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Cubase SX and Windows 98, the Steinberg' answer

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This message has been posted by Dave Nicholson on

As many of you know, when Cubase SX was initially released we deliberately created an installer that prohibited the installation under Windows 98 systems. But we have changed our minds!

Now before people go rushing off and say that everything?s now fine for SX under Windows 98 - I just want to throw a spanner in those works in that I need to tell you this is exactly not what's happened.

Cubase SX requires Windows 2000 or XP just as before - the only difference is that you can install it under Windows 98. Cubase SX still only supports 2000/ & XP - and that will remain part of the minimum system requirements.

Firstly to bring everyone up-to-date with the issues here?s our view on the whole Windows 2000/XP issue ( if it seems familiar it is largely the same as my original clarification of our position - this I can do because actually from the pure technical point of view we haven?t changed our minds. )

To quote myself....

Probably the most important point is that Cubase SX has been developed and tested on Windows 2000 and XP systems from the start: And that?s the requirement we have made for running it. The question is why?

It?s practically impossible to explain why Cubase SX is specifically for 2000/XP without getting into deep technical details so I will try and steer a middle course between just saying it is just so, or starting a discussion where everyone who has ever looked over the Windows documentation feels they could offer advice on how we should have done it?. :-)

Here we go.

A thoroughly modern application like Cubase SX relies on a carefully managed and highly optimised set of concurrently active tasks, called threads. You may think the song is just playing when you pressed the start button - one linear task - but this illusion of linearity is only possible because a complex set of radically different operations are all competing for computing time.

The composition, structure, relative priority and behaviour of each and all these individual threads is critical for a predictable and efficient program.

But these threads started by Cubase SX are not alone: there are a bewildering number of other threads started by other applications and the OS itself. What is important to understand is that the CONTEXT in which Cubase SX threads run is of equal importance to the interaction of the threads themselves.

Simply said, the context we have chosen is Windows 2000 or Windows XP. And to answer another question: Yes, the network of threads Cubase SX creates will probably all appear to work on other Windows versions, but whether they will work as we intend is another question altogether.

In other words we have written Cubase SX for the ?NT kernel? that lies at the heart of all current Microsoft OS products. While one OS version may seem superficially the same as another, the behaviour is different, if only subtly. It is the success of Microsoft in keeping the rate of user experience change at a level where new Windows versions seem familiar, and that previous applications still work. For equally complex, but non real-time critical applications, there may be measurable but imperceptible differences. With a real-time application, like Cubase SX, would you be happy with audio or MIDI dropouts? Would you be made any happier by being assured that they are only small dropouts? We think not. We want Cubase SX to be used in the context for which it was created.

Of course we can change Cubase SX and its installers so it will install and start on practically any Windows version created in last seven years. But we would still be in the position of saying, yes it may work for you but we don?t officially support it. Maybe I should be precise about what offering support means: It means being able to do something when something seemingly does not work - not just feeling quietly contented when it apparently does.

We have already made strong recommendations for using Windows 2000 and Windows XP with our Nuendo application - and will continue to strengthen these recommendations with future Nuendo versions - as many of you know Cubase SX and Nuendo share a great deal of technology, and to make a different system recommendation for each, makes little sense.

...end quote.

That was then and this is now. So what has changed? Why are we now allowing the SX version that is still only for Windows 2000 / XP to be installed under Windows 98? - and why am I writing this rather than just letting the ?world-wide alternate truth engine? generate its own version of affairs. (actually it is largely irrelevant that I write this - the engine is probably revving up now - vrooom - vrooom ).

Maybe the first rumour to squash is that it?s a reaction because SX sales are not what we expected. Well the truth is that we have exceeded our own expectations but that doesn?t mean we should rest on our laurels - We actually think right now is a very interesting time to attract new potential SX customers to come an test our wares. If you know what I mean?.

Another reason is that we want to get as many of the Cubase 5.1 users to upgrade to SX and as many of you know the 5.1 became a very solid tool over the last year and regularly we read here that "5.1 works flawlessly for me" threads. What would be the incentive to actually try SX if you can?t actually try it on your own machine without having window 2000/XP installed - coupled with the fact you have a tool already installed that does everything you want - would you be at least curious at what's getting people all excited about SX. ( note to self - must take less marketing tablets.)

