The issue of the UCreate software is a contentious one, as the software to allow users to swap around the sounds and effects in their UCreate could only be used by connecting to the UCreate website; but after a couple of years Mattel took down the website and it was no longer possible to do this.
There is a long and very interesting discussion on the subject – from which many of the ideas below originate – at http://nomeist.com/ucreate-music/199.
The way it originally worked was this: the first time you plugged in your UCreate it automatically connected to the website, and downloaded a program, which – on the Mac at least, looked like this:
This confirmed that your device was connected, and gave you the Firmware version (I think version 9 was the last one) and the individual number of your device. Each time you plugged in your UCreate and opened the program, this is what you would see. As the instruction at the top suggests, if you rested your cursor on various parts of the picture, you were given an explanation of the function of the various controls, for example:
However, more importantly, if you clicked the tab on the right, ‘Music portal’, you were able to log onto the website:
As you can’t do this now, I’ve had to rely on an old screenshot from a Windows PC. I don’t have any screenshots of what you would find when you got there, and even the Wayback Machine only shows a background image, presumably because the site operated via a Flash app; but you were able to download some alternative sounds directly to the UCreate device, and move the effects around. What users anticipated was, as time went on, more sounds and new effects would appear, perhaps even a community of users sharing their own creations.
Instead, the site was closed, and you now see only this:
Not only was access to the existing sounds and effects withdrawn, but, worse still, also the means of loading them into the UCreate devices; and everyone who used one was stuck with whatever sounds they currently had installed.
For most, this was the original sounds the UCreate came with, or one of the extra packs that had been available on the website. I had the extra packs, but couldn’t use them because there was no separate software available to install them on the machine.
Some astute users had observed that the downloading process occurred in two parts: first the sounds were downloaded from the website to the host computer; then they were transferred from the computer to the UCreate. The time-lag between these two operations allowed their own sound files, suitably renamed to match those being downloaded, to be quickly substituted between downloading and transferring. The timing of this was crucial, and could be a bit hit-and-miss, so one proficient user, ‘scragz’, even wrote a routine for Macs that automated the task (https://github.com/scragz/ucreate-loader); but if these were still in the machine when the site was taken down, these were the sounds you were left with.
The following article describes how samples can now be loaded into the UCreate, and furthermore how you can create and use your own samples in the device.
First of all, I should say that this isn’t entirely straightforward, but there are basically 3 steps to getting your UCreate to accept new sounds. These are:
Step 1. Get your computer to recognise your UCreate device;
Step 2. Create the right kind of sound files for the device to use; and
Step 3. Load the sounds into the device.
Fortunately, there is now a step by step video tutorial on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watchv=Ehh1fn6D2Lk&list=PLJSvyfpaaK7ESfsIWcdwDMCS-YhIw1xc4 which tells you exactly how to do it. This was made by Krimzon Ninja, who’s done some marvellous work in sorting this problem out, following on from a user by the name of ‘marbs’ who created a program a couple of years ago (http://marbs-online.blogspot.co.uk/) which he called ‘u-load’.
Part 1 of the tutorial lists the programs required, and setting up the folders you need on the computer.
Part 2 describes how to get your computer to recognise the UCreate.
Following the instructions in the videos is the best way to do it, but these are my original notes from the first version of this article, which may help:
Step 1. Getting the computer to recognise your UCreate device.
If you just plug your UCreate into the computer and run u-load, you’ll get this:
which is no help at all. What you need to do is install a USB driver to communicate with the device.
The way to do this is as follows:
a. Download the driver installer program ‘Zadig’ from here: http://zadig.akeo.ie/ (choose a version according to whether you’re using XP, Vista or Windows 7), and unzip it with a program such as ‘7-Zip‘.
[Edit: Now, what I’ve been told is that not every version of Zadig will do. There are different versions for XP and Vista or later. I used this one: http://sourceforge.net/projects/libwdi/files/zadig/zadig_v22.214.171.124.7z/download which worked fine].
c. Then click the ‘Install Driver’ button.
This picture shows the Zadig window, with the 4 actions to take:
1) Choose ‘List All Devices’ from the ‘Options’ menu.
2) Only one item appeared on the list, which is the long box partly hidden under the drop down menu. Probably a good idea anyway to make sure the UCreate is the only USB device connected, to avoid confusion. I checked the ‘Edit Name’ box so I could rename it ‘GENERALPLUS-MSDC’.
