humatic - htools - TouchDAW

TouchDAW on Chrome OS

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 touch driven. Newer Chromebooks will mostly 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.

  • 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 is a heavily firewalled virtual system that is completely isolated from the host operating system and the hardware. Networkwise TouchDAW will only see the virtual machine's network layer. It is not possible to run the app 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 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 set up an RTP connection 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.

Update, March 21st 2018: Chrome OS 65 now supports the Android MIDI APIs and TouchDAW can be used with class-compliant USB MIDI interfaces and make 'virtual' connections to other apps. More to come once documentation becomes available. For the moment please stick with real hardware interfaces and stay away from those "System" and "MIDI Through" ports.

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