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PT 6 / OSX stability test
Old 24th April 2003
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C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
PT 6 / OSX stability test

first the pictures :
Attached Thumbnails
PT 6 / OSX stability test-dsp.jpg  
Old 24th April 2003
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Attached Thumbnails
PT 6 / OSX stability test-retrospect.jpg  
Old 25th April 2003
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
The Idea :

Reading numerous posts all over the DUC / hearing people complain bout PT 6 stability and performance I decided to try to create an ultimate 'real world' situation driving the computer capabilities to its limits. Actually trying to look how far I could go before the system would crash.

My PT6 experience started out about 6 weeks ago. At first with the same problems I still see on the DUC. 6031 errors flying around my ears / unstable midi setup / multiple user login problems / application quits like 10 times a day etc etc ... BUT only on day 1.

Day 2 and 3 were spent properly installing the system from scratch. CLEAN ... as they say. In my digidesign experience over the years I have to say that this is the one that took the most time and headaches at first. Probably lack of knowledge within the OSX environment to start with. In the past I've done plenty of troubleshooting for plenty of people and one thing I've learned from that is that : More often system failure is due to 'user error' then it is due to 'manufacturer error'. In the past people have rightfully stayed away from PT x.0 ... and waited for x.1 ... especially in the stability field when pushing the system to it's limits in day to day use. Installing a PT system is realy more then just taking the installation CD, installing the app and then pushing play. It takes a little bit more then that. OSX is no different in that be it that most people, including myself, don't even have a clue yet of how it works.

If digidesign made one mistake IMHO it is that it underestimated the complexity of upgrading an existing setup to PT6 / OSX. I can't even remember all the driver upgrades / updates / firmware updates for scsi accelerators / display drivers / properly configuring the OS / etc etc etc ... I had to do during those 2 days of installation .... 2 days spent not only on the mac installing and configuring ... but 2 days spent reading installation manuals / read me's / and not only digidesigns ... also the OS / ATTO / ...

And then there's the dealer issue that comes to mind. Maybe another mistake on digi's behalf. FORCE your dealers to take care of their clients. Jeez ... sometimes I read posts and think ... do you guys have a dealer that knows how the system works or is it just a 'take the money and run' kinda dealer.

People ... force your dealer to assist in properly installing your system and if he is uncapable of doing that take your money and go to another one.

Anyhow ... on to the test :

The setup :

During the whole process ... which took me about 4 hours Retrospect ran backups in the background and in ProTools I had the task manager doing constant file conversions within the test session. I selected about 500 large audiofiles spread over 4 audio disks. This way I had to delete and relaunch the task only every 30 minutes or so.

The session :

- 64 mono audio tracks / 4 stereo Aux :
- sony eq and dynamics on every track
- 4 sends per track to 4 Aux
- the audio tracks allocated to 4 audio HD's, the same ones I was backing up with retrospect at the same time.

Test 1 was to get a maxed out dsp session setup and automate the hell out of the system. And that's what I did ... 64 tracks of HEAVILY automated tracks. Volumes / pans / send / plugin parameters automation flying in every possible direction. Remember that retrospect and the task manager are performing heavy duty conversions and backups at the same time.

loop playback during 10 minutes while inserting plugins on the fly / dragging dropping deleting trimming nudging whatever you can imagine doing to a track or a region .... did it but in vain .... no crash

Since the computer didn't seem to bother much about that I soon decided to take it to another level .... no way I was going to achieve my goal (crashing the application) with just this.

So I decided to bring in my MCI JH-16 1974 16 track 2 inch machine into the game.

First step .... stripe a tape with SMPTE ... track 16 .... 15 minutes .... no big deal ... of course not ...; be it I did it within the same 64 track session asking the sync I/O to do the generate ... and still retrospect / task manager doing their thing.

(of course I know retrospect will pause and step back and the task manager will give priority to whatever is in play to prevent hickups but they're standby and in constant check right ... surely that ways on the system to some extend)

anyhow 15 minutes later :

Protools in sync / online mode ... waiting for the MCI to start .......

