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MIDI on Windows 8 (Acer W500)

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Basically, MIDI input works. But there are several Windows installation related problems (not MIDI related though). If MIDI worked before (in Windows 7), I think it should be fine after an upgrade.

Despite all that hype about the iPad and Android, I never really jumped in since that meant leaving a lot of things behind. I should admit, more than 60% of my work, or my life for that matter, is done through a Microsoft Windows machine. Being an occassional Windows programmer, there’s just so much to miss from a classic good old fashioned all purpose operating system. iOS and Android are rather specialized to phones and tablets. And doubts start to arise when USB peripheral devices come to mind. I also dislike how the iPad or Kindle devices prevent expansion through the lack of SD card slots or USB ports, which also shortens the lifetime of the built in solid state storage device.

Windows 8 on the other hand, is meant to be a successor of the Windows series. Hence, it is designed for a broad range of computing devices. Though I suspect that they might trim features here and there depending on what kind of device it is being installed on. MIDI input worked on my tablet back when it was running Windows 7 Pro. Now, I need to find out if that would be the case on Windows 8.

Although there have been reports of earlier releases of Windows 8 not supporting MIDI devices, this seems to work smoothly on my W500 that had been upgraded to a recent official release (for roughly 20 USD). My USB MIDI keyboard (Korg microKey) is recognized by Synthesia (which is the MIDI application most likely to be used with the device). As can be seen in the screenshot below my Korg microKey is recognized and used (A3 note is pressed). The Microsoft GS Synth is still also present.

Synthesia on Windows 8 with MIDI input

Synthesia on Windows 8 with MIDI input (also my first Windows 8 screenshot). USB MIDI input device recognized and used. Microsoft GS Synth still exists.

It’s not completely Metro (thankfully)

Windows 8 introduced the Metro GUI which is best used for touch screen devices. But it did not remove traditional “windows” applications (those boxy things with borders and buttons on the top right corner that we easily take for granted).  There is now a distinction between “Desktop” and “Screen” apps. Desktop apps are the ones we are most familiar with from previous versions of Windows while Screen apps are designed for a more recent touch interface (big buttons and fonts, support for gestures, simplified UIs, etc). If you successfully install and run a non touchscreen good old fashioned app, a familiar looking desktop and taskbar will appear behind the window of that app (the start menu is gone though, but there are alternatives). That also hints that there is a good possibility that your previous DAW/MIDI programs will still run. It’s supposed to be the next Windows after all. In fact, Sekaiju which is made with an old version of Microsoft Visual C++ (Win 9x era) works on Windows 8 (after going through some paranoid security questions).

Sekaiju on Windows 8

Sekaiju on Windows 8 “desktop mode” with some recorded notes. The Korg microKey MIDI controller is also seen in the device manager.

Windows 8 installation annoyances

Something always goes wrong. Especially when trying new things.

1. My SD Card was formatted!

Both the local drive and the removable SD card in my device are 32 GB. At first I was having trouble that the installation does not want to use the disk I’ve selected and formatted. As it turns out the solution was to remove the removable SD card from the tablet. And as it further turns out, it appears that installation was selecting and formatting my SD card!!! Farewll backups. Although I had backed up the primary drive with Macrium Reflect, files that were only in the SD card will have to be restored with special means (Photorec seems to be helpful. EaseUs Data Recovery may do a better job, preserving file names and folders but it is much more expensive than Windows 8!). Moral lesson, remove SD card or any other unnecessary media before installing Windows 8.

2. Product key won’t work if you clean installed over a previous Windows.

Formatting before installing a fresh OS had always been the preferred way as “upgrading” always had issues. The problem when activating, a clean install is not seen as an upgrade, and hence the upgrade product key is thought to be invalid. “Fortunately”, many had the same problem and someone came up with a work around. Quoting from a brilliant, wonderful human being named BinaryInk as I found in the answers.microsoft.com forum

“The work around for this, while probably not officially supported for obvious reasons (they want more money), is to change a registry key. This was posted for Windows 7 update keys doing the same thing on a forum (though I had an update version AND did a clean install MULTIPLE times without having to do this) but worked without an issue on my laptop running Windows 8 regardless.

1. Run the registry editor (regedit)
2. Find the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE
3. Change the value for ‘MediaBootInstall’ from 1 to 0
4. Open an elevated command prompt (run as admin)
5. Run the following command: slmgr -rearm
6. Reboot

If you already entered your key, check the activation: for me it was already activated and I needed to do nothing more. If not, type in activate windows and type in the key; it should work. Also, do yourself a favor and export this key from regedit and save it somewhere if you ever are required to do another clean install. I know I did.”

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Categories: Music making Tags: , , , ,

Sorting music files by date in Windows 7

September 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Windows 7 comes with many features enhanced for multimedia. One of these is that in Explorer, when a folder contains audio files, such as MP3, the columns in list view are optimized for sorting multimedia content. Specifically you will see the following columns:

  • Name
  • Contributing Artist
  • Album
  • # (track number)
  • Title

In varying order. Categories, typical to lists in media players. Cool for people listening to music. But potentially annoying for music creators!

Since I produce music files in the same manner that I produce Word documents, I want to sort them in a way that makes my work easy. In particular, I simply want to sort my media files by date to easily know which one is the newest and probably the best version of a track I’m working with. Of course, you can always add the “Date modified” column by a few right clicks here and there. But doing this in each project folder I’m working in simply makes you hate this “upgraded” features, knowing that it used to be simpler.

Solution

Fortunately, there is a way to revert to the generic sorting columns. Assuming all your music folders are within a generic music folder, you can do the following.

In the generic music folder (“D:\Music” in this example), within Explorer, right click in a blank space to show Explorer’s popup menu and select “Customize this folder…”

Customize This Folder (Windows Explorer)

Customizing folders in Windows explorer to change the sorting categories.

In the window that will appear, look for the “Customize” tab. Under the “What kind of folder do you want?”,  “Optimize this folder for”:, change the dropdown selection from “Music” to “General Items”. Check “Also apply this template to all subfolders” so that every folder within your music collection will now show the following “traditional” columns we all grew up with:

  • Name
  • Date Modified
  • Type
  • Size
General Items and Apply To All Subfolders

Select “General Items” and check “Apply to all subfolders” to remove the special treatment in your multimedia files.

If you have planned ahead before creating your folders, it would be a good idea to separate your audio files for listening (e.g. downloaded audio), and audio files that you create. This way, you can apply different folder settings and still benefit from Windows’s enhancements.

Categories: Music making Tags: ,