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Making the Sounds of Vista 375

Posted by Zonk
from the bong! dept.
Bengt writes "The sounds of Vista took 18 months to get right for Microsoft. Artist Robert Fripp recorded hours of sound, and assisted Steven Ball in choosing between several different options. A clapping rhythm was rejected for 'sounding too human', and a techno beat was removed from considering because it was just the opposite." From the article: "If it seems like overkill to go to all that trouble for a few seconds of sound, consider this: Microsoft estimates that the clips such as the e-mail alert will be played trillions of times in years to come. That's a lot of opportunity to annoy, offend -- or, if the job is done right -- please or appease computer users the world over. One major concern was that the startup sound not grow grating after a time. You want a sound that people will love the first time they hear it, but it's a paradox to also say, 'Oh and by the way, we need people to love it the tenth, or the hundredth, or the thousandth time they hear it,' Ball said."
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Making the Sounds of Vista

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  • by toby (759) * on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:32PM (#16807536) Homepage Journal
    The poor saps are gonna be hearing that a lot... shortly after The BSOD Sound and the We Think You're a Damned Pirate sound.
    • by shmlco (594907) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:38PM (#16807596) Homepage
      Actually, it's nice to know that MS is paying attention to the details.

      Now, whether or not they've paid attention to the right details is another question entirely... and one which will be answered shortly.
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:44PM (#16807644)
        Actually, it's nice to know that MS is paying attention to the details.

        That's a bit like a car manufacturer worrying about the color of the seats while the breaks are still leaking.
        • by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:47PM (#16807684)
          Yes, I'm sure the car manufacturer would put all their fabric designers on the brake problem. That's a good use of their time.
          • Car analogies (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lonewolf666 (259450)
            The car manufacturer could hire competent mechanical engineers and cut costs in the fabric design department instead. Which might lead to a drab but technically superior car. I think that kind of decision tells a lot about a company and its priorities. Back to computers:
            In the OS world, you can have
            -a non-userfriendly (at least not beginner-friendly) but technically superb system. Think of classic UNIX as an example.
            -or as the other extreme, a pretty, newbie-friendly but unreliable system, like Windows 9x.

            O
            • Re:Car analogies (Score:5, Insightful)

              by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:59PM (#16808240)
              The car manufacturer could hire competent mechanical engineers and cut costs in the fabric design department instead.

              Do you really think it's a lack of money to pay engineers that prevents a company like GM or Microsoft from creating bug-free products? That's amazingly clueless.

              Don't you think that Microsoft wouldn't pay whatever it took to hire people to make Windows the best product they could? Yes, they would. The problem is not money. The problem is logistics and resources. There are a finite number of skilled developers, especially those with skills in a particular area. There are also a finite number of people that can work on the same project without stepping on each others toes.

              You can't just throw more bodies at the problem. That just makes matters worse. So, no. It's highly unlikely that cutting the budget for fabric design would do anything to improve the engineering staff.
              • More bodies? (Score:3, Interesting)

                by camperdave (969942)
                You can't just throw more bodies at the problem. That just makes matters worse.

                Isn't it one of the tenets of Open Source, that with enough eyes on the code, bugs are shallow? Why would that work for Linux and other Open Source projects, and not for Microsoft?
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by man_of_mr_e (217855)
                  You're talking a totally different model there. Even so, you're not throwing bodies at the problem, bodies voluntarily go looking at the problem, then if they find something, present it to the benevolent dictator to cherry pick patches. There's no real project management involved (except for the core project developers). Many of the changes just fall in their lap when someone submits them, without anyone knowing the work was even being done.

                  Most corporate development can't work that way.
            • In the OS world, you can have
              -a non-userfriendly (at least not beginner-friendly) but technically superb system. Think of classic UNIX as an example.
              -or as the other extreme, a pretty, newbie-friendly but unreliable system, like Windows 9x.

              That's a false dichotomy, and there are several examples that prove otherwise. (Amiga, and apparently Plan9 and BeOS.)

              Microsoft simply doesn't want to spend the money required to make a quality OS. Either that, or they can't retain the necessary talent due to the

  • by bcat24 (914105) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:33PM (#16807554) Homepage Journal
    I keep my speakers muted, you insensitive clods!
  • by gardyloo (512791) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:33PM (#16807556)
  • Ball said (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:38PM (#16807590)
    "Oh and by the way, we need people to love it the tenth, or the hundredth, or the thousandth time they hear it."

