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TouchDAW on Chrome OS

Oct.2017: On Chrome OS v.60+, running Android version 7 and greater the app will initially show in phone size. Maximize the window and restart the app. It should then keeping launching in fullscreen mode.

Android apps are coming to Chrome OS... (you may have heard the buzz). Rollout of Android app support and Google Play to Chromebooks has been going on since late 2016 and Google recently announced that every Chromebook to be released from 2017 onwards will fully support the Android Runtime for Chrome (ARC). Getting apps to work on Chrome of course is not quite as easy as Google make it sound like, but starting with version 1.7.0 TouchDAW should be ready. Here's some points to be aware of:
  • Apps are running in a virtualized sandboxed environment. They do not have direct access to the hardware, be it USB ports or the network. In consequence much of the connectivity that TouchDAW can make use of when running on a native Android system will not be available when running on Chrome.

  • The app is and will remain to be mostly touch driven. The new breed of Chromebooks is expected to always come with touchscreens, but there sure will be exceptions and formfactors like 'all-in-ones' or 'Chrome boxes' with a standard monitor will equally not make much sense. Mouse input is supported of course, but the user-experience will be suboptimal at best. For keyboard support see computer keyboard MIDI mapping.

  • Standard 'old school' menu bars do not seem to work on Chrome and are disabled when running under ARC. The system will still show the 3 dots in the titlebar, but they will be functionless. Use the 'hamburger' menus and the 'back' key for navigation.

  • There seems to be a bug with convertible devices in tablet mode. Orientation changes, while mostly working fine, sometimes trigger an endless loop of 'configuration change' events, resulting in all open apps going berserk, trying to figure out what layout to use. Folding the device back into 'notebook' mode usually stops it.

Once you have TouchDAW installed on your Chrome device the main differences compared to running directly on an Android system are implied by the sandbox Android apps are running in. This basically is a heavily firewalled virtual system that is completely isolated from the host operating system and the hardware. None of the USB approaches will be available. The Android system version will be Marshmallow or larger, but Google have not ported the Android 6 MIDI system so far. USB peripheral mode, Bluetooth LE and Virtual connections will not be available. Networkwise the app only sees the virtual machine's network layer. It is not possible for TouchDAW to run in the default server mode ('Local Session'), open network ports and let others connect to them from the outside. The only way to work over WiFi is making outbound connections to other peers' RTP sessions. Luckily mDNS traffic is routed through the firewall, so TouchDAW will 'see' remote sessions, but other multicast traffic is completely blocked and working with ipMIDI, qmidinet or multimidicast will equally not be possible.

Finally: You need a 'regular' WiFi for this. Working with Android hotspot networks won't work, because the Chromebook will not multicast in them and won't forward mDNS to Android.

All that said, to get connected proceed as follows:
  • Set up rtpMIDI, mnet or Apple's MIDI network as described in the quickstart guide
  • Stop following the guide at point 5 and do NOT attempt to connect the app's sessions that will show up. They will not be reachable.
  • Instead go to Setup / MIDI ports in TouchDAW and change the preselected settings to WiFi / RTP / NAME_OF_YOUR_PCs_SESSION as shown in the screenshot below. You only need to do this once (but for both ports). The next time you start TouchDAW it will automatically connect to the remote sessions on startup without further interaction.

Alternatively you can try the 'old' Bluetooth 2.0 approach, which is usable with Android on Chrome, but is still considered to be deprecated and out of time (It also is and will remain to be broken on OS X).

Looking forward I hope that Google will at some point port their own MIDI apis, but I have been hoping for that to happen with the Android Chrome browser for more than a year now. Maybe if people start lobbying for it by posting to the notoriously inactive Android MIDI group the various teams at Google will learn of each other's existence...

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