Which brings us neatly to the next point: It?s not just trying the product that is important, being able to afford it is equally vital. With our previous installer policy it was a pre-requisite that you purchased a Cubase SX and a Windows Update at the same time before you could actually even get your first hands-on look at the program. If you could not afford both at the same time then the only options were waiting until you could, or purchasing the Windows Update first, or letting the SX gather dust before sometime later purchasing the Windows update. None of which are particularly attractive options. We have noticed how many serious SX users are spending the time to get to know their SX before using it in the heat of a session. In our minds it makes sense to let people do this even before they have the necessary OS update.

It is also clear how many Cubase owners are in close contact with others - and by unlocking the installer we allow one user to temporarily let another test out Cubase SX on the actual machine on which it would be used even without Windows 2000 / XP. There are many reasons for this: Will I like it? Will it work with my hardware? And how many effects can I run at the same time before the CPU ?over? dares blink at me?.

Another aspect is that our research has shown that not all outlets where you can actually buy a Cubase SX actually have Windows 2000 / XP installed. While I am sure that buying software is certainly not an impulse ?sight unseen? matter, getting a glimpse of the thing working is a component of the purchasing decision. (for me personally screen shots don?t cut it when getting a feel for how working with a piece of software might be)

Further to this, and obviously as a natural extension of this thought, we are working on a Cubase SX demo version - the reason why we held off doing this when the program was initially released is now not as important as it was since the first cracks have appeared. (did you expect me to deny they exist :-)) but that?s just the first round in the battle. As one reason currently becomes less important - it only makes sense to re-evaluate the benefits of having a Demo version to download. We have and there will be demos.

OK you see I am selling the plus side but there is also the other side of the coin.

Cubase SX and Windows 2000/XP were literally made for each other. When running under 98 the program will not be running optimally. That does not mean it won?t run - or necessarily crash - but there are some areas that are definitely gray. The main one being potentially MIDI to audio sync. We can?t say that there will definitely be problems - because as an unsupported set-up we haven?t done any comprehensive tests.

There is perhaps an even more important issue to take into account if you find yourself running Cubase SX under Windows 98. Windows 2000/XP has a very different resource management in comparison to Windows 98. This means that, under Windows 98, bitmaps and fonts and even painting the screen are all ?resources? that have to compete with the relatively sparse graphics resource heap. If you use a lot of plug-ins that use a large amount of graphic resources or start other applications, you can all to soon get into the situation where Window 98 is saying ?90% of your resources are in use etc? and sections of the screen will probably not be updated properly (another classic symptom is that the wrong fonts are used for drawing). Under Windows 2000/XP this is, in comparison, no significant problem as the resource heap is much better organised.

While we are talking about the less positive stuff. The question of support will have arisen for many of you. The situation is that we still require Windows 2000 / XP officially, and that will actually stay like that. We will not be denying support to Cubase SX customers who choose to use Windows 98 but you have to understand that if a problem occurs that we believe is related directly to the use of Windows 98 our options to do anything about it are limited. We hope that most users will understand that Cubase SX under Windows 98 is a transitional state - requested by a large number of you.

Finally, what of the future? As I already said, we see this installation under Windows 98 as a transitional state - it could be that sometime in the middle to long term future the Cubase SX becomes a program that is only installable under Windows 2000 or XP again (or whatever the OS is called them) . This is not planned now, but we need to keep the option open.

And finally, if you thought that this would never end, the current installers out there cannot be modified to now allow installation under Windows 98. New installers will be necessary. Equally we cannot offer patches for the current versions because the patches can only modify a program that is already installed. The first versions that can be installed under Windows 98 will be the production CD-ROMs for 1.02 for both the Cubase SX and new Cubase SL versions.

Sorry that it?s so much text to read, but it's not something we can just do without comment.

Dave Nicholson

Translation into French : Séb, on the 23-11-2002

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