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(found this promotional press release)

“Musicians using soft instruments may soon have a hardware version of some of their favorites with no more worries of computer OS updates that may leave them crippled or glitchy.

After seeing the explosion of hardware synths that has taken so much attention away of soft synths in the last several years, soft instrument developers decided they would no longer take this sitting down. Seeing what a few others had already done inspired the possibilities of turning more software into hardware. For instance the popular Crumar Mojo started out as computer software (VB3) before making its way into a DSP chip. Tiptop Audio figured out a way to put the acclaimed Valhalla software effects onto a chip (Z-DSP ) and into a Eurorack unit. Not to be left out of this trend the Soft Instrument Developers Association (SIDA) got together and decided they could do the same and very inexpensively with some DSP standards that could be used by any developer wanting to make hardware versions of their soft instruments.

What is this?

Actually nothing at all shocking, simply an enclosure and plug/docking standard for DSP chips. The encloser can contain different powered DSP chips, but the enclosure itself is standardized in size and connections. The enclosure will plug into a Eurorack unit with a plug receptacle rail that provides DC power, DA conversion, and usb and midi access. This means the enclosure can be small and inexpensive without having to handle those duties. How small? Think matchbox but thicker.

But how are you going to access an instrument in a small DSP chip that has no knobs, sliders, or switches, that is the major impetus of having hardware in the first place, right?

Yes, and this is where midi and tablet control come in. The developer is responsible for giving the end user complete control over all parameters using midi CC assignments or a tablet app. Since many soft instrument developers already provide extensive midi assignments to parameters this part will be easy. Think of having a knobby controller like the Midifighter Twister with all those four banks of 16 encoder knobs to control your favorite analog synth emulations that reside in a small Eurorack unit.

So this simply Eurorack for soft instruments?

Yes, Eurorack initially is the default platform for this. Hats off to Tiptop Audio for the inspiration here, but small tabletop units are not out of the question considering the small size of the DSP enclosures. In fact with an established standard for DSP enclosures, any maker of midi hardware can start including SIDA enclosure plug slots (sidaps) if they want to make it a docking unit. Any midi controller with keys, sliders and knobs can include one or several sidaps. SIDA has already designed a docking board that will be for sale to midi controller hardware makers who would like to include sidap slots but doesn't want to hassle with having to design and include the needed DA, usb, midi, and power supply required. It is basically the same board as the one in the Eurorack unit without the case.

But what about the operating system and software updates?

This is entirely in the hands of the developer. They each concoct their own OS and unaffected by Microsoft or Apple. When the developer has thoroughly tested their update, they can provide it directly to the end user to update through usb or wirelessly.

Okay but what's in this for the software developers except what initially looks like more headaches to deal with?

More sales! Developers can still continue to sell their standard software license. But, now they can add to that the hardware with license, or just the hardware, discounted for current software license holders, or a combination discount to first time purchasers of software + hardware for a gigging musician with a home studio computer.

What else might the developer be happy about?

A developer will always have complete control of the OS that runs their software(!), or at least for the sidap DSP version. A few developers may claim victory over Microsoft and Apple and discontinue their software versions completely just to not have to deal with an OS over which they have no control. Others may calculate who their main customers are, like home studios, and decide to stick with their current model of computer software only.

What is the biggest advantage of having an enclosure and plug/docking standard?

Cost! After establishing the standards, a quantity group-buy by SIDA of chips and enclosures means that developers will have very little investment in the actual DSP hardware, making selling the hardware version very lucrative. They simply have to decide on a stable OS and spend the time to port. For the small developers who write all their own code their main cost will simply be their time. The minimal investment in hardware means selling the hardware version could be a big boost in income for small software companies. Many gigging musicians who still don't want to haul around a laptop would happily take a 49, 61, 76, or 88 key midi keyboard controller that contained sidap slots in the back. Even home studio owners might love to have hardware versions of soft instruments that will always perform as intended and never be unstable or unusable after computer OS updates, developer neglect, or even possible discontinuation by the developer.

