Product Review Madness

I can’t prove any of the guesses I’m about to make. Please bear that in mind. I may be entirely wrong. But…

Last night I finished writing a review of the Roland Fantom-G keyboard for Electronic Musician. Having no particular desire to keep it in my studio, I boxed it up. Then I uninstalled the drivers with which the Fantom was able to talk with my Windows XP computer.

My usual audio/MIDI setup revolves around a Yamaha mLAN firewire connection to a Motif XS. This afternoon I discovered that the mLAN drivers were hosed. MIDI from the Motif was reaching my audio apps, but neither audio nor MIDI was emerging from the computer and traveling back down the cable to the Motif.

So I did what every musician knows to do in such cases. I uninstalled and reinstalled the mLAN drivers. The computer hung once during the process, which is unusual, but then the installation seemed to proceed to its conclusion.

Only … there was still no audio or MIDI output through the drivers back to the Motif.

Cubase couldn’t even find the MIDI output port. Both Cubase and FL Studio found the ASIO mLAN audio pipeline, but when I selected it, nothing happened.

As I was looking in the audio device menus for various programs, I spotted a Fantom-G option. Hey, wait a minute! I thought I uninstalled that! I looked in Add/Remove Programs. No Fantom. I looked in Device Manager. No Fantom. And yet Wavelab and FL Studio could still see a phantom Fantom.

As it turned out, this was probably not the source of the problem — but Eric Klein of Roland was happy to help troubleshoot it. He shared some nifty code that caused Windows Device Manager to display non-present devices. There turned out to be quite a number of them. We got rid of the phantom Fantom. And in the course of the conversation, he mentioned that an iPod can cause this kind of problem. In some circumstances, it seems, every time you power up Windows with an iPod attached, another device gets installed. Pretty soon there are so many that Windows chokes on them.

And of course, that’s exactly what I had been doing for the past couple of days. I had powered up the computer six or eight times with an iPod attached to it. So I got rid of some phantom Mass Storage Devices that were probably the iPod.

Still no audio. So this time I did what I should have done the first time: I downloaded the latest mLAN driver from the Yamaha site. The driver setup program I already had had created a driver that worked in my system before … but since then I had upgraded from WinXP SP2 to SP3. Very possibly, SP3 required a different mLAN driver installer.

Sure enough — when I installed the new mLAN driver, my audio was restored.

I was tempted to blame the Roland Fantom for the mess, as I had earlier encountered some conflicts between its Windows driver and the mLAN driver, but now I have to give Roland props for fixing a mess that they probably had nothing to do with!

So maybe the real lesson is not, the hell with product reviews. Maybe the real lesson is, if you have a creative tool that’s working, don’t use it for anything else. Except, that’s not a lesson that any of us can follow. The computer is too useful, and I don’t have enough money to buy a separate computer for each task. All I did with the iPod was copy a file from my laptop to this computer in order to email it to someone. Next time I’ll use the Ethernet cable. Maybe that will be safe. Maybe.

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2 Responses to Product Review Madness

  1. JesseJ says:

    Hello! Could you please elaborate on the process of removing the clog? I think it would be of great help to many, I’ve read about these kind of problems on many forums. It would be nice if you’d share what you learned!

    – Jesse –

  2. midiguru says:

    Happy to oblige. Below is what Eric told me. Several points need to be made about this, however, before we proceed to the instructions:

    First, you’re on your own. Neither Jim Aikin nor Roland Corp. warrants that these instructions are safe. If you manage to screw up your computer, we’re not liable!

    Second, the problem seems to arise when USB devices are plugged and unplugged various times. This could be an iPod or a memory stick, for instance.

    Third, when he says, “Be careful not to delete any Microsoft drivers,” in my system some of the non-present devices had Microsoft drivers, and I deleted them anyway. I haven’t encountered any bad results. I deleted five Mass Storage Devices, which I assumed must be either the iPod or the USB memory stick.

    Fourth, if you just open up Device Manager in the normal way, from the Control Panel > System, you won’t see these items. Using the command prompt seems to be essential.

    Now here’s Eric:

    Click on “Start” and choose “Run,” then type in “cmd” as the command line. Click “OK” and a DOS prompt will open. Type the following commands one line at a time, hitting enter after each:

    set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1
    start devmgmt.msc

    The Device Manager will now open up, so click on the View menu and choose “Show Hidden Devices.”

    Look through the Device Manager carefully and note that there are a lot of drivers with a kind of translucent colored icon next to them. These are what are called “ghosting” or otherwise nonpresent drivers your computer is remembering in case you were to ever use the device again later. They can also be drivers that do system functions and are hidden by default, or partially installed or corrupted driver install attempts, all sorts of things really.

    Look under these categories in particular:

    +Human Interface Devices
    +Other Devices
    +Sound, video and game controllers
    +Universal serial bus controllers

    Obviously you would want to uninstall any driver that shouldn’t be there, but pay particular attention to things like these:

    USB Composite Device
    Composite USB Device
    USB Audio Device
    USB Human Interface Device
    USB Device
    Unknown Device
    *3rd party USB drivers no longer in use or installed multiple times.

    Delete these or any driver duplicates and then restart your computer. Be careful not to delete any Microsoft drivers.

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