Before You Update to iOS 7

Everyone is naturally excited about the new-shiny-thing that is iOS 7, but there have been some dire warnings from all over the web. Even some of the Apple faithful are calling for readers to avoid iOS 7.0.0 and to wait for 7.0.1 or 7.0.2. Many of you are using your iDevices as your primary production environments, but iOS has conditioned us to just hit the Update All button or even update the whole OS over-the-air. For most users it hasn't been a problem, but this can be quite reckless if you are a content creator.

Developers have had a chance to play with iOS 7 for a while now, so I spoke with them to get their take on the update now that the NDA has lifted.

Prominent Audiobus developer Sebastian Dittmann, has been critical of the new UI in iOS 7 since it was first released to developers. In talking with him he also mentioned how fundamental changes to iOS 7, relating to the UI, will impact apps not prepared for it.

"We've had to fix some bugs with regards to how some button taps are detected, because iOS 7 does something differently. So obviously there are changes in the core OS. If applications haven't been updated for months, chances are they might have issues in iOS 7. If you're only using apps that have been updated in last few days, you should be fine."

DJ Player developer Gábor Szántó was also alarmed by the scope of changes in the UI. He shared some insights into the troubles faced by music app developers with all new versions of iOS, and 7 in particular.

"Every time Apple releases a major iOS version, the developer forums are full with audio related problems, as Apple actively develops the audio components and bugs happen.

There is another problem, not audio related but affects almost every app: the user interface handling is also changed, and not just graphically/aesthetically, but on the "programming side" as well.

This step is quite big, larger than before.

They introduced larger than usual changes in the API, some of them need developers to re-think established concepts. For example it was ordinary to do certain things differently when a new major version comes out. This time there are so many it's not about writing different code, but a need to re-think how things should work.

Add these two factors together (UI + audio), and now you see that audio app developers need to take quality time with the new system."

Jonatan Liljedahl from Kymatica shared this concern about the amount of changes introduced in iOS 7.

"There's so many changes in iOS7, and many apps will break, crash, or just look weird. Also, there are still bugs in iOS 7.0. Sure, inter-app audio will be cool, but only when we have enough hosts (and nodes) to actually use it."

Fortunately iOS 7 updates for popular music apps have been pouring in, but not everything has received this attention. Even major apps like Animoog have not had patches to specifically address iOS 7.

Many developers have been approaching iOS 7 with caution, such as One Red Dog's Peter Johnson. Peter is keeping all of his already developed apps on the previous versions of XCode, Apple's development environment, that they were originally designed for. This keeps him from being able to use new features in iOS 7, but in Peter's experience it also dramatically cuts down on the random bugs.

"My golden rule: don't develop on betas unless there is a feature of iOS 7 that you really must have. Stick to what is working, update gradually. Some features like inter-app audio might be really sexy, but if it breaks your shit, don't go there.

And if you're relying on your iPad for live gigs to get paid real money by DJ'ing or performing - don't fucking update your live rig just because it looks sexy and new. Lock down app versions and iOS versions and stick to what works."

Other bugs are simply intrinsic to the nature of any major OS release, as Jonatan mentioned earlier. There is often very little developers can do about bugs in the OS itself. Echo Pad developer Christopher Rice wrote in with an iOS 7 bug that will impact many music app fans. This has been confirmed by others I spoke with.

"I found a bug with iOS 7 that affects a lot of music apps, including Echo Pad, Audiobus and pretty much all apps that process live audio input. Apps that do not process live audio such as iElectribe and Figure do not appear to be affected by the bug.

With iOS 7, if the user has headphones plugged into their device and they receive an audio interruption like a phone call, alarm clock or other interruption that shuts down audio, the apps cannot recover their audio session. Some apps will crash, some will just hang, and some will give an error message.

There is no known workaround at the moment, so when this happens the apps must be completely terminated and re-launched in order to work again. Note that in most cases simply closing and re-opening the apps is not enough, you need to remove them from the multitask bar and relaunch the apps.

I will say this is probably the buggiest initial release I've seen from Apple, at least on the iPad. I just don't think it's quite as bad as some users expect.

I actually like iOS 7, and once the bugs are ironed out I think overall CPU performance will be comparable to iOS 6 on most devices."

Secret Base Design's Patrick Madden shares this optimism with a heavy dose of reality, specifically with regards to Audiobus.