That part sounds good, but what about saving all soft instrument settings in a DAW as part of a song file? Nobody wants to give that up!

Nor will you have to if the sidap is connected to your studio computer via USB.

(To anyone interested, SIDA is asking all soft instrument users to sign-up for their email updates and to give your input on what software you are most interested seeing in hardware. It may already be in the works! This new standard has already been embraced by over 30 software instrument developers with orders placed for the first shipment of chips and enclosures.)
Sign up and stay tuned!”



Oh, btw...Happy April 1st everybody! grin


"It is a danger to create something and risk rejection. It is a greater danger to create nothing and allow mediocrity to rule."
"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." W.H. Auden
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DAMMIT grin


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I mean SCOPE XITE is a thing, and you see how folks rushed to develop for that platform


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Well I once bought a Muse Receptor, and what a joke that instrument turned out to be.

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Embedded Raspberry Pi would be the way I do it.

Cheers, Mike


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It's not an exact match, but what Elk Audio are doing is to build an OS platform for the purpose of making hardware easy for software people.... Humans still have physical presence, so hardware will not go away... it's simply the best haptic experience.

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Well, we did have the Receptor some years back.
https://www.museresearch.com/products/index.php

And since then Main Stage and Cantabile for rack PCs or Macs.

And iPad with software instruments compiled for iOS. Then AU for iOS to make it easier for developers to code for both versions of Mac OS.

Now when Yamaha or Roland, SCOPE etc. build custom DSP, that’s a bit different than writing for a desktop OS. And it has its benefits - very efficient use of resources, excellent performance on lesser hardware, potentially lower latency and maybe cheaper to build.

At the same time Korg has been using off the shelf CPUs, even Raspberry Pi paired with their audio hardware designs.

And a lot of small developers are experimenting with their own kits:

https://www.zynthian.org/




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Originally Posted by johnchop
I mean SCOPE XITE is a thing, and you see how folks rushed to develop for that platform


At least, it has the advantage, most of the devices (plugins) don´t care about 32/ 64Bit (except old STS sample OSC based devices),- so only ASIO and WAVE drivers need to move on w/ Windows OS updates/upgrades (mostly because of "MS driver signing" crap).
And, the XITE already comes w/ a ton of high quality stock plugins because almost any of the Creamware devices are included since SCOPE v5.1 and more in v7.0,- and all run on the new SHARC DSPs.

DNA makes excellent plugins for XITE and old PCI cards ...
OSS too (1 of the owners also works for NI in Berlin).
And SpaceF ...

And there´s a busy community offering free stuff where you find lots of useful toys,-
SCOPE Portal
CWM devices
CWM Modular pages
PlanetZ - devices

For mobility, XITE works w/ older "workstation" laptops offering a PCIexpresscard slot or new laptops using Sonnet Echo ExpressCard/34Thunderbolt adapter.
I bought Lenovo Thinkpad W540 (Intel i7 quad 4x2.5GHz/ 6MB cache, 20GB DDR3 RAM, SSD & HDD, battery 99% and incl. it´s orig. DVDRW (which is swapped w/ HDD caddy), great laptop bag and Win10 Pro x64,- all for EUR 366,- incl. shipping and it looks and works like new.

In my desktop DAW, there´s the stock PCIe card it came with, so I can plug XITE into DAW or laptop (w/ PCIexpresscard inserted) using 1 HDMI cable.

Run standalone w/o using ASIO and you´ll get lowest latency and jitter free MIDI as well.
There are MIDI devices included,- mergers, splitters, thru, filter, monitor.
But you CAN use it w/ ASIO too and record/playback to/from host and/or run some VSTi and/or VST plugins,- depending on your host computers CPU power by nature.

