras and many other sophisticated embedded electronics.

 

And since we're all guessing at this point, I would tend to think they are more likely using a proprietary commercially licensed RTOS or one developed in-house. Just guessing, though. Could be totally wrong, but I can't help but think about Line 6 developers and their knee slapping belly laughs at our guesses. :)

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So much for whipping off a quick post given the level of expertise and exactitude required on this forum.

 

Aww you didn't have to make me blush...  :P

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...

 

And since we're all guessing at this point, I would tend to think they are more likely using a proprietary commercially licensed RTOS or one developed in-house. Just guessing, though. Could be totally wrong, but I can't help but think about Line 6 developers and their knee slapping belly laughs at our guesses. :)

 

LOL, I couldn't agree more. I am half cringing while writing these posts as I feel like I am completely fumbling around in the dark. You are so right, we really don't know what they are using. I am partially hopeful that my probably at least 50% wildly inaccurate suppositions will inspire DI to set the record straight as he did recently. Again though, I can't help but feel like plugins are coming to standalone equipment at some point as I watch the new devices that have been coming to market. Perhaps those that assert that it is simply not worth the effort and headaches to allow plugins to run on standalone equipment are correct and that using a cable between a standalone and a computer is the way to go, or perhaps having a proprietary SDK that allows custom plugins, but it just seems like someone is going to break that paradigm somewhere in the foreseeable future.   :)

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 The problem is trying to exist on top of an OS that doesn't seem to care about getting things wrong from time to time.

 

Protools was a great stepping stone for digital editing but clearly someone needs to make a purpose built system that isn't laying on top of something else.

 

Windows, mac and linux suck.  Honestly, they're very bad and come from a culture of corruption with built in issues to drive revenue for its support.

 

We liked the DAW's of yesteryear they just were also a lollipop to support because of becoming obsolete.

 

If we could find a middle ground between the 2 we would be set.  

 

As far as DSP accelerators there are several on the market - basically a gizmo that runs plugins.

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The problem is trying to exist on top of an OS that doesn't seem to care about getting things wrong from time to time.

 

Protools was a great stepping stone for digital editing but clearly someone needs to make a purpose built system that isn't laying on top of something else.

 

Windows, mac and linux suck.  Honestly, they're very bad and come from a culture of corruption with built in issues to drive revenue for its support.

 

We liked the DAW's of yesteryear they just were also a lollipop to support because of becoming obsolete.

 

If we could find a middle ground between the 2 we would be set.  

 

As far as DSP accelerators there are several on the market - basically a gizmo that runs plugins.

Pro Tools is still the industry standard.

 

Windows, Mac and Linux "suck"? Why? A lot of people are successfully making great music with them. I use MacOS and I haven't had any real impediments to my creativity with that and Logic Pro X in a very long time.

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Pro Tools is still the industry standard.

 

Windows, Mac and Linux "suck"? Why? A lot of people are successfully making great music with them. I use MacOS and I haven't had any real impediments to my creativity with that and Logic Pro X in a very long time.

 

 

Yes, the standard sucks.  

 

We are greatly impeded by protools if inspiration strikes - chances are in booting protools there will be problems getting it going.  I'm talkin 90% of the time.

 

Yes, all the operating systems suck.  There is not one single day that has gone by where everything worked as expected.

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Yes, the standard sucks.  

 

We are greatly impeded by protools if inspiration strikes - chances are in booting protools there will be problems getting it going.  I'm talkin 90% of the time.

 

Yes, all the operating systems suck.  There is not one single day that has gone by where everything worked as expected.

Nonsense. 

I've been using a Win10 laptop for recording and live work (backing/click tracks, IEM mixing via Presonus VSL 1818) and I've only had it NOT behave as expected one time, and it was entirely my fault for accidentally enabling the WiFi at a gig, so I got a pop-up about Windows Updates. Disabled the wifi, dismissed the notification, and back to normal operating. Pro-tools sucks on anything but purpose-built systems in my experience, but if you're having constant problems with OSX or Windows, its undoubtedly user error.

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Nonsense. 

I've been using a Win10 laptop for recording and live work (backing/click tracks, IEM mixing via Presonus VSL 1818) and I've only had it NOT behave as expected one time, and it was entirely my fault for accidentally enabling the WiFi at a gig, so I got a pop-up about Windows Updates. Disabled the wifi, dismissed the notification, and back to normal operating. Pro-tools sucks on anything but purpose-built systems in my experience, but if you're having constant problems with OSX or Windows, its undoubtedly user error.

 

 

yes, under MacOS (again, I'm running Logic Pro X and not Pro Tools) I think that I have not had my system crash while recording in 4 or 5 years... YEARS...