AHHHH .... didn't work ... not with all the 64 tracks loaded and playing. BUT still no crash ... Protools would just not start in sync with the MCI. had to bring it down to 32 tracks loaded with audiofiles before PT would start in sync. fine ... still pretty impressive I'd say with everything else going on.

So how about starting protools in online mode with record tracks enabled .... right .... all 32 tracks record enabled and waiting for the MCI.
Again ... still the same 64 track session with all the automations flying everywhere and the extra background apps running.

EUREKA .... the notorious rainbow circle starts spinning away .... and spinning away / and spinning away ....

2 minutes is my treshold for this kinda stuff ... stopping the MCI didn't help ... I HAD to FORCE QUIT Protools. Goal achieved.

Relaunch Protools and voila .... that's all it took to get up and running again. No system reboot ... retrospect didn't mind at all and was still running at a steady pace ... opened the same session again and decided to give itg another go .... this time with only 1 track record enabled. It took about 10 seconds for Protools to start but it did start. no problem at all. I tried 2 tracks but that didn't work ... the session was simply too heavy I think with all the automation etc etc going on ... BUT it didn't crash anymore.

when I tried the 2 tracks record enabled online following the MCI I did get a 6031 error though ... 3 attempts ... 3 errors ... CPU overload.

I can hear you think ... can you only record 2 tracks a a time when synced to a tape. Well that was my initial fear too.

So I created a new ... fresh and blank session .... 15 tracks record enabled as if I was going to do a tranfer from the 16 track into PT.

No big deal ... even with the retrospect and task manager running in the background I recorded 15 minutes of tape to all 15 tracks simultaniously synced to the MCI.

After that I decided to call it a day. After 6 weeks of PT 6 day to day use ... (our system runs like average 8 - 10 hours a day. Real world use that is. And after todays extreme real world test I'm pretty confident in saying that PT6 is about the most stable digidesign system I've worked with. And FWIW ... I've had them all since PT III - nubus.

In those 6 weeks / since the clean install I can count the bugs / hickups ... on one hand ...; and not once did I have to restart the computer. not once.

PT 6.01 / OSX 10.2.4 / G4 dual 800 / HD3 / 2 192I/O's / 96 I/O - sync I/O clocked to aardsync II - PRE connected to Procontrol 16 faders / edit pack .... for those who were wondering.

For day to day audio application PT6 is as steady as they come ... don't allways blame it on the software ...
Old 25th April 2003
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
the beast that helped ProTools crash .... heh heh heh
Attached Thumbnails
PT 6 / OSX stability test-mci.jpg  
Old 25th April 2003
BevvyB's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Terrific post. Thanks Chris!

<<Walks back to his useless motu drivers mumbling under his breath
Old 25th April 2003
Jules's Avatar
Pretty impressive result!

I AM impressed.

Just changed my mind AGAIN about OSX!

Very cool of you to report your findings!


Old 25th April 2003
Gear Maniac
jimlongo's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Thanks for your insight into this Chris, I especially liked your digibase raves here and on the DUC.

I started to use PT6 about the beginning of March. I did have the benefit of having used OSX for 2 years, so I have lots of experience there. I also bought a new computer just for this PT6 upgrade, but decided to continue with all my old digi hardware Mix+classic+882/20 so it wasn't that costly. The only things I had to buy were the computer, the software, a usb midi interface, plug-in updates and the canopus ADVC100 for video. I got the computer a couple days before the software so I was able to install the OS for a day and get that all set up, and all my files transferred over by ethernet. Then I moved the cards from the old computer to the new one which took a few minutes. Then installing Pts and getting it up was pretty painless.

The one thing I decided to do that i think makes the whole process cleaner is to not install OS9. Now I know a lot of people still need it, but I think that it is cause of a lot of problems. Not on its own, but the switching back and forth causes personal confusion and computer indecision imo. I've seen that in my partners room - he is constantly switching back and forth and the hardware gets in a weird state, it needs to be power cycled sometimes, and it's just not a very clean way to work.

At any rate i installed the software and started a tv series. It's so good that other than the OS operating PTs is practically identical to v5.x so you don't have to relearn anything there. The only thing that took any time was recreating my Quickeys setup since you can't import the old ones.