3) Actually, I can’t remember what was selected here. I didn’t change what it already said, which is probably what is showing here.
4) Clicking this button starts the installation.
d. The installation wasn’t instant: it took a couple of minutes, and some messages came up about restarting devices. I switched the UCreate off, restarted the computer, switched the UCreate back on, and started u-load.
This time I got the following message:
which was a whole lot better, indicating that u-load now recognised the UCreate, and was ready to load sounds and effects into it.
You only have to do this once, then your device is set up.
One final thing: I think it only fair to point out what marbs says at the end of the README file: ‘To use the original application delivered with your ucreate, you have to deinstall the [USB] driver in the device manager.’
In other words, you won’t be able to use the UCreate’s original software now, unless you can do this deinstall. I’m not sure whether Zadig does this or not; but I believe it’s designed not to remove existing drivers, so it would be possible, I presume, to restore the UCreate to its original state with this or with the Windows Device Manager. It’s a moot point whether it would worth doing it, of course, since the website on which the original software depends no longer exists.
(Doing this on the Windows computer, incidentally, didn’t stop the original software from running on the Mac when I later connected the UCreate to that).
This is what you see when you press 1, then ENTER for ‘Help’:
This tells you exactly what u-load can do: ‘Make’ = group your sound files together into a big file which can be used by the UCreate; ‘Write’ = load these file groups onto the UCreate.
Step 2. You need to create some sound files of the type that u-load and the UCreate can use (with the extension ‘.lop’).
Part 3 of the tutorial video describes how to create your own samples with the program Audacity.
Part 4 shows how to convert your samples to the format used by the UCreate with the programs Lopgen_a – Lopgen_e.
The 5 Lopgen programs can be downloaded from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_ZkjKZUhAHQbWVsSWhuZXBFOFE/view?pli=1
There are some restrictions on the samples you create – principally making sure the files are not more than 5 seconds long. There were reports in the past of some UCreate devices being irreparably damaged by not doing this.
The Lopgen programs don’t require the UCreate to be plugged in, they just work on sound files stored in a particular location on your computer.
All you have to do is create ‘.wav’ sound files with the correct attributes, and then have LopGenerator turn them into files the UCreate can recognise.
Edit the files in Audacity, to ensure:
a. they’re mono and 5 seconds long:
b. The project rate is 8000:
d. Finally, you need to remove all Metadata before saving the file.
Once the file or files are done, copy them to the folder with the appropriate version of Lopgen in it, and run Lopgen.
Step 3: The final step is to load the sound files into the UCreate.
Part 5 of the tutorial video shows how to do this using the program ‘u-load’.
To do this, you’ll be typing 2, then ENTER (‘Make SamplePackage’, as the Help screen tells you), which will create a file which you can load onto the UCreate with a ‘Write’ command.
But first, you need to rename the sound files you created, and put them in particular directories. There are 12 buttons on the UCreate for sound files – not including the two at the bottom for your own recordings – so u-load will be expecting to see 12 files with the names ‘sample_0.lop’, ‘sample_1.lop’, ‘sample_2.lop’, etc., up to ‘sample_11.lop’.
So, find the 12 sounds you want to load, rename them like this, and put them in a folder called ‘Samples’.
Type 2, then ENTER, and u-load will ask you to give a name for the file it’s going to create from your samples. Type in the name, press ENTER, and it will gather the 12 samples together and create the file.
I wasn’t sure whether the file required the extension ‘.upload’ or not, so I created one with and one without. The first screengrab shows the name ‘Beats’ being entered, then ENTER:
At this point, I had to close u-load, switch the UCreate off and on again, and reopen u-load.
Type 4, then ENTER (‘Write SamplePackage’): u-load will ask you which file to upload. Give it the name of the file you just asked it to create, it will load the samples onto the UCreate, and you’re ready to go!
To add files to the two spaces originally used on the UCreate for your own recordings, create .lop files as above, and put them in a folder called ‘Recordings’. They can be loaded into the two special spaces by typing 5, then ENTER (‘Write RecordPackage’). u-load will ask you for the name of the first file to load: tell it the name, and press ENTER. It will then ask you for the name of the second file: give it that, too, press ENTER, and the two files will be loaded onto the UCreate.
[Particular thanks to KrimzonNinja. He acknowledges his influences at the end of the video tutorial].