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Tim's Atari MIDI World

GenEdit 2.02

 

[Screen-shot: GenEdit main screen]

A long while ago, I got permission from Tom Bajoras (former programmer for the now defunct Hybrid Arts) to release GenEdit as freeware. However, the only version we had was a non-working version 1.1. Rather, it did not work very well. Tom also released the source code, so there was a possibility of revamping it. After a long while, I received a mail from a certain Joe Hlifka (of Albuquerque, New Mexico). He and his team had managed to upgrade GenEdit to version 2.02 with all the copy protection lifted. What's more, Joe put together a very comprehensive package. There's more to this software than meets the MIDI cord! Read his story below.

What is GenEdit?
GenEdit is a "Universal MIDI organizer-editor-controller". Instead of using a separate editor for each synth, GenEdit allows many synths to be edited in one environment. Also, if there is no editor available for your particular synth, you can create a "template" for it. GenEdit runs on Atari ST, Mega ST, STE, Mega STE, TT and Falcon computers in ST medium and ST high resolutions (GenEdit does not run on the 520ST because of memory limitations).

[Screen-shot: GenEdit]

The package
The GenEdit v2.02 freeware package consists of three files:

  1. The GenEdit program disk
    v2.02 program, resource files and all other files that were included with the original commercial program.
  2. The examples disk
    The miscellaneous configuration files and templates provided in the original v2.0 release plus some of the data files required for "Cool Studio", and  a "tutorial" for using GenEdit.
  3. The sample studio (Cool Studio) disk
    Numerous configuration files, templates, data files and a "Quick Start Tutorial" on setting up Cool Studio, a contemporary plug 'n' play GenEdit studio set-up, text for using the GENSYSEX.GEN file and an updated 2003 GenEdit support document listing all current instrument support.

[Screen-shot: GenEdit]

Using the software
I was able to set up the Cool Studio disk and run it on my Atari Falcon. Since I have a Kawai XD5, I was very appreciative of finally being able to edit this excellent synth. While known as a drum machine, it also has the synthesis engine of the Kawai K4 with plenty of resonant filters and envelopes as well as lots of waveforms. Using GenEdit I was able to make a bank of just synth sounds bringing the usefulness of my XD5 ten-fold. To get things working properly however, you need to have a two-way communication: both MIDI Ins and MIDI Outs of both the Atari and XD5 were required. However, this is true of most other editors as well.

[Screen-shot: GenEdit]

I found the editing screens very creative and not like your run-of-the-mill, same-as-all-the-rest editors. Each template in GenEdit is personalized by the creator of the template. No two templates are the same in layout, giving you a more personalized editing environment. I was surprised at the sheer amount of supported instruments: 147 instruments in all! This also includes some more modern instruments such as the Yamaha MU100R/MU90R and PRS series, Waldorf Microwave and Korg NS5R/NX5R.

[Screen-shot: GenEdit]

An Interview with Joe Hlifka

Tim: Tell me how you got started on this project?

Joe: In 1996, I contacted every Atari dealer still in business looking for a copy of GenEdit. I finally found one at Steve's Computers. I think I bought the very last copy that was out there. Because the program was copy protected, I contacted Binary Sounds about getting a backup disk and the section of the manual that explained how to create custom editors. Bob Semaan informed me that he only had a few backup disks and was saving them for registered owners who had damaged key disks. He expressed an interest in removing the copy protection from the program, but apparently didn't have a way of doing that. Chapters 8 and 9 and Appendix C were not available but said he was working on re-writing them and thought they would be available in a few months.

By early 1998, Binary Sounds had gone out of business, so I began my quest to find the missing chapters of the manual and figure out how to make a backup of my master disk. Bob's comment to me about removing the copy protection took up residence in the back of my mind and stuck with me. Later that year I found a utility that allowed me to make a working copy of the master disk and I came across the name of Andy Pederson listed on a GenEdit support document. I almost missed the connection with Andy because he had recently moved and his phone number had changed. I found Andy to be a friendly soul and very helpful; he went out of his way to make photocopies of the missing chapters and mailed them to me at his own expense. In exchange for his help, I made him a backup copy of the GenEdit program disk. Andy has also recently contributed several templates to the GenEdit package.

Tim: How did you finally get the copy protection removed from the program?