As for stability i have had a few "poof" crashes, where the program just disappears. Most of those have been when it is being launched and I have switched to the Finder or another program while it is launching. But I'm pretty fearless about that since I have autosave turned on, I'm not going to lose anything significant and i can just reboot the program and get back to work in seconds. As for the dreaded wipe your drive and reinstall, I've never done that since 10.0. Clean installations are not necessary as they were in OS9. I've even had a somewhat broken update (I think it was 10.1.2) and the solution was just to run the updater again! Fixed everything.

The biggest timesaver has been how fast sessions launch. A tv show such as this with hundreds of audio files and thousands of fade files would take up to 5 minutes to load in v5 now loads in less than 1 minute in v6. This also goes for saving session copies, rebuilding fades, etc., So it can save a lot of time.

One thing about stability i have noticed since I have seen a lot of applications in OSX is that ProTools is the hungriest cpu application there is. I have seen v6 using up to 50% of a processor just being launched, not even with a session open. This is not good. Theoretically in that situation you should be using 0% until you ask the program to do something.

Here's a test for anyone who wants to see something. Start every application on your computer, that's right every one. I had about 60 or so applications open - a quicktime movie playing, other movies playing in varirous browsers, copying files in the finder, etc., not a hiccup. What i didn't have at the time was PTs, maybe I'll try it again now that I do but I wouldn't be surprised if that is the straw that can break the camel's back.
I think 601 is a little less cpu hungry, but I'm not sure yet. Anyway it is pretty early in the game, and I'm sure that the application has a way to go in terms of being optimised.

The one other thing I'm not enthused about is the type of application that PTs is. It's not a Cocoa app, not a bundle, not a Carbon app, it's a FAT binary application. Just so we can have a windows version? Oh well, maybe that will change, but I doubt it.

I'm looking forward to the Mach5 and some new synths once they become available, I think this will be the test. How many of these things can you run successfully and still get large sessions to run smoothly.

Again, thanks for your time in testing this stuff.

Old 25th April 2003
BevvyB's Avatar
🎧 15 years
hey jimlongo

Don't believe everything you see in the process viewer

OS X allocates cpu usage on the fly. If you see it giving a lot of cpu over to one app it's because it can, not because it has to. If the system isn't going down then it's doing its job.

This is what I hear anyway. You should only really check out the process viewer if things start going really screwy or you think you are having memory leaks (in which case it's invaluable)
Old 25th April 2003
Gear Maniac
jimlongo's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Why wouldn't I believe it?

An application shouldn't be using any cpu if it is idle. That is very basic.
And if it is giving processor priority to something it is because it needs to. If you have 10 applications launched but are doing nothing and move your mouse you will see the processor go to 100% for a split second, because it has that much available and it will use it. But if it did that just for the hell of it, well we'd have anarchy, apps would be waiting in line behind others that really have no need of that processor at the moment. Very very bad.

This is the problem with a leaky app such as PTs. If it is hogging cpu for nothing then it won't just give it up when something else needs it, it will fight for priority (and yes co-operate) but it is still looking for it even though it has no need of it.

There is no magic here, you only have so much processor and then yes things will wait their turn for more, but no application that is idle should require any processor never mind upwards of 50% of one. That should even go for an idle open session but I'm talking about just having the application running with no session open.
Ive seen plenty of unoptimized apps doing this and they are eventually fixed. Notable web browsers are the most notorious.
It is not good.

Try Top instead of Process Viewer. Or if you really want some fireworks try iPulse from Iconfactory it shows cpu, memory use, and lots more at the same time.
Old 25th April 2003
BevvyB's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Cool, will do.

I'm glad you turned up, we needed another computer nerd!

Nearly bought Unix Power Tools 950 page monster tome yesterday.

Stopped myself. Must keep reminding myself to be a musician first.
Old 25th April 2003
Lives for gear
🎧 15 years

It's great reading your escapades, since this is exactly the kind of shenanigans I enjoy. For some reason, I love torturing DAWS, seeing how far I can push them in ridiculous situations. I grew up street racing hotrods and I think this is scratching the same itch in a way.