    I'll settle for "just not annoy me." If I'm supposed to love it, that sounds like too much distraction already.
    • Re:Ball said (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Meagermanx (768421) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:46PM (#16807674)
      I think I love some sounds just because of what they imply. Like one of Pavlov's dogs, I get a little happier when I hear the "Your Friend Just Logged Into IM!" sound.
      • by Firehed (942385)
        Hmm... the "I just had to reboot Windows again" sound probably won't be the highlight of my day.

        Though, in fairness, the time I've spent in the Vista beta so far has been pretty good, and most of the effects are subtle enough to not be distracting but still visible enough for me to think "that was a nice little touch" the first couple times. Thankfully, Aero actually looks decent unlike the stock PlaySchool XP theme - certainly more professional. Unfortunately, the sound drivers for the laptop where I've
  • by AndrewR81 (601345) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:39PM (#16807610)
    Just don't make it like this guy's startup sound: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Mt1bgsvsWms [youtube.com]
  • Too human (Score:2, Funny)

    by texaport (600120)
    You've got mail!

    AOL's three little beloved words ranks right up there with "I love you" ...
    That guy's gotta be wishing he had a better agent negotiating royalties.

  • Startup-sound (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cockroach2 (117475)
    I would recommend reducing the volume by a tiny little fraction each startup, so the more annoyed people get with it, the lower at least the volume will be...
    • And just when they're lulled into a false sense of security, that's when you replace the effects with 'Wally's 101 annoying cubicle sounds'and crank the volume right back up again.
  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson@gmail.cELIOTom minus poet> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:43PM (#16807636) Homepage Journal
    I see you're trying to perform Frippitronics! Would you like to:

    • Feed guitar notes into delay, reverb and replay tape-loop system?
    • Hire Brian Eno to help you?
    • Reform King Crimson yet again?
    • Sell out to Microsoft?
    Personally, I'm going to wait until the remixed, remasterd versions of the Vista sounds come out with additional material in a special boxed set available only from Discipline Global Mobile...

  • Pah... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chaffar (670874) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:48PM (#16807688)
    If they're so anal about getting the sound "just right", why wouldn't the last step of the install process just ask you to pick a sound scheme out of a set of 10 or so different styles.
    Hell they could even be the SAME notes, but with different instruments to suit the user's taste.
    • Why not let you pick - here's why.
      Go to the mall, or jump on public transport. Sit back, relax and wait for someone's mobile to ring.
      Now, out of the almost infinite range of ringtones that are available, how many people can actually exercise enough taste to pick a ringtone that's not offensive the first time round, let alone once you've heard it 50 times... 500 times... If I hear that fucking crazy frog or mosquito one more time, I'm going to dunk that person's mobile in a bucket of water.
  • 'Oh and by the way, we need people to love it the tenth, or the hundredth, or the thousandth time they hear it,' Ball said."


    Or... you let them change it?

     
  • I don't have sounds (Score:2, Interesting)

    by joe 155 (937621)
    I just don't have any sounds on, I have a bleep sound when I get a new email, other than that I think a system should be seen and not heard
    • by Durrok (912509)
      My setup was the same until I recently added the last 15 seconds or so of the BSG theme song as the startup sound at work. Now whenever I log in it's like I'm getting ready to do battle with sexy Cylons instead of... posting on /. all day.
    • I have sounds for useful things, so I don't have to literally keep an eye on my computer to see what it's doing - I can divert my attention to other tasks and the computer will alert me when it's done doing what I set it to do.

      For instance, there's a chime when I've finished burning a CD/DVD.
      There's a sound when email arrives.
      There's also a sound when email is sent - ie, not when I hit send, but when it's been uploaded to the SMTP server.
      With the time Windows takes to start up, I like a login sound so I kno
      • by Durrok (912509)
        Yes and they should add a sound that sounds like a cat being beat on a steel drum for whenever a user installs spyware onto their machine.
  • "Bwongg!" - everything's going fine.
    "Bu-da-lah-ding, boh-dah-la-dong..." - you've got problems.