I´ve seen VST/AU players come and go, V-Machine, Receptors and whatelse ...
The Creamware PCI cards and S|C XITE still survived and run w/ Win XP SP3, Win7, -8, -8.1 and -10 using S|C SCOPE application v5.1 or v7.0.

I´ve set up a SCOPE PCI card system based on HP server, Win7 Pro SP1 32Bit, SCOPE 5.1 and run XITE-1 w/ 4HU rackmount DAW, Win7 Pro SP1 64Bit, SCOPE v7.0 (together w/ Studio One Pro 4.6, Reason 10.4 and Reason 11.3.9, Tracktion 7 and Reaper, NI Komplete 12 UCE etc.)
On laptop I´ll be more humble w/ VST plugins,- but Intel Core i7 4710MQ runs some assorted ones still,- and then, there are some SCOPE synths too.

Using a 1HU 16 channel I/O AD/DA w/ XITE-1 makes it a 8-bus recording console type digital mixer incl. all AUX-FX for ext. hardware keyboards/modules as well.
Signal routing is extremely flexible and no VST/AU FX needed.
Sonic quaity is excellent.

These systems aren´t outdated at all and the only competitor I can see is UAD (Apollo),- somewhat ...

S|C SCOPE isn´t always very easy to handle and is by far not idiot-proof,- but when it runs, it runs w/o crashes.
It´s unique !

smile

A.C.

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Originally Posted by ElmerJFudd
... At the same time Korg has been using off the shelf CPUs, even Raspberry Pi paired with their audio hardware designs. And a lot of small developers are experimenting with their own kits: https://www.zynthian.org/
It's pretty exciting right now with all the ARM SBC/Arduino stuff bubbling up from the underground, but I get the feeling we're still at that time before the iPod/iPhone - when the geeks/nerds are showing off their "MP3 player" built from Chinese parts and the hardware is just powerful enough to be "cool" but not "great".

For example, that Elk Music OS and hardware interface is really cool, but how many people are going to understand how to SSH into their headless device so they can configure their sound module using the command-line? I mean I personally think that's the best way to do it, but good luck getting the average person onboard with that. Still it would be cool to be able to SSH into a Roland or Yamaha synth to run a few scripts and tweak stuff! You could program your set lists in a script and run your keyboards directly from your phone. (and just to geek out, yeah, switching from X-Server to Wayland could take this from "good" to "great")

I'm hoping Apple switching to ARM on the M1 pushes all this technology forward into the light. If AMD and Intel decide to follow, I bet we'll see really powerful low cost ARM SBCs ready for cross-platform VSTs. But I'm also not holding my breath, ARM/RISC has been the future of computing for way too long ... and of course we've seen it all before (cough, cough, ATARI, cough, cough). Still I'll keep my fingers crossed.

The last step would be for developers to find a reason to support it. They're already coding for this stuff, iOS, Android, now Mac etc. it's all built on ARM and Unix anyway - supporting cross-platform would be minimal effort and might create new platforms to make money from (or not). Still the big question is, now that computer are part of our rigs, what would a fully realized cross-platform Music OS, with support from developers, look like?

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Originally Posted by stoken6
Embedded Raspberry Pi would be the way I do it.

Cheers, Mike

It’s called http://zynthian.org

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As long as it remains a hack together your own kit hobby it’s highly susceptible to piracy and there’s no reason for software developers to commercially support it. At least on iOS, despite Apple’s cut, it’s more convenient for players to simply pony up and buy an AU, download from App Store, done. I don’t see a hardware developer building an entirely new eco system for music alone to compete with iOS/Android post iPad/iPhone. Smart phones and tablets killed a lot of hardware devices.


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Some developers already support ARM. MOD Devices and Pianoteq release proprietary paid for versions of their plugins and pianoteq is well supported on the zynthian. Also there’s such a massive wealth of free open source plugins like SetBFree, obxd, Surge, Vital, TAL NoiseMaker3, Foo-YC, Dexed, sfz and sf2 support your probably going to find something you can work with. Have a listen to the audio samples on the zynth site.