There is practical benefit as well. Having stressed the thing in a test environment can resolve issues that you do not want to discover on a session. I've actually dropped 96 analog inputs into record at once on my system. Outside of being cool to see (does 96 set a record?), leaving those tracks in record for a while verifies that my hard disk subsystem is bulletproof for any conceivable recording situation,

One last thing. Even as a PC guy, I will readily admit that the Mac is generally easier to deal with for installs and maintenence. Or maybe I should say "the Mac has been easier"? The process you describe of a clean OS install to a fresh drive and properly installing the correct combination of drivers and apps is the only way to get a truly professional DAW on a PC, IMO. It's a bit of a pain, but gratifying in some symbiotic way.

Sorry to see that you Mac guys are joining that club. As OSX and it's birthing pains go on, I predict you guys are likely to get to know more about the guts of your Mac hardware and OS than you ever wanted to. On the upside, you now have a protected mode, dynamic memory allocating, crash resistant OS.

Progress. Ain't it beautiful?

Brian T
Old 25th April 2003
BevvyB's Avatar
🎧 15 years
jimlongo - have you tried these commands in the shell?

Tip: Monitor disk usage in Mac OS X 10.2.x

Mac OS X ships with a tool that can be used in the Terminal to monitor every disk access on the system. If something is polling your system's hard drive every (however many) seconds, the tool can be used to determine exactly what it is.

This tip can be useful for diagnosing a number of problems, and we are currently using it to investigate the mysterious clicking issue that erupted after Mac OS X 10.2.5's release.

The UNIX command is 'fs_usage'. 'man fs_usage' in a terminal will give detailed information. It needs to be run as root (or via 'sudo'). It produces a spool of output that you can either see immediately or redirect into a file that can be viewed later:

go to Terminal

execute: sudo fs_usage -w -w


sudo fs_usage -w -w > output.txt (click on the window and hit control-c when you want to stop fs_usage, then 'open output.txt')

fs_usage can also be used to monitor specific applications, as such:

sudo fs_usage -w -w Safari

sudo fs_usage -w -w Finder
Old 25th April 2003
Gear Maniac
jimlongo's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Thanks BevvyB - I happened to see that earlier and just tried it at your suggestion. It's cool.

The thing with that one is that it only records action in the app, as you operate it spits out a steady stream, literally hundreds of events per second. It shows nothing on idle.