"I've been using the iOS 7 beta, and have seen some things that are strange. Sometimes things don't start on the first try -- restarting Audiobus sometimes fixes problems. Sometimes not. There might be some special sauce in which order apps get launched, that we have not figured out yet.

My suspicion is that there are memory issues -- maybe things take more space, or take up space differently, causing some things to break. The under-the-hood changes to Audiobus are probably fairly substantial, and they're splicing on to a new audio infrastructure in iOS 7 -- realistically, I'd be stunned there were no problems.

So -- in terms of advice for users:
  1. Hold off on updating to iOS 7, if you need to have everything work. There will be people who are willing to experiment -- let them take the risk, and figure out what is working, and what's broken.
  2. If you update, don't freak out if something breaks. The developers are going to try to fix it as soon as they can.
  3. Keep in mind that the developers are doing their best, with a rather tricky moving target. There are the changes to iOS (multiple beta versions, some of them really badly broken), updates to the underlying audio system on iOS, changes to the Audiobus app, and changes to the Audiobus app SDK. And about 300 apps that work on Audiobus.

This last point is something I really would like to emphasize. It's astounding how much actually works -- and it's because a lot of developers have been very careful in what they do, and are making a big effort to have things work. I'm sure some stuff will break, and it may be something that a developer has no way of predicting, or preventing. The last thing any of us needs is someone flipping out, and taking a huge dump in the iTunes review for an app."

There is no rush to update, so don't. I'm sure Apple will have most of these issues sorted in the next couple of point releases, over the coming weeks and months. So why take the risk? There is even less reason to update at all now that Apple allows users to download previously compatible versions of apps.

With all that said, the very next thing I'm doing with my day is updating my phone to iOS 7, because I'm a guinea pig. My iPads, my primary music creation devices, are going to stay on 6; at least until there is a jailbreak for iOS 7.x.x. As I've learned from previous iOS updates: By the time the hackers have had their way with it, Apple is typically done with all the major bug fixing and the apps have all been patched. If after all this you still update, at least turn automatic updates off.

Update: If all of these developers weren't enough for you to think twice, Native Instruments just said pretty much the same thing.

Due to the extent and severity of the errors mentioned above, we are advising Native Instruments product users to postpone upgrading their devices to iOS 7 until the issues are resolved. This is extremely important as a device can NOT be downgraded to iOS 6 after upgrading to iOS 7. Native Instruments and Apple are working together to find solutions to these problems as soon as possible. Further announcements will be made as soon as the issues are resolved.

Tutorial: Intro to Modular (Part 2)

Following the release of Modular yesterday, I present Part 2 of my Modular tutorials. This time I get a bit more advanced and explore how modules, and the signals they generate, can be modified for use in different ways.

Buy Modular Synthesizer on iTunes: Freemium ($9 Unlock Bundle)

Apple Announces iOS 7 Coming Next Week

Jony Ive
Unapologeticly Smug

In a move that surprised no one, yesterday Apple announced the new iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5Cheap. More, faster, smaller, yadda, yadda... They didn't announce the next generation of iPads! Just a fucking plastic phone! Oh excuse me, a fucking "unapologeticly plastic" phone.

One bit of interesting news did surface yesterday, with the iPhone 5S running 64-bit processors. This appears to be a play for future development, rather than a specific performance improvement in this generation. Developers Sebastian Dittmann and Rolf Wöhrmann were available on Skype to help me make sense of what this will mean in practical terms.

"The only real benefit of 64-bit is that it is able to address more RAM. The only reason to do that is if you have more than 3 gigabytes of RAM. Since none of the new devices have more than 3 gigabytes of RAM; there is no benefit here.

If apps are optimized for 64-bit, then they can potentially be faster or more efficient because they can basically use bigger numbers. But unless apps are optimized for that, there is no benefit."

- Sebastian Dittmann, Co-Founder Audiobus

Rolf was more optimistic, but only slightly when ask about the challenges developers will have to face in order to do that.

"I understand 32-bit apps will run without recompiling on the new CPU. Just recompiling the code for 64-bit doesn't get at the real power from the CPU. You have to rethink some part of your processing kernel, to unleash the 64-bit power. The effort required is dependent on whether your current code is already thought out with these specific features in mind. For some it will be a whole rewrite, or simply not possible, for others it will be quite easy."

