GarageBand Woes
February 23, 2004 2:04 PM   Subscribe

GarageBand woes. I have a white iBook G3 600MHz / 256MB RAM / 30GB hard disk. The machine does great with iMovie, Safari, Office, etc, but it's choking on GarageBand with "System Overload" errors. I try to play a 2-track composition with 1 instrument that's not a piano and it just stumbles and croaks. I'm sad, that Apple is leaving such a relatively new machine in the dust. My question is: should I bother upping the RAM? I know it will help at least somewhat, but will it make the difference between GarageBand exploding and GarageBand performing really smoothly? If not, I'd rather take the $100 I'd spend on new RAM and save it toward a new PowerBook G4. But then, is a G4/1GHz really going to be that much better than a G3/600MHz? Advice?
posted by scarabic to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
The G4 has AltiVec (multimedia) enhancements that will make it a ton better at anything using multimedia.

I put at least 512M in any OS X box - at home, my dual G4 (867Mhz) is maxed out with 2G, and I normally see almost a gig used (active + swap + buffers) with nothing more than Safari, Terminal.App, iTunes, and a couple of menu-bar programs.
posted by mrbill at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2004

It says right in the requirements: G4 or faster required for GarageBand software instruments
posted by machaus at 2:21 PM on February 23, 2004

Response by poster: Ok, it says that G3s can use Apple Loops but not Software Instruments. Does that mean that with my machine, all I can do is arrange the pre-packaged sound clips that come with the install?
posted by scarabic at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2004

I also have a 600 mhz G3 iBook, which is the minimum supported system with the GarageBand. You can record real instruments, but can't use the snazzy amp models. The software organs, piano and electric pianos work ok.

The issue with GarageBand is not so much memory as it is processor power. Stepping up to a G4 will make a big difference with a program like GB.
posted by andrewraff at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2004

On my iBook G4 with 256MB, Real Instruments seem to take up much less processor energy than the pre-packaged clips. Get a guitar!

Also, I've found it very useful to toggle the buffer settings in the preferences. A longer buffer lets it record without as many error, you can turn off certain tracks if you don't want them dealt with in real time, thus saving some memory.

Still, the hard drive seems to hit limits when recording more than a few tracks. I'd be curious to know how well it works at 512 MB.
posted by inksyndicate at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2004

That, and record your own audio, I believe. Look, this is high-horsepower stuff; to me, the story is that Apple is not leaving features out of programs like GarageBand just because they won't run on some 2-3 year old machines. Apple's goal is to sell new machines, and one way to do that is to make great software that requires a lot of processor power. Why do you think Intel had such an interest in pushing full-screen video playback a few years back?

Your system meets the bare minimum requirements for running GarageBand, or iChat AV, and it's not going to get better from there. You can tell GarageBand to optimize for more tracks (instead of for more responsiveness in live recordings) in the preferences, but other than that, you're probably doing about as much as you can.

If you want to know how well a faster PowerBook will work for you, put together a song your machine can't play (if you can), burn it to CD, and take it to your nearby Apple reseller to play with it on a PowerBook. Try before you buy.
posted by mdeatherage at 2:53 PM on February 23, 2004

Response by poster: That's a pretty good idea.

So the consensus is that RAM will *not* help me?
posted by scarabic at 3:07 PM on February 23, 2004

i'd save up for a G4 or G5 chip to upgrade your ibook with, or just save up for an emac (cheap!) or something newer.
posted by amberglow at 3:28 PM on February 23, 2004

scarabic, from what I've been reading on the Apple forums, you are correct - additional RAM will not help in your current iBook.

FWIW, I have a 12" G4 iBook (800Mhz) with 640 MBs of RAM and I have never seen the "System Error" messages that G3 users see. If you can live without a few features, the 12" iBook is about US$500 less than the 12" PowerBook that, by casual testing in an Apple store, doesn't run GarageBand any faster than the iBook...
posted by JollyWanker at 3:33 PM on February 23, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, JollyWanker. Very helpful to know. I guess the ultimate decision now is whether to go SuperDrive or not.
posted by scarabic at 4:13 PM on February 23, 2004

RAM will not help you. The AltiVec unit - excuse me, "Velocity Engine" - in the G4 and G5 processors is designed for the sort of computation a softsynth or effect module spends most of its time doing, and adds speed all out of proportion to the difference in clock rate. When I added AltiVec support to an application that does a very similar type of signal processing, its speed increased by 4-5 times its previous rate. So it's not a matter of Apple just not bothering to support an older machine; there really is a major difference in the technology.

