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Peter Kirn

Member since: Jun 7th, 2005

Peter Kirn's Latest Comments

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Blog# of Comments
Joystiq4 Comments
TUAW.com40 Comments
Engadget21 Comments
Download Squad14 Comments

Recent Comments:

English version of DS recipe application coming to America in November (Joystiq)

Jul 15th 2008 1:19PM I hope they leave some of the Japanese recipes in. That'll be more fun. (Come on, doesn't this have niche appeal anyway?)

Create Digital Music on early iPhone music apps (TUAW.com)

Jul 12th 2008 8:57PM @ericdano: Uh, thanks, mate, obviously saying anything critical makes me a "git." Unfortunately, most of the things I write about music software tend not to be platform specific, because so much of the development is cross platform. The essence of sound programming tends to be at the DSP level, so not particularly platform-specific, either. That means that, usually by the time we're talking about a platform, it's because there's some shortcoming.

But the other comments here are absolutely right -- we have every indication that better things will be coming. I just had to say something, because I *will* get excited when those apps arrive, and it simply hasn't happened yet. And there are platforms that the mainstream tech world just hasn't heard anything about that remain of interest to musicians (like the hacked homebrew gaming scene).

The conventional wisdom that the iPhone/iPod Touch would sweep away all other platforms just doesn't apply in the strange, strange world of music development. How else to explain that the most popular platform for homebrew mobile music apps is the Nintendo DS? They're basically all free, running on a platform that isn't built for the job, isn't very powerful, and is actually quite difficult to develop for -- and then has to be hacked with specialized hardware just to run apps. If nothing else, part of what *that* demonstrates is that the advanced music programmers will find a way around whatever obstacles they encounter.

I have every confidence that the situation will improve on the iPhone / iPod Touch. It may take some time, because developing music apps is considerably harder than some of the development scenarios Apple has described. The music crowd will be watching ... and they'll find something useful to do with the Windows Mobile and Palm PDAs everyone else is discarding. (That has advantages, too -- if you're using it for music, your battery life is then dedicated to that while your phone is, well, a phone / music player / PDA / app platform / everything else.)

Tevanian: Does Microsoft have the guts to slim down Windows? (TUAW.com)

Jun 29th 2008 6:27PM Also, the fundamental rewriting of Apple history to me I find really annoying. This whole thing blew up a few weeks ago with the same issue.

Apple didn't start from scratch. They ported NeXT to the Mac hardware and ported Apple's own APIs. In fact, NeXTStep is older than the Windows NT roots of Windows, so age has nothing to do with it. And the fact that what they did was really at the API level demonstrates my point -- this is really about the high-level parts of the operating system, not replacing the kernel. The only really dated kernel in this whole picture is the one that was at the heart of Mac OS 9 and earlier. But I don't think a kernel transplant is going to be necessary for Windows any more than it will Mac or Linux.

Tevanian: Does Microsoft have the guts to slim down Windows? (TUAW.com)

Jun 29th 2008 6:24PM I'm a huge fan of Mac OS X -- and likewise, I think it does ZERO service to the operating system when Apple shoots off their mouth at random or articles like this get their facts wrong.

"Slimming down" Windows has nothing to do with the kernel. It has to do with the number of services Windows runs that aren't essential to your work (like the bloated and often unstable Media Center crap).

In fact, microkernels by definition are *larger* than traditional kernels, despite their name. Ironically, only a few years ago Apple was under fire for using a microkernel because of assumptions that it would cause performance problems. We now know that isn't the case. Thing is, real-world performance is another matter. People were just fear-mongering then with OS X and they're fear-mongering now with Windows.

There's no reason to join in just because you're a Mac avocate -- especially with so many real, factual arguments to have instead.

Part of what caused all of this is that Microsoft let slip that they did have a slimmed down mini Windows kernel. The question is whether that would be useful to Windows users. I suspect the answer is, it wouldn't, particularly if Win32 continues to give the kind of performance that it does now.

Is Windows more unstable and difficult to use than Mac OS X? In some cases, yes. But look to dated APIs, driver systems, and (very often) poor third-party software, not the kernel, for an explanation of that. Likewise, a lot of what makes Mac OS X desirable -- Core Audio, Core Image, Quartz, the UI, Finder, plug-and-play hardware support, etc., etc. -- has nothing to do with the XNU kernel in Mac OS X.

For comparison, try booting Mac OS X into a plain BSD command line or something. (Hell, even if you do that, you're hardly down to the kernel level.)

Tevanian is a big microkernel advocate, so it makes sense that he'd make some outlandish comment here. Of course, the NYT could have gone and talked to someone other than analysts, who have gone from bashing Apple to bashing Microsoft but with an equal lack of facts.

OpenOffice.org keeps getting slower with each new release (Download Squad)

May 30th 2008 1:31PM Uh, come on. Read the damned article.

"In conclusion, OpenOffice.org is generally getting slower with each release. However, startup performance has made great improvements, the performance losses are relatively small, advances in new computer hardware are more than making up the loses, and OpenOffice.org continues to mature with new features. OpenOffice.org doesn't compel users to upgrade, so you are welcome to continue using older versions."

In fact, startup time has improved. And if you look, it's actually quite snappy. This also doesn't compare with Microsoft Office, which can get *dramatically* slower on some operations -- look at Outlook 2007, for instance. And these are still isolated benchmarks, which should be taken with a grain of salt.

I find OpenOffice plenty snappy. And while I use plenty of proprietary software for certain tasks, for writing and complex documents I'm relieved to have a community behind my office suite rather than having Microsoft alone set priorities from a monopoly.

