Recording - April 2016 - 62

Back to laptops and desktops. Laptops, because they
have no room inside the case, must be used with external
digital audio interfaces that talk to the computer via
USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt. That's fine, but there's an
occasional quirk: a few laptops work fine with an external
interface when they're running on battery power, but
when the computer is plugged into the wall-wart charger
the combination creates some sort of ground loop which
contaminates the audio signal with buzz. Why that should
happen on some machines isn't entirely clear, and it
seems to be less common with newer laptops, but I
thought I ought to warn you.
What about Linux?
I said earlier that I wouldn't get involved in the Mac
vs. Windows holy war, and that you should go with the
system that you're comfortable with. But there's a third
party in this battle: Linux. What about using a Linux
computer for your audio machine?
At the risk of preaching religion and offending a few,
I'll go out on a limb here: while I recognize the manifold

Computers have gotten way, way better at multitasking
(the equivalent of walking, chewing gum and whistling a
tune in 13/8 at the same time). It can still be a problem,
though, and can lead to audio glitches. When you put
everything onto one drive, doing something to an audio
file or mix is a convoluted operation. Think about it: the
DAW program (A) asks the operating system (B) to
retrieve the audio file(s) (C) and usually create a
Temporary file (D), on which the DAW performs operations via the operating system. If A, B, C and D are all
located on the same drive, that puts a tough load on the
computer's drive control software (E) and on the drive
itself. If it's a hard drive, the actuator arms have to drive
the read/write heads back and forth to at least four different places. That's hard work, both for the computer and
the drive; occasionally the system will hiccup-yes, even
on modern computers and drives.
That's why, even now, it's a good idea for your operating
system and your DAW software to live in one place, and your
audio and temp files in another. Creating separate partitions
on the main drive won't make the system's work any easier-the audio needs to be on a physically separate drive.
A separate place
In the olden days, the obvious solution (on a desktop)
was to install another internal hard drive, maybe even
two of them. I mentioned this as one of the strengths of
desktop vs. laptop computers.

With everything on one drive, doing something to an audio file is a convoluted
operation. That's why it's a good idea for your operating system and your DAW
software to live in one place, and your audio and temp files in another.
strengths of the Linux system, this series is called "First
Steps", and I don't think Linux fits into that picture.
While the writers of Linux implementations have done
their best to make it more user-friendly, in the end you
really need some serious computer chops to use a Linuxbased computer. I've found them to be great machines if
you like to work on a computer, but if you want to work
with the computer, you'd better go with Windows or Mac.
If you'd like some of Linux's strong points while still having the conveniences of a system designed for consumers
rather than engineers, go with a Mac-its operating system is a close cousin to Linux but with a pretty face.
The hard drive thing
Okay, now let's talk about storage. When I bought my
first computer for audio editing, back in prehistoric
times, I also bought a really big hard drive, with enough
space to edit an entire audio CD, plus a little more for
slop room. It cost me $1300, and it held a whopping 1.2
GB. Yeah, you read that right.
Well, time marched on (it does that), and now storage
(on hard disk drives and other media) has gotten ridiculously cheap. Sometimes it's even free; a local "big-box"
computer store periodically gives away 32 GB thumb drives to entice customers into the store for big sales.
Meanwhile, the hard disk drives built into desktop computers, and to some extent laptops, have gotten big
enough that they seem to offer all the space you'll need
for storing typical DAW projects. Nonetheless, it's still a
really good idea to use a separate drive to store your audio
data, and that's a pretty universal practice among audio
professionals. Why?
62

RECORDING April 2016

Well, that's not as true as it used to be, because desktop computers have gotten smaller, and they have less
room inside. They have fewer internal connections for
additional drives, too, and sometimes they don't have
power supplies capable of running multiple hard drives.
One seeming solution is the external "caddy" which holds
a meant-to-be-internal hard drive, connected to the computer via a USB cable. I've owned several of these, and have
given up on them for routine use. The sad fact is that hard
drives designed for internal use on desktops have little or no
ability to withstand life's hard knocks, and even the slightest
clunk to an external caddy can kill the drive inside.
Hard drives that were designed for external use from the
get-go, however, are a lot tougher, and they've gotten way
more affordable in recent years. I made several attempts to
install a second hard drive (the data drive from my dead
computer) in Ernie, but none of them were successful; it
just wouldn't load. I'd tried to handle that drive with kid
gloves since the old machine went down, but it was a no-go.
However, I wasn't totally out of luck. Not long before the
old computer turned up its toes, I'd bought a 2 TB Seagate
external hard drive for $90, and backed up almost everything on that. So I still had all my data except the files I'd
been processing on the Monday night the computer took a
dive. My external drive is powered via the USB connection,
so I don't need to further clutter my (physical) desk with
another power supply. It now functions as Ernie's data drive,
and I intend to grab another one as soon as I get a spare
minute; it'll be my new backup drive. In theory, using Ernie's
USB 2.0 connector for my data drive is slowing everything
down, but in practice I find that it's fast enough for routine
DAW operations. My next computer will presumably have



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
Recording - April 2016 - 22
Recording - April 2016 - 23
Recording - April 2016 - 24
Recording - April 2016 - 25
Recording - April 2016 - 26
Recording - April 2016 - 27
Recording - April 2016 - 28
Recording - April 2016 - 29
Recording - April 2016 - 30
Recording - April 2016 - 31
Recording - April 2016 - 32
Recording - April 2016 - 33
Recording - April 2016 - 34
Recording - April 2016 - 35
Recording - April 2016 - 36
Recording - April 2016 - 37
Recording - April 2016 - 38
Recording - April 2016 - 39
Recording - April 2016 - 40
Recording - April 2016 - 41
Recording - April 2016 - 42
Recording - April 2016 - 43
Recording - April 2016 - 44
Recording - April 2016 - 45
Recording - April 2016 - 46
Recording - April 2016 - 47
Recording - April 2016 - 48
Recording - April 2016 - 49
Recording - April 2016 - 50
Recording - April 2016 - 51
Recording - April 2016 - 52
Recording - April 2016 - 53
Recording - April 2016 - 54
Recording - April 2016 - 55
Recording - April 2016 - 56
Recording - April 2016 - 57
Recording - April 2016 - 58
Recording - April 2016 - 59
Recording - April 2016 - 60
Recording - April 2016 - 61
Recording - April 2016 - 62
Recording - April 2016 - 63
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Recording - April 2016 - 65
Recording - April 2016 - 66
Recording - April 2016 - 67
Recording - April 2016 - 68
Recording - April 2016 - 69
Recording - April 2016 - 70
Recording - April 2016 - 71
Recording - April 2016 - 72
Recording - April 2016 - Cover3
Recording - April 2016 - Cover4
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