If you have a pi3 or pi4 it’s worth downloading the os image and using hdmi for the screen and headphone audio out with a usb midi keyboard.

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Originally Posted by Al Coda
S|C SCOPE isn´t always very easy to handle and is by far not idiot-proof,- but when it runs, it runs w/o crashes.
It´s unique !

smile

A.C.

No argument there. I think it’s cool as hell, albeit with a high cost of entry.

So, PC architecture it is. Seelake, Receptor, Waves Soundgrid boxes... they’re specialty PCs at the end of the day.

You can reduce the number of moving parts, optimize components and OS functions, etc. The DSP itself will still run on a general purpose chip.


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Originally Posted by OB Dave
Well I once bought a Muse Receptor, and what a joke that instrument turned out to be.
I remember when they came out thinking it was a genius idea (like the Open Labs NeKo.)

What was the issue with Receptors? Buggy? Unable to keep up with the pace of software changes?

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D’OH! mad

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Originally Posted by ABECK
Originally Posted by OB Dave
Well I once bought a Muse Receptor, and what a joke that instrument turned out to be.
I remember when they came out thinking it was a genius idea (like the Open Labs NeKo.)

What was the issue with Receptors? Buggy? Unable to keep up with the pace of software changes?

Entirely reliant on their ability to score agreements with software developers with no motivation to provide them with latest versions or even equivalent versions to what they sell directly to customers.


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I thought the Open Labs concept had it going on. It's too bad it turned out the way it did.



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the original is still the best.... A laptop or computer with lots of RAM and storage.

Like at youtube I commented on recently about LoFi plugins. People screamed for high quality sound at inexpensive prices and eventually got it. Now they have it so what do they want now, we want low quality sound again. Cheap is Back!!!!

Marketing people love the whims of the public.

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All of Korg's latest midsize digital synths are just Raspberry Pi boards in fancy shells: the wavestate, opsix, and modwave for sure...

And the Arturia MicroFreak is basically a Mutable Instruments Plaits converted into a keyboard...

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Originally Posted by ElmerJFudd
Originally Posted by ABECK
Originally Posted by OB Dave
Well I once bought a Muse Receptor, and what a joke that instrument turned out to be.
I remember when they came out thinking it was a genius idea (like the Open Labs NeKo.)

What was the issue with Receptors? Buggy? Unable to keep up with the pace of software changes?

Entirely reliant on their ability to score agreements with software developers with no motivation to provide them with latest versions or even equivalent versions to what they sell directly to customers.

Yes to all of that. And it was a horrible software architecture. It was essentially a PC that ran somebody else's BIOS, which would then boot LILO, then boot Linux, which after it finally booted up would then run Wine (open source Windows emulator), and then their own VST host on top of that, and then would act surprised when 99% of VSTs would not run without being specially modified to run on Receptor. Which there was little incentive for VST authors to do. And because the entire thing depended on Other People's Software, it was bound to 32-bit memory limitations and other constraints.

The Receptor held so much promise and so utterly failed to deliver on that promise. VST installation was a huge pain, and in the end I paid Muse "Research" to install Ivory and Akoustik Piano. The samples took a long time to load, so switching patches could be super cumbersome. When it worked it sounded great, but all of those accolades go to the VST developers. Using it in a live situation was a white-knuckle experience. If it crashed it took 2-3 minutes to reboot and reload. I managed to unload mine before it had lost all its resale value. Good effing riddance.

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Originally Posted by Baggypants
[It’s called http://zynthian.org
Thanks for the heads-up.

In response to the comment that
Originally Posted by ElmerJFudd
As long as it remains a hack together your own kit hobby it’s highly susceptible to piracy and there’s no reason for software developers to commercially support it.
I should explain that I meant the route that Korg used:
Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
All of Korg's latest midsize digital synths are just Raspberry Pi boards in fancy shells: the wavestate, opsix, and modwave for sure...
So use the RasPi as the basis for a hardware device. Don't release the software on its own at all. If necessary, use digital signing to allow the software to only run on the certified hardware shell.

