The older person’s obligatory software update rant (with parenthetical asides)

So, I’ve been working on a new version of a string quartet-with-optional-video piece for the Portland Chamber Music Festival that looks like it will be played in May. Which is great, because it makes me look critically at a long piece of mine that was probably too tricky to really work in its original form, save some music that I still like, and edit some video that needed severe trimming. But, the software changes that have gone on since 2004, when I wrote the first version, have made for much frustration. Frustration that I have often seen in my elders as they work through technological shifts.

This doesn’t really surprise me, as I’m now an elder person too. But the shifts also seem to take my students off guard as well, which makes me think that the people making technology have a very idiosyncratic idea of how people use stuff.


I am not one of those people that gets upset when Facebook changes something. Timeline was fine by me, although the whole idea of having a timeline of your whole life seems to be aimed at someone who’s, say, 17 years old, and hasn’t had much of a timeline yet. The iTunes change didn’t bother me much, mainly since I had given up on Playlists eons ago. (My long drives tend to be artist-driven, so to speak. Today’s drive from Maine featured Marshall Crenshaw exclusively, mainly his first classic album. Highly recommended. I mean, this guy has an acoustic album called I’ve Suffered for My Art..Now It’s Your Turn.) The change to having-as-many-graphics-on-the-page-as-possible in iTunes didn’t mess me up, mainly because I don’t use iTunes to, you know, work.

I do use Finale. And Final Cut. And, back in the day (that is, until last year) Peak. But then I had to change to Logic when Peak disappeared. And get used to the Mass Mover being gone from Finale. And hear from my Sibelius-using students about shifting from Sibelius 6 to version 7 – where, again, the amount of graphics in the tool bar actually gets in the way of the amount of screen devoted to the actual score…

ImageBut the biggest thing has been the move from the last year’s Final Cut to this year’s Final Cut Pro (granted, now it’s less expensive to get the Pro version – I had used the Express version, which suited me fine.) All of the tools that I used on a daily basis in Final Cut are now, at least in the default view, hidden among several layers of glossy black screen areas, sometimes with new names (I have to “share,” not “export,” really?), sometimes with accompanying annoying sound effects. And why would I want to choose a “theme” for my video…I’m not making Powerpoint presentations.

It took half an hour to put a fade on the main clip from the string quartet piece I’ve been editing…ImageThis screen shot shows the eventual successful fade inserted. But on my way there, I thought, hmm, maybe iMovie will be easier for this whole edit-and-crossfade stuff…I mean, I’m not shifting colors or anything…

ImageBut, where’s the timeline? Why do I need all of these thumbnails? And why is the software pretending to be helpful by saying “drag stuff here” and not being helpful anywhere else? 

I had heard about the major Final Cut changes last year, and had delayed doing anything until I had to change laptops. I had hoped that, but now, updates would have happened in response to people freaking out. But no, people just rant, like me, and adapt.

But I still think that the software developers are all excited about the “ooooh, shiny” new displays to the point that actually getting stuff done with the software is beside the point. And I know that this sounds just like my elders (“I had to actually learn html…I think Score is much more useful from a publishing point of view than anything with MIDI playback…I used a real electric eraser…you used to have to prove you could make a splice in electronic music courses..”).

Which makes it really appropriate to use Marshall Crenshaw as a reference in this post. Kind of like retro-squared.