    But better yet is a decent sleep mode. "..."
  • by fohat (168135) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:51PM (#16807720) Homepage
    While I'm most likely never buying this OS, I've been a big fan of Robert "Bob" Fripp for quite some time. For those who don't know who he is, He founded one of the premier "intelligent rock" bands, "King Crimson." He also worked heavily with Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel in the 1970's, creating some of the more brilliant music of the time. His solo work (and duo) relies on something he and Eno invented called "Frippertronics" which later evolved into "Soundscapes" in the 90's. I really can't wait to hear what he's come up with on this project, creating very short sound pieces seems a bit harder than the much longer pieces he normally plays.

    The title of this post is a bit of a Lark, of course it can.

    My choice for the startup sound of course would be the opening section of the song "Discipline" from the "Three of a Perfect Pair" album. And perhaps a good error noise would be Belew singing, "I repeat myself when under stress I repeat myself when under stress I repeat!"

    But enough of this banter.
    • by CrankyOldBastard (945508) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:01PM (#16808272)
      You left out his work with David Bowie on the Heroes album, which is undoubtedly Fripps most listened-to work. There was an issue of Guitar Player magazine back in the mid 1980s which had details on exactly how he got that delay thing working, and had a floppy record of some astounding solo work. Listen to the David Bowie track "Moss Garden" to hear Frippertronics at full steam.
  • A good sign (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) * on Saturday November 11, 2006 @03:59PM (#16807766) Homepage Journal
    It is this attention to detail that differentiates a quality product and something just chucked out the door. We see it on many types of products. For example, the miata has a tuned exhaust note. It cost a bunch of money, money that could have been used for executive bonuses, but Mazda instead invested it in the car.

    We see this often with computer and programs. Thinking about how long it take a computer to boot up or wake. Thinking of how many key clicks it takes to get from one place to another. Thinking of the opportunity costs of forcing users to enter 30 character validation keys at every turn.

    As long they have funded the sound as additional work, and not just redirected the effort from another project, I see this as a good sign. It could mean that MS Windows will be a tool that people like to use, and not just one they have to use.

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      We see this often with computer and programs. Thinking about how long it take a computer to boot up or wake. Thinking of how many key clicks it takes

            Thinking about how many megabytes the "patch" is going to be...
  • by theurge14 (820596) * on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:03PM (#16807804)
    "One major concern was that the startup sound not grow grating after a time."

    How about getting rid of the sound? What else does a startup sound inspire other than the sour feeling of having to restart the PC all the time?
    • by Xenolith (538304)
      Turn them off yourself. You have the power.
    • How about getting rid of the sound? What else does a startup sound inspire other than the sour feeling of having to restart the PC all the time?

      On older builds of Vista it was impossible to get rid of this sound, but after enough complaining they added a checkbox in the Sound control panel. See this [windowsvistablog.com] for more details.

  • Good god (Score:5, Funny)

    by melted (227442) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:29PM (#16808010) Homepage
    Hire a decent musician, spend 18 months and millions of dollars futzing with stuff he recorded and RELEASE A TURD anyway. That's the unique Microsoft development process (tm).
    • Especially when you just have to check for Slashdot polls [slashdot.org] to get it.

      People want techno (26%) !

      a techno beat was removed from considering

      A mistake ! At least take a Heavy Metal tune, then ! (23%)

      Everything else is worse than silence (19%).
  • by sammy baby (14909) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:32PM (#16808040) Journal
    This link has popped up a few places today, but just in case you missed it: the SF Chronicle did an interview with Fripp [sfgate.com] back in 1996, in which he talked about developing the startup sound to Windows 95.

    I'm kind of a Fripp fan, so I got a kick out of reading this:

    Q: How did you come to compose ``The Microsoft Sound''?

    A: The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I'd been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, ``Here's a specific problem -- solve it.''

    The thing from the agency said, ``We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,'' this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said ``and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.''

    I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like making a tiny little jewel.
    • by Adam Hazzlebank (970369) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:12PM (#16808374)
      Brain Eno not Fripp designed the Windows 95 sound...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sammy baby (14909)
        Okay, I'm feeling pretty dumb right now.