I agree with EJF that if you want to go the software route then iOS gives you a greater level of protection against piracy. I don't think the end-user ease-of-use is quite there, although I'm watching this space with interest...

Cheers, Mike.

Last edited by stoken6; 04/04/21 05:13 PM.

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Originally Posted by ElmerJFudd
Originally Posted by ABECK
Originally Posted by OB Dave
Well I once bought a Muse Receptor, and what a joke that instrument turned out to be.
I remember when they came out thinking it was a genius idea (like the Open Labs NeKo.)

What was the issue with Receptors? Buggy? Unable to keep up with the pace of software changes?

Entirely reliant on their ability to score agreements with software developers with no motivation to provide them with latest versions or even equivalent versions to what they sell directly to customers.
...and the software developers did not have good things to say about them.

The Receptor is the only product ever sent to me by Keyboard mag for review that I sent back. I felt quite badly at the time, because I really wanted to like it...but I just could not get it to work as expected - way too much digital wrestling involved. freak

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It is possible to take any program, and silicon compile it to be put on a chip, except for that the interfaces like USB and drivers for the various OSes would somehow need to be included.

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Originally Posted by Docbop
the original is still the best.... A laptop or computer with lots of RAM and storage.

Well, for a specific definition of 'best' I agree with you grin . For taking out to venues and dropping on floors and spilling drinks on laptops and computers can often fall a bit short of 'best'. Compared to a tough small aluminium box with a dedicated screen and programmable rotary controllers you can grab in the gloom, and where the whole OS is on a read-only sdcard you can clone at home and replace in seconds on site. Being able to create a specific sound in software and then load that directly on to a portable keyboard is great!

I mean, check out this thing someone built out of a Raspberry Pi, an Edirol midi controller, some bits of aluminium and wood! I'd rather risk that perched on a wobbly stand with a beery band on stage compared to a laptop. Even if you dumped it in the sea you know the mainboard replacement cost is going to be $30.


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I've been using my laptop on gigs since 2006. Actually I started with a Mac "Titanium" G4 around 2001 but that didn't work too well. So, I really have about 15 years of experience doing this. I can only go by my own gig experiences but "dropping on floors and spilling drinks on laptops" has never been an issue. For local gigs I keep mine in a SKB "studio flyer" case, in back of me on the floor between my speakers – kind of my "protected" space. On the road, the same SKB case sits on top of a bass amp. I suppose it boils down to the types of venues you work at; I don't play biker bars or crowded restaurants, or anywhere where inebriated folks can get close to my stuff. Of course accidents can happen, but with a few easy precautions, worrying about my laptop warrants the same attention to detail as if I was bringing any expensive workstation keyboard to a gig. And I do carry a few backup options in the laptop bag - extra SSD with OS and samples, a few extra cables, etc. I've had a few blips but never had an incident that was a complete show stopper – and you can spill a drink on a Motif or Fantom too!

To get back a little closer to this thread topic - I would love to see someone build a Mac Mini or maybe an Intel NUC into a small & light controller. Screen-share it to a tablet and there you go. No proprietary stuff to bother devs with and I could leave my computer backpack and SKB case at home.

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Hi --

If anyone would like to explore audio/synthesis on Raspberry Pi, here are links to tutorial articles (written a few years ago):

http://sandsoftwaresound.net/get-started-raspbian-jessie-rpi2/
http://sandsoftwaresound.net/get-started-alsa-jack/
http://sandsoftwaresound.net/rpi-soft-synth-get-started/
http://sandsoftwaresound.net/usb-audio-raspberry-pi/
http://sandsoftwaresound.net/qsynth-fluidsynth-raspberry-pi/

Given everything else going on, I haven't tried the same apps and instruments on Raspberry Pi 4, but I expect a significant increase in performance. The RPi4's ARM processor is a big step up from models 1, 2, and 3.