Joe: Around September of 2001 I contacted Tom Bajoras and asked him if he would consider upgrading SysXpress, the GenEdit desk accessory. He said he no longer owned an Atari computer but was willing to release the source code so I could pursue an upgrade. I think it was just after that, I discovered you had gotten the GenEdit source code from Tom and had it available for download at Tim's Atari MIDI World. So I set out to find an Atari programmer who could upgrade SysXpress and remove the copy protection from GenEdit.

I did a lot of asking around and kept striking out. Then in June of 2002, I contacted Roger Burrows at Anodyne Software in Ontario Canada. He said he was far more expensive than I could afford, but offered to take a look at it. He thought it sounded like a simple fix. Six beta versions and about eight months later; SysXpress was finished.

Roger was very generous with his time and I thoroughly enjoyed the beta testing. I came to appreciate the trouble shooting and problem solving aspect of computer programming. I had sent him the GenEdit source code somewhere along the way but was feeling a bit guilty about all the time he had spent on SysXpress so I didn't want to bother him about GenEdit. Then in an e-mail when we were wrapping things up on the desk accessory, Roger casually stated, "by the way; did I mention that I patched GenEdit and removed the copy protection?" I was totally surprised! After he sent me the patched version, I booted the program several times in a row to be sure it worked OK. It was great to be able to run the program without a key disk! I still wanted to pay him something for all his help but he said, "You could buy my CD Writer Suite software, I wouldn't mind selling another copy"; so I bought his software and later found a SCSI CD-RW drive on eBay.

Tim: So what did it take to complete this project?

Joe: The GenEdit package I bought included the program and examples disks and 18 disks of templates and configurations. Now that I had a SysXpress upgrade and GenEdit was free of copy protection, I thought it would be nice to share these with other GenEdit owners. It was at that point, I contacted you about making the program and all templates available for download.

Tim: What's in store for the future?

Joe: I'm currently working on a GenEdit CD-ROM. Since I now have a CD burner and software for my TT030, I thought it would be fun to burn the complete GenEdit package to a CD using Roger Burrows' software. Everything would be in one place rather than scattered over 20 floppy disks. From that original idea, I added all the Hybrid Arts software, several other MIDI freeware and shareware programs, some custom patches, sequences and other things. The CD has grown to about 45 MB in size. The GenEdit program and related files alone make up about 14 MB. I put together a demonstration plug 'n' play studio set-up as part of the package to showcase what the program can do. I think the GenEdit 2.02 release may very well be the largest MIDI freeware package currently available for the Atari.

Tim: Have you set a price for the CD?

Joe: I don't think I should be burning CDs and just give them away, so I'll charge a minimal fee for my time of putting it all together. I haven't made a final decision, but I'm thinking in the neighborhood of $22 to $25 US dollars. My biggest task at this point is to finish scanning the manual and reformat it to PDF. It's about 250 pages. A printed manual would be out of the question and would more than double the cost. Without the manual, many capabilities of GenEdit would be missed or would be difficult to grasp. GenEdit's simple looking main screen is deceiving. I should have it all finished by the summer of 2004.

Tim: What is it about the program that made it worth taking on this project?

Joe: To my knowledge, just about all the so-called universal editor/librarians for the Atari platform are copy protected. There are about 120 instruments supported by GenEdit, so removing the copy protection and making it available to everyone has given it new value. We have STeem for the PC and NoSTalgia for the Mac, so GenEdit can run on those machines too.

GenEdit is more than a good editor/librarian; you can manage an entire MIDI studio with it, create macros for dump requests or to send single key-stroke commands over MIDI to reset your gear or whatever. It has a MIDI monitor for trouble-shooting that also serves as a good tool for learning about MIDI messages. With SysXpress you can send GenEdit and other SysEx files to your gear on the fly from the desktop, or while running your sequencer. There's also a patch randomizer that allows you to quickly generate new patches for your synth.

I think the most important thing about the program is its open-ended architecture. It was designed to allow anyone to create custom editors, librarians, real-time controllers and dump utilities for almost any MIDI instrument or device on the planet. Potentially, GenEdit can be useful well into the future because of its "roll-your-own" capability. It will never become obsolete if users continue supporting the program individually or collectively. If there were enough interest, it would be nice to see a GenEdit users' group start up. I think we could see the development of templates for some newer instruments. And that would be cool!

