I’m a big fan of ASUS for their routers and have two of them at home, an RC-AC3100 which is an amazing gigabit router and a RT-AC66 (their first AC router). Last night I got a firmware update for the 3100 and saw the new AIMesh feature. AIMesh is similar to what Google is doing with their Mesh routers however the big thing is you don’t have to buy a while new setup since AIMesh works with some older ASUS routers as well. Here is a nice article from Gizmodo that talks about AI Mesh as well. Continue reading “ASUS AI Mesh”
Why we introduced Lifetime Updates
With the introduction of Lifetime Updates for SONAR Platinum, there have been many theories as to why Cakewalk would take such a bold move. For us it’s simple—it’s better for customers, it’s better for us, and we believe this way of doing business is the future, so we’re embracing it today.
Some history: In the past (pre 2015), we followed a more traditional annual upgrade cycle where we released a single version of SONAR each year. This model was flawed on many levels, both for developers and end users. As developers, we’re under extreme pressure to finish a product by a certain date to meet a revenue goal – often regardless of whether it’s ready or not.
Adding a lot of features to a product in a short cycle can create problems even skilled QA teams and beta testers won’t find. Furthermore, end users have to try and learn a huge amount of information at once—which is much less efficient than learning features at one’s own pace over time.
What a Year…!
It’s been quite a year for all of us at Cakewalk. Not only did we build our most stable initial release of SONAR ever and fold in multiple features and workflow updates, but we also built the infrastructure for our new Membership program from the ground up. This framework lets us break out of the monolithic “waterfall” model of annual updates and do smaller but more frequent updates. This is very exciting for developers, because we can be more responsive and update our software without the previous release management overhead. Our users have wanted more frequent updates as well, so this is a major achievement for us.
The SONAR community has already noticed the tangible improvements in the performance and stability of our latest SONAR release. In this article I’ll cover some of the “under the hood” work that went into building the new SONAR. If you’re not familiar with the latest additions, you can get started by reading about all the new features here.
I’d also like to mention that this would not have been possible without your support. All of us at Cakewalk feel very fortunate to have such an active, engaged user base that inspires us to create continued improvements and enhancements. We are very excited about what’s planned for the year ahead, but meanwhile, here’s what we’ve been up to in the past year.
Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick has been hard at work creating this microscopic view of SONAR 8.5 for those of you who have expressed an interest in learning more about the internals of the new features. Throughout this post, Noel will uncover the new version from an engineering perspective. However, before we get started on the fine print, let’s first clarify some facts and myths about SONAR 8.5.
What’s in a name?”
What’s in a name? That which we call SONAR 9 by any other name would sound as sweet.” I guess Juliet was misinformed, based on the wild speculation and reaction to our announcement of SONAR 8.5. To ease the anxiety for the next release I will let you in on a secret – the next product release will be called: SONAR 1C21B83D-EDCE-41b7-BBEF-31F912E88B1D. We think that a 128 bit version number will dispel all ambiguity the next time around.
• The .5 release name for a major product reflects a change in our internal nomenclature for naming products, a business decision that was made after careful deliberation.
• Going forward this more accurately reflects our strategy of shipping products with high value for customers, while simultaneously planning for certain types of features whose depth may require a longer timeframe to develop and integrate.
• The 8.5 name is also indicative of the fact that 8.5 is available as an downloadable upgrade. i.e. unlike earlier versions it can upgrade an existing SONAR 8 install.
• Don’t be confused by the .5 in the name. 8.5 IS the next version of SONAR – It installs as a brand new version and lives alongside your existing SONAR 8 version just like any prior full release of SONAR.
• You can also simultaneously use 8.5 or an earlier 8.0 version just like any earlier full release of SONAR.
• If you purchased SONAR 8.5 as a downloadable upgrade, you must have SONAR 8 installed prior to installing SONAR 8.5. To reduce download size, the package doesn’t include all the content that you already have in your SONAR 8 install.
• You can also purchase a full set of 8.5 DVD’s even if you bought the download from our web store.
• If you bought the retail version of 8.5 from a store you already have the full 8.5 DVD set with all the content.
• There is no difference between an 8.0 install upgraded to 8.5 and a full retail 8.5 box install
• The depth of the new features and enhancements in 8.5 actually exceed what went into SONAR 8 coming from SONAR 7.
