Recording - April 2016 - 60

By Paul J. Stamler

Part 16: Computers
I mentioned last month that after the interface has made the
audio signal into numbers, those numbers typically get recorded
on a computer. This month I'm going to talk about computers, but
before I do I need to make one thing clear: I will not try to resolve
the Mac vs. Windows controversy. This is fundamentally a religious
conflict, and I never argue religion. Well, hardly ever.
In any case, you'll use the system you're most comfortable with,
probably the one you've used for years. I'm a longtime Windows
guy, going back to before Windows was even Windows, and using a
Mac feels to me like riding a bicycle with my arms crossed. But
my partner Rebecca feels the same way about Windows, because
her school standardized on Mac. So I'll mostly be talking from a
Windows point of view, but that's just me. Both have good points
and points of frustration, and to my mind those cancel each other
out. Like I said, use what works for you.
Okay, that's out of the way. You probably know computers, or at
least your computer, backwards and forwards, right? I mean, most
people in this country over the age of 12 know more about computers and their workings than the average electrical engineer did
thirty years ago.
But using a computer for audio has some subtleties that don't
apply when using a computer for more mundane tasks like surfing, creating spreadsheets, or writing magazine articles. Audio is,
in some respects, more demanding than any of these tasks, and
some of the computer features that make day-to-day operations
more user-friendly may actually interfere with audio work. So
keep on reading, okay?
Basics
The first decision you have to make is this: what will your audio
computer do, and what else will it do? By that I mean: will your
audio computer be dedicated only to audio, or will audio be only
one facet of a computer that does everything? I'll try to explicate
that by talking about a computer crisis that consumed much of my
attention last summer.
In June I was working with my trusty old Dell machine on an editing project when it suddenly quit being trusty and the screen went
blank, as though someone had pulled the monitor cable. A few jiggles told me that the monitor connection wasn't the problem, and
after trying every trick I knew (turning off the power, unplugging
the machine-you know the drill) I realized that the old box had suffered a serious failure. When I brought it to the computer store they
told me it wasn't coming back; the motherboard was kaput.
So it was time for a new computer, but I was constrained by
some personal peculiarities. I have a vestibular problem, and I
can't look at the screens of many computers (including most laptops) without suffering massive vertigo. So after an unsuccessful
try with a refurbished Windows 7 machine, I wound up at the local
non-chain used-computer store, which had fixed me up with the
60

RECORDING April 2016

old Dell in the first place. I also needed a
machine with an operating system which would
run an old graphics program I use to make the
illustrations for these articles (and other writing projects); that meant I needed another
machine that could run Windows XP.
The prices at the used-computer store were
such that I could contemplate doing what I
should have done years ago, and what I will recommend to you: buying two computers-one for
audio (and that pesky graphics program), one
for Everything Else. I'll go into some detail,
because what I did may be extrapolated into
something that's useful to you, too. I call them...
Bert and Ernie
I'll talk about the Everything Else computer
(Bert) first, just to get that out of the way. Bert
uses a quad-core CPU (which means his central
microprocessor has four actual computer circuits on a single chip), and he has a Windows
Vista operating system, which one of these days
I'm going to upgrade (so I can run a few newish
programs). If you're starting with the computer
you have, and adding a second machine for
audio, this is the equivalent of what you
already have. It's suitably loaded with antimalware software (Avast!, Malwarebytes and
Spybot), because it's hooked to the Internet and
needs all the protection it can get. And it has
my writing software: an up-to-date version of
OpenOffice Writer (way, way better than older
versions), WordPerfect, and Microsoft Word,
plus PrintKey for screen grabs. Also OpenOffice
Calc (an excellent spreadsheet program),
Thunderbird, Firefox, and a few specialized programs for website construction and management (in my spare time I'm the webmaster for a
folk-dance group). In short, a pretty typical
home computer setup.
Ernie, on the other hand, is different. He's a
dual-core (two processors on the main chip), he
runs on Windows XP (which lets me run my oldas-the-hills graphics program), and he's been, in
some ways, hot-rodded. First of all, he's got my
CardDeluxe PCIe internal audio card, which I
talked about last month. He also has a super-highend video card, a Gigabyte GeForce GTX750,
which is really aimed at intensive gamers, but



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - April 2016

Contents
Recording - April 2016 - Intro
Recording - April 2016 - Cover1
Recording - April 2016 - Cover2
Recording - April 2016 - 1
Recording - April 2016 - 2
Recording - April 2016 - 3
Recording - April 2016 - 4
Recording - April 2016 - 5
Recording - April 2016 - Contents
Recording - April 2016 - 7
Recording - April 2016 - 8
Recording - April 2016 - 9
Recording - April 2016 - 10
Recording - April 2016 - 11
Recording - April 2016 - 12
Recording - April 2016 - 13
Recording - April 2016 - 14
Recording - April 2016 - 15
Recording - April 2016 - 16
Recording - April 2016 - 17
Recording - April 2016 - 18
Recording - April 2016 - 19
Recording - April 2016 - 20
Recording - April 2016 - 21
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Recording - April 2016 - 26
Recording - April 2016 - 27
Recording - April 2016 - 28
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Recording - April 2016 - Cover3
Recording - April 2016 - Cover4
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