[Screen-shot: Joe's home studio]

Joe Hlifka's MIDI home studio.


I didn't have a lot of space for my home studio so I had to be creative. The one-piece studio is on wheels and holds all the audio and MIDI gear. The computer is housed in a second stand also on wheels. It all fits into a 6 ft x 6 ft (36 sq. ft) space including my chair. Everything was acquired over a 25 year period, but most of the MIDI gear was purchased in the last ten or eleven years. 

Some of the audio gear is real vintage stuff:

  • Dynaco pre-amp
  • Hitachi power amp
  • Radio Shack equalizer
  • Radio Shack tape deck
  • Mackie 1202 VLZ micro mixer
  • Rolls MX28 Mini-Mix VI (mixer)
  • AKG K270 studio headphones
  • KLH tweeters and sub-woofer

My MIDI gear includes:

  • Yamaha TG300
  • Yamaha MU100R
  • Korg NS5R
  • Roland SC880
  • Hybrid Arts SMPTE Mate Plus sync. box
  • Brother PDC100 hardware sequencer

My hardware controllers include:

  • Yamaha PSR-510 keyboard (I'm not using the sound engine)
  • Peavey PC1600x MIDI controller
  • PAiA MIDI to CV converter
  • Yamaha breath controller
  • Custom hack, Pocket Pedal/Pocket Mapper in one case
  • Custom hack, SY77 3 thumb-wheels with several potentiometers
  • Extra foot switch and sweep pedal for sending real-time controller messages
  • JL Cooper MSB+ Rev2 MIDI patch-bay
  • JL Cooper Nexus MIDI merger

My Atari computer system includes:

  • TT030 with 4 MB ST RAM x 32 MB TT RAM (I pulled the internal HD and slowed down the fan to reduce the noise level)
  • Sony 0.25 mm grille pitch Trinitron monitor
  • High resolution Alfa Data Mouse
  • SyQuest EZ-135 drive for MIDI
  • Seagate 1 GB HD and Yamaha 8824 CD-RW in one case used with MIDI
  • Quantum 730 MB HD and NEC 8x CD reader in one case for non-MIDI uses
  • Iomega 1 GB Jaz drive for backups
  • UMAX 1220S flatbed scanner
  • Canon BJC-4000 printer
  • Tons of software

[Photo: NAMM convention centre]

Tim at NAMM
I was able to go to the NAMM Winter 2004 convention (National Association of Music Merchants) in Anaheim, California, and check out the latest gear. I am now into sound design for soft-synths, so it was great being able to meet the actual people who produce them. I even met Eric Persing who did a major part of the Roland factory presets. He works at Spectrasonics now and helped to develop its "Atmosphere" VSTi plug-in. One of my recent projects was creating sounds for Camel Audio's Cameleon 5000 additive morphing re-synthesizer. Here I am demonstrating it at the show. Someone else took the pic, and posted it on the web, so it is rather fuzzy, but you get the idea.

[Photo: Tim tickling the ivories]

I was able to live a dream, and actually shake the hands of Bob Moog himself and get his autograph. For those that don't know, Bob Moog invented the modular synthesizer and also the Mini Moog. I was also able to live another dream by setting up a meeting with producer/inventor Jimmy Hotz, who was responsible for the Hotz MIDI Translator. Here is a photo of that event.

[Photo: Jimmy Hotz and Tim Conrardy]

Sorta like the odd couple (I am on the right) but it was a great privilege to meet him. He talked about his experiences with the Hotz Box, including a story with working with Paul Hasslinger (of Tangerine Dream) and Atari Cubase. He is responsible for a great many artists getting into MIDI which included Fleetwood Mac, the Pointer Sisters and even BB King! His Translator software and also the now coveted Hotz Box (marketed by Atari) helped bring MIDI into our present age. See my Hotz  MIDI Translator page for details (http://tamw.atari-users.net/hotz.html). There are a great many articles on him including several in STart magazine, a popular Atari magazine in the late '80s, and now on-line.

It was quite something to actually go to a NAMM show after just reading about it all these years. However after a while, you tend to get NAMMed out! I even got blisters on both my feet! All in all a very good time.

tim@myatari.net

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MyAtari magazine - Feature #7, February 2004

 
Copyright 2004 MyAtari magazine