 

And Windows 10 (although I still dislike it) is a great environment to work in.

 

but @kelco, if you want to write a kick-butt OS from scratch that's better and a fantastic DAW to run with it, we're willing to look at it... but we probably still won't switch.

 

Yes, all the operating systems suck.  There is not one single day that has gone by where everything worked as expected.

 

Wow. You know that except for hardware failures (I had a bad DRAM) I don't think I've had my MacBook Pro freeze or crash since 2013 or before. Maybe it's your system...?

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Nonsense. 

I've been using a Win10 laptop for recording and live work (backing/click tracks, IEM mixing via Presonus VSL 1818) and I've only had it NOT behave as expected one time, and it was entirely my fault for accidentally enabling the WiFi at a gig, so I got a pop-up about Windows Updates. Disabled the wifi, dismissed the notification, and back to normal operating. Pro-tools sucks on anything but purpose-built systems in my experience, but if you're having constant problems with OSX or Windows, its undoubtedly user error.

 

I have 4 years of invoices at multiple business that say that part of this is a flat out lie.  You're probably a computer salesman.  LOL

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yes, under MacOS (again, I'm running Logic Pro X and not Pro Tools) I think that I have not had my system crash while recording in 4 or 5 years... YEARS...

 

And Windows 10 (although I still dislike it) is a great environment to work in.

 

but @kelco, if you want to write a kick-butt OS from scratch that's better and a fantastic DAW to run with it, we're willing to look at it... but we probably still won't switch.

 

 

Wow. You know that except for hardware failures (I had a bad DRAM) I don't think I've had my MacBook Pro freeze or crash since 2013 or before. Maybe it's your system...?

I administrate over 20 machines over several locations.  

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I administrate over 20 machines over several locations.  

 

 

Wow, I wonder what is happening there, because the 6 or 7 Macs I've been around at home and work (only 4 that were completely under my control) have given no users any fits to speak of. I think that the Data that is out there might be different from your particular anecdote, to be honest.

 

Is administrating those computers your job? If so, I'm glad they keep you busy... and employed...  :P

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Wow, I wonder what is happening there, because the 6 or 7 Macs I've been around at home and work (only 4 that were completely under my control) have given no users any fits to speak of. I think that the Data that is out there might be different from your particular anecdote, to be honest. (EDIT: I meant to say 6 or 7 in the past 4 years. If you go back 30 (yeah... 30...) years I've been around Macs, the story is not always smooth, but surely since about Mac OS X launched it's been pretty great.)

 

Is administrating those computers your job? If so, I'm glad they keep you busy... and employed...  :P

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MacOS has been the worst update in years. Something with Yosimite was never corrected and it's been sliding downhill ever since.

 

As far as windows 10 is concerned, nothing new to report.  Same horrible customer service, same derivative lazy copy of macos and unfixed bugs everywhere.

 

Linux - well is linux and simply doesn't have an install base to further REAL development for consumer grade products like something that could run an audio editor or plug-in dsp accelerator.

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Wow, I guess my experience is different from yours. Sierra is the best MacOS update since Mavericks. Has not frozen or crashed on my a single time. I do, however, agree that Yosemite was not all there, and that El Capitan wasn't worth not waiting for Sierra?

What is actually not working for you in MacOS?

Or are you just in a bitter frame of mind about all this because it's near the end of a rough day? (not being a lollipop... I just know how Thursday afternoons can be!)

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I've been running logic since Logic 9 on a late 2009 iMac and not had a problem or error i've not caused myself.

I also run Cubase 9 and I did run Pro Tools 12.5x for a bit too, all legal copies mind you, with no issues.

 

 

Im running Sierra now, but didn't update until I was sure all my software would work in it. No issues as of yet.

 

I also built over 12-15 PCs over the years,  (and ran them as Daws and gaming machines- never mixed)  and I've found out that if I set up

the PC for what it's being used for, then run the proper utilities as needed and then stay off the sites that push crap onto the OS I'm usually just fine.

 

I do hate the registry in Windows with a passion, but that's just me...  :P

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All I'm saying is if someone like sony partnered with Avid to make a "console" like system that was dedicated to protools the experience would only get better.

 

I'm saying it is time to raise the bar.

 

Every studio I've ever been to has had multiple crashes on OSX while I was there.

 

It's not just me and I don't know why the narrative here is so aggressive with making it that way.

 

I thought I'd merely address the elephant in the room.  These dog-turd operating systems.

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Ahhhh now I see. A "console" user.... ahhahahahahaha...

 

 

Kinda like what the helix is.

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