Hope this helps -- pj

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Don't feel bad about the Receptor - I bought a Trio and then the company went under! I sold the Presonus D/A that came with it. But I spent a lot upgrading it to an SSD and additional RAM, and THEN it didn't work right. Something to do with the Kontackt instruments updater, which kept restarting the unit when changing patches. So, I needed to have it worked on remotely (for hours) by a very gracious former staff member of MUSE RESEARCH that I was put in touch with.

In total - the purchase cost me over $3k and a trade in of my former MUSE RECEPTOR, which at that point due to compatibility issues with new software, was basically a large paperweight!

I was so angry about it, that I haven't really played with the unit since. I guess you live and learn!

By the way, I still have it. It looks like it just came out of the box, because I haven't touched it. The only reason I've kept it is because Ivory pianos and a older version of Kontakt is loaded onto it. But since I've also purchased the Kontakt upgrade for computer use, it really makes no sense to use it.

I'm glad that you were able to sell yours Dave.

Regards,
AnthonyM

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Mine's in the closet (Receptor 2+ upgraded from a Receptor 1, purchased from fellow KCer).

Stability was not good enough. Too many lockups/restarts even with supported instruments like FM8.

I did like the mixer-style VST host; a basic but very functional GUI despite not being very slick, with interesting effects routing options. It was like a hardware workstation in that sense.

Anyway, happy enough running networked PCs through Soundgrid for the moment. Will definitely want to swap in a Mac Mini once all my fave VSTs are Silicon native.


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Originally Posted by Reezekeys
To get back a little closer to this thread topic - I would love to see someone build a Mac Mini or maybe an Intel NUC into a small & light controller. Screen-share it to a tablet and there you go. No proprietary stuff to bother devs with and I could leave my computer backpack and SKB case at home.

In a KC post many years back I presented some alternate marriage of midi keyboards and computer hardware to tap into the world of soft synths for live use without a laptop. Can't remember which iteration that one was, but for a while we have kicked around the idea of a midi keyboard that had space for, or even a special slot in the back for a Mac Mini or Windows mini computer. At the time of that post I was dismissed by a couple of regular forum members for suggesting that we needed something other a Receptor for those duties. My response post was that there were many different form factors for computers, and I suggested that there would likely be more in the future. Think I received a “pfffft” retort for that.

This was before the Raspberry Pi, which is indeed a new form, a miniature computer on a circuit board that has seen explosion in popularity. As a complete general purpose computer that is becoming more powerful at each new iteration, and one that runs an open source OS, I think this or similar could become the tipping point for the possibility of roll-your-own midi hardware with software instruments and effects. It will of course take developers of soft instruments to embrace this if it is to become popular. But if it does, we could likely start seeing midi controllers of all types that come with small Raspberry Pi size slots in them. For it to happen however, existing soft instrument and effects developers will have to see it as potentially lucrative to port their Apple or Windows software over to some form of Linux. How will this work for them is the question? Those who see this as the future and port over their already popular soft instruments early could see a potential boost in income, especially if the license holders for the Apple or Windows versions are willing to pay a “porting fee” to have a Linux version. The question is how much would we be willing to pay for this? Free for a current license holder would be nice, but if it means the difference of a developer bothering to port to Linux or not, I would definitely agree to pay. Many great soft instruments are not very expensive to begin with, so the fee could not be too high. Perhaps a developer could send out an email to all their current customers inquiring of their interest in having the software ported with the cost to the end user before they even decide to bother. Then it could be done like a Kickstarter project where a certain financial goal must be met before the developer does the porting.

Have no idea about the possibility of losing control of your propriety software in the world of an open architecture OS, but that has to be concern.


"It is a danger to create something and risk rejection. It is a greater danger to create nothing and allow mediocrity to rule."
"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." W.H. Auden
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