• The main SONAR 9 release was postponed and SONAR 8.5 is a patch or hotfix. Wrong – our maintenance releases are for compatibility and improvements only with the occasional bonus feature thrown in. We never add full blown features.
• A new version of SONAR is around the corner and 8.5 is an interim release. Wrong – We’re good, but not THAT good to be able to deliver a full new product just after shipping this one. Thanks for the compliment though!
So let’s cut to the chase shall we? There are several classes of new features in SONAR 8.5. I will try and focus on the pieces that are not covered in our marketing copy since by now you are already familiar with most of that.
You can read more about SONAR 8.5’s big features here if you are still catching up.
Disclaimer: The information below may be subject to errors and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of 8.5 features. It may be edited from time to time. You have been warned – nauseatingly geeky details follow. Stop reading now if this is objectionable to you 🙂
The term ‘sidechaining’ refers to the manipulation of one signal by another where signal B (typically referred to a key input) effects signal A (primary input). Sidechaining is most often found in compressors, limiters and gates. Examples of sidechaining include ducking, voiceover, de-essing and pumping. For more information, check out this article on the Basics of Sidechaining.
Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick discusses the implementation of Sidechaining in SONAR is his latest Fine Print article. Since version 7, SONAR has supported side-chaining for both VST and DX plug-ins in all of its applications. This article describes how SONAR communicates with side-chain capable VST and DX plug-ins as well as how SONAR can be used as a guide to write a side-chain capable plug-in of your own.
With the help of Cakewalk’s Engineering Department, Create Digital Music’s Peter Kirn delves inside the mechanics of SONAR 8. Visit Create Digital Music to learn how SONAR 8 will hold its own in Windows Vista.
Cakewalk’s Noel Borthwick explains, “SONAR 8 introduces several, crucial enhancements for communications with audio devices in Windows Vista, including support for WASAPI (a new audio standard in Windows Vista and future OS), MMCSS task profile support, and WaveRT streaming.”
To view the complete list of enhancements made to the latest version of SONAR, take a look at the posting below.
Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick sheds some light on the features “under the hood” in SONAR 8.
*Note that this list is not a substitute for the official feature list & other features already documented in the SONAR 8 manual. Rather it is a list culled from Cakewalk’s Engineering Department*
Although every version of SONAR we shipped in the past had some degree of optimization work, SONAR 8 is the first version of SONAR to which we applied the same engineering process to performance optimizations as we do with other more user visible features. i.e. we established goals, built a specification for the optimizations, split up the work into milestones and tracked the progress of these tasks just as we do for other features. To make testing more deterministic, we devised various internal profiling tools in order to track and measure changes in performance across a variety of hardware platforms on XP as well as Vista.
Systems tested included brand new cutting edge platforms from Intel and AMD as well as earlier generation machines.
We split up this work into the following classes of performance enhancements for SONAR 8:
1. CPU and kernel level optimizations – use less of your CPU to do the same amount of work
2. User Interface optimizations – faster drawing, scrolling, zooming
3. Driver level optimizations – more efficient access to drivers, minimizing driver state transitions
4. Vista OS specific optimizations – Better use of MMCSS thread priorities, support for custom MMCSS task profiles, new WASAPI support
5. Audio engine optimizations – optimize “hotspots” in our bussing, streaming and mixing code
As a result of all these changes, SONAR 8 has the following benefits:
– greatly minimized kernel usage. This helps provide more “kernel bandwidth” to drivers who need it the most. More kernel bandwidth translates into less potential for audio glitches.
– Lower CPU usage – translates to better performance at low latency
– More efficient use of audio drivers – esp with ASIO drivers
– Better performance on Windows Vista esp X64. Many of the complaints of Vista performance as compared to XP have been solved with SONAR 8. X64 low latency performance should now be on par with X86.
– Faster application launch
– Less flicker in GUI. Track view splitters no longer flicker when resizing.
– More responsive zoom and scroll with large projects. Zooming with wave files now uses 1/2 the RAM with 24-bit or less stereo or mono files used.
– Better meter performance.
– Improved thread scheduling by insuring threads are properly distributed on processors.
This link shows the overall benefits of SONAR 8 as compared to SONAR 7: http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/SONAR/English/benchmark.asp