Rolf Wöhrmann, Tempo Rubato

So by the time we get to the iPhone 6 we should have a batch of 64-bit apps that will be able to fully take advantage of a projected 4 gigabytes of RAM, but for iPhone 5S owners the extra bits may go largely unnoticed.

Additionally Apple has announced that iOS 7 is coming out next Wednesday. If you use your iDevices in any sort of serious music production capacity I would like to remind you that you should really hold off on updating immediately. You wouldn't jump up to the latest OSX on your production Mac, so don't automatically update your iPad!

Finally in an effort to address the rampant iPhone theft in America, Apple announced plans to minimize the impact of this statistic by inflating the incidents of thumb theft.

Tutorial: Intro to Modular

I'm extremely excited about Pulse Code's new app Modular, coming out on the 12th next week. I've had a chance to play with it for a while now and have been thoroughly impressed. You get a ton of good stuff in the free package before you even spend a dime, so I thought this would be a good app to teach the concepts of modular synthesis! This is Part 1, which uses only the free modules. Part 2 gets a bit deeper using premium modules.

Buy Modular Synthesizer on iTunes: Freemium ($9 Unlock Bundle)

Apple Kills Sonoma AudioCopy/Paste, Retronyms Saves It

In a rare turn of events, this "Apple Kills X" headline is somewhat accurate! The music app world hasn't seen declarations of Apple killing an app in a while, but iOS 7 looks to be offering plenty of new opportunities to dust off the old murderous title.

Reader Will brought my attention to a post over on the Loopy forum from Loopy and Audiobus developer Michael Tyson stating, "Sonoma's AudioCopy will no longer work on iOS 7."

I contacted Michael for comment and he directed me to this published beta document revealing the sad truth.

iOS 7 Beta 3 Changelog - UIKit Notes:

+[UIPasteboard pasteboardWithName:create:] and +[UIPasteboard pasteboardWithUniqueName] now unique the given name to allow only those apps in the same application group to access the pasteboard. If the developer attempts to create a pasteboard with a name that already exists and they are not part of the same app suite, they will get their own unique and private pasteboard. Note that this does not affect the system provided pasteboards, general, and find.

Michael got into the details for me, and explained the situation as it stands today.

"What it means is that all pasteboards except the general one are now sandboxed, and are private to the app that created them.

Sonoma's ACP uses a custom pasteboard – not the general pasteboard, for which this limitation doesn't apply – which means that the ACP pasteboard is now sandboxed to each "application group"; I'd say this means that apps have to have a common ID prefix to access each others' custom pasteboards. So if you use it to copy audio, you won't see the copied clip in any other app.

Copying audio to the general pasteboard still works, though, but of course it means you can only ever copy one clip at a time, without the 11-clip history that ACP provides.

General pasteboard still works fine. Apps that use it will continue to be able to copy audio. The most recent version of Sonoma's ACP SDK uses the general pasteboard in addition to the named one, so that will work (but the 11 clip history won't)."

- Michael Tyson, A Tasty Pixel/Audiobus

My emails to Sonoma have gone unanswered, but yesterday they issued the following statement to AudioCopy/Paste developers.

Dear MAPI partners,

Good news for those of you who implement AudioCopy and/or AudioPaste in your apps. Retronyms, Sonoma's long time partner, are taking on development of the AudioCopy and AudioPaste SDK. Look for an updated ACP SDK with iOS 7 support, license agreement, and more information from Retronyms soon. You may contact Retronyms with questions.

- Michelle Wright & The Sonoma Team

I had quite a lot of questions, so I called up Retronyms co-founder Dan Walton to ask them! We talked about the importance of the ACP history in the workflow of power-users, which they seem to fully understand and appreciate. I couldn't get them on record about what exactly they have up their sleeves, but they do plan to make an announcement soon. In the meantime this is all they can tell us to ease any fears:

"We are aware of iOS7 issues with AudioCopy and it's history menu. Our team has been hard at work to fix these issues and improve AudioCopy in general. Any day now we will release a new AudioCopy SDK that is compatible with iOS7. This update will have an improved history feature and many other improvements for developers and musicians.

We are extremely excited about this and know that AudioCopy is very important to musicians. We are asking for the support of the user community and the developer community as we make this transition over the next few weeks."

- Dan Walton, Co-Founder Retronyms
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