Software installation is a pretty easy process these days. Office suites, graphics, animation, movie editing and web design software all install smoothly. Scanners, printers, digital cameras and other peripherals work almost straight out of the box – install the driver, plug in the device and you're away. Even WiFi networking – install the software, plug in the card and you've got a network.
So why is audio software so often a problem?
It doesn't always have to be a problem. If you have a Macintosh computer then the process should be smooth. Not because of any inherent superiority in the Macintosh platform, but that there are so few models available that any hardware manufacturer or software developer will make damn sure they test their products on all Mac varieties before shipping them out.
Also, if you buy a computer that has been around for six months or so, and hardware or software that is similarly 'matured', then you are likely to have an easier time. Installation onto a fresh computer is much more likely to work than onto one you have been playing around with for some time. And computers, hardware and software that are new to the market are very likely to be still rather buggy and problematic.
My own recent escapade was trying to install a Digidesign Mbox onto a Sony Vaio laptop. This is the computer I use for general everyday tasks, and I thought it would be handy to set it up as a simple and portable audio editing system. (Though I will still prefer my Macintosh Pro Tools MIXplus system for serious recording).
The problem was that the hardware driver wouldn't install. I searched the Internet for clues and found a technical note saying that if Cubase had previously been installed and then uninstalled, this could be expected. I had some time previously installed a demo of Cubase SX and had uninstalled it, so obviously this was the problem.
How crazy – for me to have to install Cubase again before I can run Pro Tools!
So I did that, but still no joy. I have posted the problem on the Digidesign forum so let's see whether anyone has an answer.
It's odd that I am reminding myself of the advice I give to anyone who asks – buy a complete system including software and hardware from a professional audio dealer. Use it solely for audio and music. Keep upgrades, updates and new software installs to an absolute minimum – use it for three years then get a whole new system.
Computers will rule your life if you let them.