        On the other hand, Eno and Fripp aren't exactly strangers. So hey, at least I was in the right neighborhood. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ggy (773554)
      This link has popped up a few places today, but just in case you missed it: the SF Chronicle did an interview with Fripp back in 1996, in which he talked about developing the startup sound to Windows 95. I'm kind of a Fripp fan, so I got a kick out of reading this:
      Pity that you're not a Brian Eno fan, as that interview was with him...
  • They are correct (Score:3, Informative)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:34PM (#16808054) Homepage Journal
    I know that the current startup sounds make me want to puke, and im sure that i am not alone.

    Dont want your customers throwing up everytime they use your product.
  • by Mikachu (972457) <jjburkeNO@SPAMhunter.cuny.edu> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:37PM (#16808072) Homepage
    Let me guess... the BSOD sound is going to be "One More Red Nightmare"? :)
  • by springbox (853816) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:42PM (#16808118)
    Comparison with Windows XP [istartedsomething.com]. I do actually find applications making various sounds useful, because it means I don't have to keep checking or stare at them to check for significant events. There are a lot of sounds in Vista that, by comparison, seem like they're trying to "hide" from the user. Some of them are much less noticeable. In particular, I noticed that the "battery low" and "battery critical" sounds were pretty generic and surprisingly upbeat.
  • No thanks. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SocialEngineer (673690) <{invertedpanda} {at} {gmail.com}> on Saturday November 11, 2006 @04:46PM (#16808134) Homepage

    I've been a musician for about 13 years now, a composer for 6, and a music snob for many years beyond that, and I can safely say that I think they have succeeded at failing to create a lasting startup sound.

    For the era, The windows 95 startup sound was good - especially in stereo. While it was somewhat obtrusive, I think it was the best out of all the startup sounds MS has bundled with a Windows OS.

    The 4 note progression, if trying to follow the syllables of "Win-dows Vis-ta", should (disclaimer: in my opinion, mind you), be quite different. The ascension progression should (disclaimer: more opinion) hang on the last note (Think "I want my M-T-Veeeeeeeeeeeeee"). Just dropping the progression and sinking into the background chords in the manner they have chosen rubs me the wrong way.

    Now, if they had chosen a progression that doesn't continue to ascend, such as the tradmark NBC sound, I think they would have it. When that "C" is struck, it creates a musical sense of relief and completion (disclaimer: my brain says so).

    The ascension feels like it is choking, to me. Almost like the way a person would ask a short question - "Windows Vista?"

    Oh well. I disable all startup sounds on computers anyway, as they take up RAM, and tend to not blend with whatever music I'm listening to at the time. :)

  • Microsoft missed a chance to build hype for Vista -- they could have posted all of the candidate startup sounds and then let users pick by majority vote. It would have driven a ton of traffic to their Vista promotional site. (Heck, they could have even pretended like we had a say kind of like the way management does in most of corporate America).

    To me the sound they picked kind of evokes an emperor with no clothes - it is four notes long: sol-do-re-sol. Kind of sounds like a rip off of the beginning of the
  • You want a sound that people will love the first time they hear it, but it's a paradox to also say, 'Oh and by the way, we need people to love it the tenth, or the hundredth, or the thousandth time they hear it,' Ball said."

    Just make the sound be an autogenerated one, with a person that says something like: "Thank you for using Windows Vista. We appreciate it so much, that you can call us, and provider the following code to get 15$ check mailed in to you! ", and the the sound says the voice. I can swe

  • (pun possibly intended)

    MS insisting that the startup sound be tolerable after 1000 times hearing it alludes to the fact that they know how unstable and badly architected Windows (including Vista) is. There's got to be an internal memo regarding how often in a given time period the average user would hear the startup sound.

    And no, this is not a direct correlation to Gnome/KDE startup sounds, which would only be played when Gnome/KDE or X is started, not the entire OS. OSX, iirc, embeds the Mac startup

    • by spectecjr (31235)
      MS insisting that the startup sound be tolerable after 1000 times hearing it alludes to the fact that they know how unstable and badly architected Windows (including Vista) is. There's got to be an internal memo regarding how often in a given time period the average user would hear the startup sound.

      The Windows startup sound plays when you login these days. And some people (eg. me) restart their machine at home every day. Why? Because it costs money to run the thing. *shrugs*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 11, 2006 @05:12PM (#16808386)
    (mainly for computers for which I'm not the only user)

    - Earth-shattering kaboom
    - Beethoven's 9th (yes, all of it)
  • is i just me or are these vista sounds [istartedsomething.com] teeth grinding high? PAT

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