More Audio Driver Drama: Blame Apple, Says Peter Kirn (TUAW.com)

May 27th 2008 2:59PM I do know developers are in touch with Apple regarding this issue. I don't know what the official response is from Apple, because Apple generally doesn't comment on these kind of issues publicly.

But yes, if Apple has in fact caused this problem with a change to the kernel, there's not a heck of a lot a developer can do about it other than wait. In fact, I think part of the reason some developers on both Windows and Mac OS aren't faster with supporting new OSes is they've been so consistently burned on reliability of new releases. I don't endorse that practice, but you can see how a feedback loop gets going. Anyway, what do you do if there are kernel performance bugs?

And as for seeding developer releases, I'm not convinced Apple's timetable for seeding is providing anywhere close to the amount of time to ensure quality from their third-party developers. Again, that information isn't public. But I think you could at least safely say that there's room for improvement -- if there weren't, we wouldn't be having any problems at all. Maybe we can't get a perfect record, but maybe we could be doing better.

For the record, 10.4 had audio issues when first released with driver compatibility, etc., so I don't want to imply this is a new problem. For the music market, it's a given that people will have to wait to upgrade -- but that means developers are even less motivated to solve problems when the OS ships, and it creates similarly lowered expectations for Apple. I don't think there's an easy fix for that, but as a musician, it's nothing if not disappointing.

More Audio Driver Drama: Blame Apple, Says Peter Kirn (TUAW.com)

May 27th 2008 1:43PM Yowsa. Okay, before Apple throws produce at me or a mob with torches shows up, I should clarify: I was responding to people who saw their audio interfaces stop working with a specific OS update, yet *still* managed to blame the folks who made their audio box rather than Apple. These things can happen in OS updates. It's not the end of the world -- though I do wish it happened, generally, less often. (I expect the teams working on developing the OS don't disagree!)

I was also confused when people reacted angrily to my even raising the problem of these bugs, just because they weren't *personally* experiencing the issue. If 5-10% of people (hypothetically) experience an issue with one OS version, and 0% have issues with, say, a previous version, then the previous version remains preferable for critical audio work until the issue gets fixed. :)

Also, it's been a series of difficult transitions for this whole market. First, we had the Intel switch -- good for audio (boy, do we love our MacBooks and MacBook Pros over the PowerBook when it comes to performance), but requiring a costly transition. Then came Vista and Leopard, which, by contrast, didn't really provide any significant advantage for the music market specifically (that wasn't their focus), but did require more costly upgrades and support for the device vendors -- and left users angry (understandably) when their new boxes didn't work the way they expected. So there's no question that the music market in general would like to move forward and get stuff working better than it has been on Windows and Mac alike over the last 12 months.

10.5.2 causing mega-problems for musicians? (TUAW.com)

May 21st 2008 4:29PM For the record, it's not "just a Digidesign thing." Some of the issues appear to be vendor-independent. That doesn't necessarily mean they're universal (that is, not everyone's having a problem -- though that's often the way with bugs). One variable also appears to be hardware... so certain MacBook/MacBook Pros have issues, possibly dependent on their chipset.

Vendors that have publicly issued warnings to their users already include Digi, M-Audio, Serato, Native Instruments. We're also seeing reports beyond those vendors.

Also interesting in this story: Digidesign/M-Audio have committed to dedicating more resources to development, and they do publicly apologize. So this is far from making excuses -- particularly when we're hearing from users problems that *don't* involve their gear, and generally widespread complaints about 10.5.2.

Obviously, it is developers' obligation to "get their act together", but it's easier for them to meet that obligation if Apple makes the OS more stable and functional. In fact, it's pretty impossible to do quality assurance on your drivers *before* the OS is able to universally, adequately handle audio performance.

It's not a Mac vs. Windows thing, either, because Vista lagged in a similar way... and unfortunately, a lot of times what happens is bugs will impact reliable audio performance first, because anything that starves the CPU -- even for a tiny fraction of a second -- can cause an audio hiccup, and we need absolutely reliable performance to make music possible.

openSUSE 11.0 Beta 1 released (Download Squad)

Apr 21st 2008 6:46PM I could care less about Novell's relationship with Microsoft. (And, for the record, the stuff they've done with Mono has had a fantastic material impact on the Linux platform and open source Windows and Mac C# development, as well -- more than OpenSUSE has one way or another.)

No, my big problem with OpenSUSE is that it's this massive, klunky distro with weak package support for a lot of interest areas. Now, maybe I'm wrong -- but that just proves the point that the quality of the distro experience outweighs the politics. And you'll cause a lot more controversy by what you put in the distro than who's wheeling and dealing elsewhere.

29% of Windows Vista crashes caused by NVIDIA drivers (Download Squad)

Mar 29th 2008 1:44AM I'm not sure about the causation / blame being established here. Let's review. Three MAJOR changes to Vista:

1. Display model
2. Driver model
3. Account priv's model

#1 and #2 directly impact graphics -- and NVIDIA has a huge share of that market.

The crash graph here doesn't say what caused a crash, only where it occurred. It's not a graph of whose programmers are to blame. I think the safer message to take away would be that the OS and graphics drivers were not mature last year ... and we knew that anyway.

I'm finding Vista to be very stable now. I was finding it to be absurdly UNSTABLE early last year, prior to some key updates to the OS and third-party graphics drivers (and other interrelated hardware drivers) with bugfixes. Those problems clearly were happening in the area of greatest change.