Thursday, December 28, 2006

Vista, standard users and you

That's right music lovers, Vista is just around the corner. While we're not expecting everyone to immediately take the plunge with Microsoft's new operating system when it is released January 30th, Project5 will be ready.

For those making the transition, if you've been happy running DAW/Synth workstation on Windows XP, a word you might hope to describe the transition may be "seamless." And while Vista has many visual enhancements that will be immediately obvious (particularly the "Aero" look, if you have graphics hardware to run it) the major change is in the safer user access model that Microsoft will now enforce... and this is something that will (hopefully) be invisible to most users.

"The Edge of No Control"

Most XP DAW users, and all XP Home users are running as administrators, which means that when they log in they have the highest level of control that Windows will afford to the person sitting at the keyboard. They can write into any folder, they can delete any folder that doesn't have open files, and they can change their settings at will. The problem of course is that any rogue software that can run with your level of access can do the same things. That's when total control becomes no control. Anyone will agree, life is too short to fighting virii and spyware on your computer.

"Please help us, Microsoft!"

The challenge for Microsoft in developing Vista was to live up to its goal of providing a seamless multiuser system. And what they needed to do to live up to that goal was to make sure standard user functions are done by standard users. Standard users (non-adminstrators) don't need to do things like reconfigure their system settings at any time when they are logged in, or install programs, or write files in protected areas like the Program Files folder or the Windows folder.

Well, in reality, us power users do need to do that sometimes, and you will still probably log in as an administrator to save yourself the trouble of logging in as someone else when you want to make a change. What Vista won't tell you (you stubborn power user,) is that you are not logging in an adminstrator, ever! By default all users are standard users. If you log in as an administrator and you want to make a change in a protected area of the file system, Vista will say "wait just a minute!" and prompt you to accept whatever potentially disasterous change you are trying to make. NOW when you click that OK button, you are asserting your right to make this change as the administrator.

"Was that a yawn?"

Hmm, it *is* getting late isn't it? As I wrote up top, all this shouldn't mean much to all of use who are currently running XP (hopefully with Project5!) We've always tried to make it easy to maintain the configuration of your Cakewalk DAW, which might mean you want to directly open a configuration file to make a change using notepad, or to just chuck the INI file and start again with default settings. Since we are trying to make it easy to find the configuration files, an obvious place to put it is in the same folder where Project5.exe lives... but this isn't going to fly in the new Vista user access model. Don't fret because we'll just put them in a user folder for easy access.

With this change we'll get what some Cakewalk customers have been asking for for a while... each user on a computer will have their own independently configurable options.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Project5 On The Surface

Bob Damiano, Director of Engineering / Borrowed Project5 Developer

One of the coolest features available in SONAR 6 is Active Controller Technology (ACT). For the uninitiated, ACT is a technology that lets your MIDI Controller/ Surface follow your context as you navigate around the application. Click a synth, you've got a synth controller. Click a Reverb, you've got 'verb knobs. Click on the track strips and switch back to old-school Control Surface parameters.

Well since I was one of the main people responsible for ACT in SONAR 6, the Project5 folks asked me if it would be possible to add ACT to this new release. "Sure!" I said without really thinking. After all, I really missed working on P5. Even though I have been away from P5 for several development cycles, I was actually the first person to work on the original Project5 version 1.0.

At first the P5 Product Management team didn't realize this but ACT is really a thin layer built on top of SONAR's Control Surface Framework. Yes - the same framework that gives you Mackie[tm] and Tranzport[tm] control, is the basis for ACT. So the good news for Project5 folks is "you can't get one without the other". To add ACT to Project5 really means adding full Control Surface Support!

The Leg Bone's Connected to the...

So just what would be involved in moving all this Control Surface code over to P5? After all, Surfaces were never intended to be used outside of the SONAR family of products. In fact, any adventurous folks who would download our Surface SDK at, would notice that all of the interface and parameter names have the word "SONAR" in them. The original creators of this framework really thought of it as a SONAR-centric thing.

It turned out to be relatively painless to lift the code and bring it over to P5. In fact, in many cases (because of P5's cleaner code architecture), the implementation of surface functions required much less code in P5. Nothing gives a developer more happy feelings than that. Not even coffee. And the best thing is... it works!

What is a "strip" anyway?

When it comes down to it, in terms of control, P5 is similar enough to SONAR that it makes sense to integrate the surface framework. P5 has native parameters (like Volume, Pan, etc), and it has plug-ins. One of the fundamental questions to deal with in P5 is "what is a strip?". In SONAR, a Track, a Bus... whatever - they're strips. In Project5 there is one slightly strange animal: the multi-out Synth Track. What is that? A strip? Many strips? We decided to go with the latter. So when using surfaces on P5, multi-out synth tracks are exposes as 1 output per strip. The strip name is exposed to the surface as the track name with the output number in parenthesis for example "Dimension Pro (Out 3)".

2nd ACT

Since the original release of ACT in SONAR 6, numerous improvements and bug fixes have gone into both the framework, and the various ACT-capable Surface Plugins. Happily Project5 is coming along at just the right time to pick up all these improvements. In addition, we know that several 3rd Party Controller Manufacturers are either creating ACT-capable surface plugins, or adding ACT support to existing plugins for their hardware. ACT is being well accepted and integrated across the industry.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Project5 2.5 Beta

We are currently looking for past, present and non-Project5 users to participate in beta testing the upcoming 2.5 release.

Participating in the beta is the best way to not only get the inside scoop on upcoming features, but to put these features to use in real-world scenarios and engage in (an even more) direct dialog with the product team.

Slots *are* limited, however neither the speed with which you submit your application nor previous experience with the Cakewalk beta will be a factor in acceptance so please take the time to complete the application thoroughly and submit it through the proper channels.

To download the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and beta tester application, please visit

- Jesse

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Next Phase...

So! Apologies for the bout of silence - we've been spending the last week doing boring stuff like fixing bugs so don't feel that you've missed too much. The latest features that we've been reviewing are ones that have already been mentioned (input quantize, multi i/o support, MIDI out, integrated automation, etc) and its definitely cool to experience them in person after all this time. I won't re-hash the specifics of these features here but we'll be following up on some of the previous comments and forum posts with more detail...

What this means, however, is that we're entering into a new phase of work on the program in which we'll be adding plenty of new features that we haven't announced. You may be able to guess at what some of these are, but I'm confident that there will still be a few surprises. By all means though, knock yourself out guessing!

During this next phase of development, there will be a lot of opportunity to read about and respond to the planned updates so stay tuned.


SONAR-Project5 Integration

We get a lot of requests to have the integration between SONAR and Project5 be tighter. We thought it might be good to address this issue and let you know where the Project5 team stands on this issue. First, we obviously all love SONAR, and think it is great. We understand how a lot of people would want to start a project in Project5 and then move on to SONAR for more massive editing and mixing tasks. However there are also a lot of people who are using Project5 exclusively and our plan is put all our resources into making Project5 the best piece of software it can be.

We want Project5 to integrate (play well) with other applications in general. We do not want to treat Project5 as an add-on to SONAR, but instead its own individual application. So the idea is that we want Project5 to work well with other applications, not just SONAR specifically. We are looking to add features that are more universal, in the sense that they make Project5 a better program. So for example, features like Project5 as a VSTi or MIDI export…those would benefit SONAR customers but would not be exclusive to them. Those are the kind of features we would be likely to add as opposed to some proprietary feature that only works between SONAR and Project5.

So in summary, we love SONAR, and we have a dedicated team that showers it with attention every day. Now it is time to show Project5 the love it deserves.