Testing out new recording studio applications and plug-ins is one of the many ways we help the Production Expert community. Downloading and installing applications for testing is simple enough, or at least that’s what I thought until very recently when I set out to test drive a new and intriguing drum VI by IK Multimedia called MODO DRUM on my old Mac Pro 5.1 Cheese-grater.
The promotional material around this looked very interesting but a major problem stopped me dead in my tracks when I attempted the install it: The installer informed me that the software would not work on my system, I thought this was a bit odd, I have never had a message like this before come from an installer.
The following error message appeared in the initial process which determines if the application can be installed:
“ModoDrum needs CPU with AVX support. For more information, visit: https://www.ikmultimedia.com/faq/?id=1254”
This got me worrying about my old Mac Pro Cheese-grater, could this be the beginning of the end for my trusty old studio machine?
If you own or rely heavily on a Mac Pro cheese-grater in your studio then this issue may affect you in the near future as it’s down to something called AVX support.
What Is AVX Support?
AVX is short for Advanced Vector Extensions which is also known as Sandy Bridge New Extensions. AVX are extensions to the x86 instruction set architecture for microprocessors from Intel and AMD proposed by Intel in March 2008.
These were first supported by Intel with the Sandy Bridge processor that shipped in Q1 2011 and later on by AMD in Q3 2011. AVX provides new features, new instructions and a new coding scheme to allow for better performance, which all sounds great but where does this leave those who run old Mac Pro Cheese-graters?
The old Mac Pro may not be the only type of computer lacking AVX. If you own a computer similar in age then you can perform a quick internet search to find out if your system’s processors includes AVX.
How To Check If Your Windows Computer Has AVX
On Windows computer right click "This PC" and click “Properties”
Inside here you will see your processor listed. Look up the specifications of this processor on the manufacturer website. Sometimes it is easiest to Google your processor model followed by "Specifications".
How To Check If Your Apple Computer Has AVX
Click the Apple logo in the upper left hand corner of your screen.
Select "About this Mac" to find your model and year system.
Look up your Mac model's specifications on the Apple website to find your processor model. Use Google to find this information. When searching try "Macbook Pro Late 2013 Specifications" for example.
Alternatively you can run a code in Terminal which will quickly tell you if your machine supports AVX.
Copy paste the following into Terminal:
sysctl -a | grep machdep.cpu.features
If you see AVX1.0 in the list then your Mac has AVX. As you can see from my Terminal report my Mac Pro Early 2009 5.1 2 x 3.46 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon doesn’t include AVX. It’s also worth noting that the earliest mac machines with AVX started around 2011.
In reality it appears it doesn’t matter how far these machines can be pimped out in the hardware department with retrofitted Thunderbolt ports and 12 core upgrades, software development is inevitably what will put these machines into retirement.
Yes, I can’t install and use the MODO DRUM software on my current studio machine, I accept that but the bigger and more serious reality I need to face is these sorts of events may start to become more frequent very soon.
With this new insight I’m going to have to check and double check software system requirements for any new software title I intend to buy to ensure I don’t end up wasting my money purchasing a software that simply will not work on my old system.
Checking recommended system requirements for software wasn’t something I felt I needed to do as my system has had a decent amount power, but something as simple as not having a system capable of AVX runs the risk of me one day throwing money down the drain if I’m not vigilant.
Mac Pro users, we should stop being ignorant when working with these old computers, especially with new software releases as these computer are certainly not current or considered as such any more by software developers. That of course has been the case for a while but it took this experience to really bring home the fact that my Mac isn’t going to be long for this world. Thankfully this lesson didn’t result in me losing any money as I was only trying to install a demo, hopefully this is an experience all Mac Pro users in our community can learn from.
How Visible Was This Information On The IK Website?
In fairness to IK their MODO DRUM product page did state this information under the Spec section though it didn’t explicitly mention Mac Pro models:
Minimal: Intel® Core™ i5 with support for AVX instructions, 8GB of RAM (16 GB suggested), 20GB of available hard-disk space, macOS 10.9 or later. USB port (3.0 suggested).
Is This The Final Curtain Call For The Old Mac Pro Cheese-Grater?
I’m sure this won’t be the last time a software application will refuse to install on my system. This was the wake up call I needed to start seriously considering the next chapter in my studio computer journey. Fact, software development moves at an incredible pace. When the next software application refuses to install again and my bet it will happen again soon, it will mostly likely be the final nail in the coffin for my Mac Pro Cheese-grater.
Apart from possible future software applications the next instalment of macOS Catalina is confirmed to effectively end of life my machine anyway so the writing is certainly on the wall in big block capitals. If you run an old mac then check out our article and vote in the poll Apple macOS Catalina v10.15 - Your Mac May Be Incompatible - What Will You Do? Poll