If you type top in the terminal you will see something like this (sorry for the formatting)
643 top 10.2% 0:02.21 1 14 18 312K 388K 608K 13.6M
638 tcsh 0.0% 0:00.08 1 10 17 476K 716K 952K 5.75M
637 login 0.0% 0:00.53 1 12 33 244K 440K 568K 13.7M
636 Terminal 1.7% 0:01.44 4 93 178 1.65M 10.5M 17.0M 85.0M
592 TypeIt4Me 0.0% 0:00.75 2 75 104 824K 8.08M 11.4M 80.4M
589 System Pre 0.0% 0:02.20 2 89 221 4.55M 13.3M 20.4M 119M
584 Address Bo 0.0% 0:03.94 2 89 178 3.46M 10.6M 19.8M 85.2M
564 QuickTime 0.0% 0:41.63 6 142 197 3.58M 16.0M 22.2M 109M
537 AppleSpell 0.0% 0:00.07 1 28 23 444K 988K 1.18M 15.0M
536 TextEdit 0.0% 0:02.39 2 105 159 2.33M 9.03M 12.5M 83.3M
535 Watson 0.0% 0:09.52 3 102 209 3.88M 14.4M 12.5M 102M
511 MIDIServer 0.0% 0:05.70 5 75 69 208K 1.66M 1.53M 17.4M
510 Pro Tools 56.2% 71:17.38 22 262 780 59.1M 76.6M 97.2M 293M
496 Acrobat Re 0.0% 1:03.85 4 87 421 11.4M 36.9M 32.4M 125M
427 NetNewsWir 0.0% 5:02.13 3 335 249 20.1M 13.6M 30.4M 107M
426 Safari 0.0% 15:04.07 20 676 1057 65.2M 40.3M 97.9M 420M
425 Mail 0.0% 0:47.46 5 157 247 7.48M 14.1M 23.4M 101M
422 QuicKeysHo 0.0% 0:02.46 2 99 82 556K 3.23M 3.91M 70.1M
421 QuicKeysBa 0.0% 0:01.33 2 66 155 2.45M 7.72M 6.77M 81.0M
420 MagicMenuH 0.0% 0:00.98 2 68 82 516K 2.62M 3.18M 69.9M
419 Super Get 0.0% 0:00.85 2 69 86 908K 3.31M 3.52M 70.5M
418 Snapz Pro 0.0% 1:35.61 2 77 129 2.82M 11.4M 8.26M 86.5M
417 USBOverdri 0.8% 0:06.54 2 81 87 536K 3.83M 3.04M 72.1M
416 MaxMenus 0.0% 0:05.11 3 93 156 2.53M 15.2M 6.57M 89.2M
415 Default Fo 0.0% 0:25.83 2 131 111 3.10M 8.70M 8.99M 85.9M
414 QuicKeys 0.0% 0:11.00 2 144 510 14.6M 17.2M 21.1M 104M
413 CPU Monito 2.5% 9:39.43 2 87 132 1.39M 7.99M 5.61M 80.4M
411 Finder 0.0% 0:22.00 2 101 273 8.92M 35.3M 28.4M 132M
410 SystemUISe 0.8% 1:17.82 3 145 197 1.84M 11.4M 10.0M 91.5M
409 aped 0.0% 0:00.21 1 41 22 152K 760K 752K 14.0M
408 Dock 0.0% 0:41.68 3 142 249 4.52M 29.1M 16.7M 114M
402 pbs 0.0% 0:00.97 2 45 27 612K 1.13M 1.34M 14.4M
396 DirectoryS 0.0% 0:00.60 3 55 145 788K 3.43M 3.25M 21.4M
374 loginwindo 0.0% 0:03.11 5 166 192 2.72M 14.5M 10.0M 97.2M
356 cron 0.0% 0:00.08 1 8 18 76K 400K 140K 13.8M
354 cupsd 0.0% 0:01.87 1 8 26 296K 924K 776K 15.3M
350 inetd 0.0% 0:00.01 1 8 14 48K 376K 112K 1.28M
347 automount 0.0% 0:00.03 2 22 22 140K 480K 536K 14.7M
336 nfsiod 0.0% 0:00.00 1 8 13 12K 384K 80K 1.27M
335 nfsiod 0.0% 0:00.00 1 8 13 12K 384K 80K 1.27M
334 nfsiod 0.0% 0:00.00 1 8 13 12K 384K 80K 1.27M
333 nfsiod 0.0% 0:00.00 1 8 13 12K 384K 80K 1.27M
329 coreservic 0.0% 0:02.46 3 117 98 1.20M 20.2M 20.7M 36.8M
You can see that besides top which is actually running only Protools is using any significant memory and it is idle.

Another test that the OmniWeb guys always ask for is a "sample". It helps to track down leaky apps.

To do that in the terminal
type top and get the PID of the application you wish to sample
type q to quit the top process
Then type sample PID 10 where PID=the number you just retrieved
Sample will then deposit a text file in the location /tmp/Pro Tools 6.0.1_510.sample.txt

The easiest way to retrieve that file is to use the Go menu in the finder "Go to Folder" and in the dialog type /tmp
Old 26th April 2003
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
thanks Jim,

learning a bit more about OSX every day.
Old 28th April 2003
BevvyB's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Chris -

next time you wanna do a screen shot use Snapz Pro!

Bit easier than your camera
Old 28th April 2003
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Originally posted by BevvyB
Chris -

next time you wanna do a screen shot use Snapz Pro!

Bit easier than your camera

... I know ... thought of it after the act.
Old 1st May 2003
Gear Addict
🎧 15 years
Thanks Chris for your hard work on this topic

I'd bet that it was that +30 smpte level on track 16 that melted PT
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