Your 600 MHz G3 can probably keep up with a 500 MHz G4 in normal work, but when it comes to audio processing, the G4 is in a completely different league; the equivalent of a 2.5 GHz G3, perhaps, if such a thing existed.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:12 PM on February 23, 2004

Holy moley, there's more brainpower in here than in a dumptruck full of philosophers. I'm almost embarrassed to offer my folk cure for young scarabic's computational malady. But here it is: Get a slice of dark rye bread--pumpernickel--and toast it two or three times. Torch it. Run down your hallway and throw it in the toilet. Garage Band should play just fine.

Also consider spending the $50 for RAM anyway, if only because it'll help everything else run better and raise the resale value more than $100. And reinstall 10.3 without an OS 9 partition. If anyone can site a reason for 9, please out with it. X runs faster without the 9 stuff.

Finally, fill your wintel tower with Lucky Charms and BBQ sauce.
posted by squirrel at 6:37 PM on February 23, 2004

If anyone can site a reason for 9, please out with it. X runs faster without the 9 stuff.

Pro Tools Free?

Actually, I can't wait to see if GarageBand makes it completely irrelevant. But there are a few applications I have here and there (and even some hardware from companies like HP who you'd think would know better) that needs 9, so I'm keepin' it for now.
posted by weston at 7:09 PM on February 23, 2004

FWIW even I'm having occasional overload issues when I use Garage Band and I'm on an iMac with an 800 MHz G4 processor and 256 MB RAM. Changing the buffer settings to the G3 option and also importing all the tracks to iTunes and then re-importing that two-track mix back into GarageBand both help.

Also do as squirrel says, but be sure the Lucky Charms go in first. I tried dumping the sauce first and, boy, was that a mistake.
posted by emelenjr at 8:37 PM on February 23, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah, weston, ain't that a hum-dinger the way Pro-Tools works great on old Macs but I need some schmancy Alti-Vec instruction set to run GarageBand? I guess that's the difference between an indie software developer seeking a broad minimum requirement, and an OEM who wants you to buy a new machine every 1.8 years (yeah, I know, plus or minus some features and a brushed aluminum UI).

You guys have really helped a lot on this one. I think a few paltry dollars for RAM would not be a bad investment. And my expectations for this app are now in better alignment with the base requirements. And I think I have the proper incentive to start thinking about a G4. I think I may keep my iBook for mobile stuff and consider a second-hand G4 tower, come to think of it.

Thanks, all!

[what's that burning smell?]
posted by scarabic at 11:29 PM on February 23, 2004

Digidesign an indie software developer? :: snort ::

Pro Tools free is only to get you hooked on their interface so they can sell you very expensive outboard dedicated hardware that does similar things to what can be done in software on fast chips with vector processors.
posted by tomierna at 5:17 AM on February 24, 2004

If anyone can site a reason for 9, please out with it.

Outlook Express, Cubase VST 5.1, Photoshop 5.5, and Illustrator 8... ;-)

X runs faster without the 9 stuff.

huh? you can always turn off classic mode if you're not using it. It doesn't use up any processor time if it's not running.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:01 AM on February 24, 2004

Response by poster: I wonder if a Classic-free install is still a performance benefit. It was back in the pre-Jaguar days. I can't explain why that was, Mars Saxman, but it wasn't a matter of taking up processor cycles while running, it was a matter of configuration. Something about including Classic in the OSX install itself led to a less-optimal system config, and slower performance. Message boards abounded with reports of people enjoying better performance after removing the Classic layer altogether. But that was at least 2 jungle cats ago.
posted by scarabic at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2004

Ahh, I see; I hadn't heard about that. I didn't start using OS X in earnest until 10.2. Interesting.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2004

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