March 7, 2011

Old And Busted < New Hotness...

by Chris Randall

I'm sad to say that I'm pitching Pd. While it is reasonably stable on my PC, on the MacBookPro where I do most of this sort of work, it is something of a travesty. I've put up with its little annoyances (having to set the MIDI and audio I/O every single time I open it, or its incredibly hard-on-the-eyes UI, e.g.) for years, but I just can't take the crashing any more. By virtue of being a software developer, I'm fairly patient with software problems, but there's no rhyme nor reason to Pd's instability, and something as simple as instancing a new object (say, a simple metro or something) can randomly cause it to just disappear.

I have no idea how much work I've lost over the years with Pd's OS X behavior, but I imagine it is quite a bit. I have successfully built fairly complex patchers (Axon was designed entirely in Pd, for instance) and indeed entire songs using Pd, but the benefits no longer outweigh the detriments, unfortunately.

So, the other day I downloaded the trial of Max 5, to see how things had shaped up. To give an idea of how long it has been since I used this program, I was employed at C'74 on the QA team for the initial Windows port of Max, which if you recall occurred at the cusp of the 3->4 transition. So, almost 8 years since the last time I opened this program. I imagine this will come as no surprise to the Max users among the readership, but come to find out there is a world of difference between Pd (and indeed Max 3/4) and Max 5.

I was able to bang out a fairly complex song in a matter of hours, it didn't crash once, and lo, and furthermore hark, I forgot all about vst~. The baby Jesus wept.

Anyhow, an adjustment to my workflow over the weekend (luckily not a drastic one, as Max and Pd are quite similar in operation), and Max 5 is now the hub of my generative lifestyle, pitching both MIDI and audio hither and yon. The patcher I've got going on pictured above is mostly procedural drums and synth stuff, with a couple AD plug-ins for effects, and a couple outboard synths and effects, with full MIDI CC control, and not a single crash. The mere thought of trying to do something so hybridized in Pd gives me little tiny hives all over my face.

So, sorry, Pd. I tried. I really did. But you've gotta go.


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Mar.07.2011 @ 9:29 AM
As much as I like the idea of Open Source Software, PD is a great example of what is wrong with a lot of it.

Basically, if you aren't willing to pay experienced engineers $75k a year to make products out of your proof-of-concept hack, it's worse than useless.

And with very few exceptions, open source audio software is 99% proof-of-concept hacks that no one could be arsed to finish.

I'm not a Max user because it's a little too much like programming for me, & I do that all day at work. But I've tremendous respect for the Cycling74 crew, who've more than once done me a solid.

Mar.07.2011 @ 10:02 AM
this post frightens me

I'm using PD on OSX BUT on a G4 powerbook, which has served me very well (going for the ninth year of service) but it's time to upgrade.

PPC build of PD is stable, for what I need. I developed patches without ever experincing crashes nor lockups.

So now I'm asking myself: will I have the same stability on the Macintel?!

But I don't use vts~, so that's maybe where the troubles come from.

Can I post a link to this thread on the PD mailing list? Or do you reckon this will bring over too much hatred for the betrayer?

Mar.07.2011 @ 10:14 AM
Chris Randall
I can take the hatred. I've never used vst~ in Pd, because it doesn't work on MacIntels, or at least it hadn't last time I tried, which was a year or more ago.

To be fair, Pd on the PC is fairly stable. I've never bothered with Linux, because by the time I actually get the thing to make fucking sound, I've completely lost interest in why it was I decided to do something like that in the first place. It's interesting to find out PPC Pd is stable, as well. I'll file that info away for later.


Mar.07.2011 @ 10:39 AM
Well, probably I'm not doing much audio work as you. My DSP skills are pretty lame and I mostly do controllerism kind of stuff.
Will point this thread to the pd community, we'll see how it turns out. thanks, p.

Mar.07.2011 @ 12:36 PM
The Pd list I see is already discussing this. The problem is, there's not much to discuss when you don't give specifics of what you're doing. I've been using Pd on Mac and Linux daily and haven't seen any of what you're describing here, least of all when instantiating metro.

Which version are you using? Is this vanilla? Extended? Are you building yourself? What objects?

Yeah, of course, if things are crashing, that's frustrating. But I don't see it getting addressed without specifics.

@chaircrusher: You know, specific criticisms can be addressed, like "hey, I don't like that ..." -- adding as much detail as possible. I think levying that kind of criticism on an entire community is counter-productive.

Mar.07.2011 @ 12:40 PM
Screenshot of the pd-list discussion:

link []

Mar.07.2011 @ 12:45 PM
Actually, Sean, I was just reading the Pd list discussion. And actually, they said nothing of the sort - several said, specifically, hey, this is something we'd like to fix, but we don't have any specifics to go on.

Now, you may see me get frustrated with this, but I don't represent the Pd community. And I'm frustrated because I've had to deal with people making these kind of generalizations about Apple Logic, Ableton Live, Max for Live, Max/MSP, Pro Tools... the list goes on. Now, sometimes, very often, indeed, they're *dead on the money*. But crashes aren't mysterious events. They're caused by specific sets of circumstances. Without those specifics, this information is useless.

And I don't think you can draw generalizations about, say, * all of open source software * (or all of proprietary software, or all software made in Germany, or all software beginning with letters between L and M) based on that kind of specific case.

Mar.07.2011 @ 12:51 PM
I've been using Pd on a MacBook for a few years now, though primarily for visuals, and haven't run into excessive crashing. Now and then, yes, but generally because I've created an endless loop or otherwise mis-stepped. I've never experienced objects disappearing when other objects are instantiated.

Sorry you've had such a bad experience.

Oh, and you no longer have to set audio/midi every time you open pd, at least with the latest version of pd-extended.

Mar.07.2011 @ 12:54 PM
No, and don't get me wrong - when something crashes, it totally sucks. I'm personally obsessed with finding the source of problems, wherever they are, and especially here. Max is great, and there are lots of reasons to choose it, but I'd hate for instability to be the reason - I'd rather have both be stable.

I'm suspicious only because the particular symptoms Chris is describing don't make sense to me, so I'm curious to know more about them.

Mar.07.2011 @ 12:56 PM
@peterkirn: Actually, I was just reviewing the pd-list archives (I'm not a subscriber), and I'm pretty sure that the majority of the responders are, in fact, pod people.

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