Solution to crashes by plugins - Sandboxing (Crash protection)

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your invaluable ideas!

I can assure you your concerns are shared by everyone working on Cubase, as we rule out crashes reported to us on a daily basis that are in the end due to 3rd-party developers. This is not a blame shift, every one is human. Nonetheless not knowing that the plugin is the root cause of a crash is inefficient for everyone: our users, we, and also the 3rd-party devs who do not always hear from their own crashes.

We hope to bring some effective changes in this regard in the future.

Cheers,
Armand

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Giving this a bump, because as the number and diversity of music software tools keep growing exponentially, more and more of us will have increased chances of encountering crashes.

It is certainly important to understand the cause of crash, so logging and reporting are quintessential. Feedback to developers, based on such acquired reports, is the next vital step in the chain. I would think most users reasonably know that.

With all that said, reading some of the comments, a rigid resistance to implement sandboxing may be unhelpful not only to Steinberg users, but to the computer-based music production community overall.

The fact is, no two computers will be exactly alike. Even if you have two identical pieces of hardware and install exactly the same software, DAW, drivers and plugins, there will be instances of diverging system behavior.

(Before someone accuses me of being an AI, I have been writing in-depth about technology and music production for years, way before Chat GPT even existed. I like to organize my thoughts in full sentences and paragraphs. And since I truly want sandboxing feature in my DAWs, I have to roll up my sleeves and make my case.)

A music production computer is basically, throwing some complexity science in there, a complex system. It has numerous, interdependent, interconnected, diverse, (but usually not very) adaptive components. An error in any of the elements can cause a “chaotic” ripple effect in the entire system. As in: crash.

Fortifying as many elements of this system as possible makes it more resilient and stable. With some of the loading times for more involved projects, it really does break your stride when a $999 MSRP piece of “professional” software unceremoniously crashes because of one seemingly benign plugin.

No DAW operates as an island. It relies on hardware, drivers, OS, plugins, audio interfaces, etc. I think it is a reasonable expectation that our tools have SOME level of resilience built into them.

Of course, everyone’s workflow is different. Some musicians like to experiment with a larger number of plugins and pick sounds or effects quickly and easily from a large available palette. Sentiments such as “Just avoid holding it in that way”, “these are not the DAWs you are looking for” or even “if this product cannot do it, why would anyone want to do it in life anyway” are for fan crowds, not for responsive, community-supporting companies.

Some plugins do not always crash, and sometimes they crash inconsistently, not always caused by the same activity. It is very beneficial to quickly identify the crashed plugin, either reload it, reload a different version of it, or swap it for a different one, without waiting to reload a DAW and an entire session. Certain virus scanners can cause some problems with DAWs and plugins. It is significantly more convenient to add an exception to a .vst3 file really quick without having to restart an entire session.

I know there are always those comments out there, even on official DAW vendor channels, that “Please contact your third party plugin manufacturer and ask them to update their product for full compatibility with our DAW.” When they say that, they cannot keep a straight face, because they even know how uphill-battle-ish it sounds. (I remember turning one vendor rep’s line into a looping meme with the pained expression on his face when he said that.) No, it is not to say that plugin vendors should not proactively improve their products, but as a music production computer is a complex system, the more players take the effort to ensure stability and compatibility, the better. Nobody cared who was to blame when a Mac OS upgrade regularly crashed the entire computer, caused by Mac OS, Logic, driver and audio interface not working together. (Yes, music production computers crash on ANY platform when you are around long enough. There is no “one platform to rule them all” that is guaranteed to work every time, all the time. If what you have right now is not crashing, good for you, but it is not the same for everyone.)

About the “but for goodness sake, think of the overhead!” flag; it is not fully such a judgment day scenario. For starters, sandboxing CAN be enabled or disabled. Furthermore, working with sandboxing DAWs, especially on today’s systems, there is just not this apocalyptic latency and CPU hit that people warn about. And even if there is SOME hit, at least give the users the choice.

Another argument I see on forums for multiple DAWs is “if they work on this feature, they will spend less resources working on the important features!” Well, if sandboxing is important to a lot of people, then probably it is worth working on it!

Supply, demand and free markets will to various extents play a role. It IS very common for people to switch DAWs. You read case studies of musicians, producers or studios switching to entirely new platforms, or watch their YT videos talking about it. I am not saying a software vendor has to jump on any feature request/suggestion it encounters, but it is worth communicating with the community and with other vendors and developers to see where the trends are going. Is it not a loyalty-inspiring selling feature that a DAW is stable and can handle those misbehaving little plugins?

Just food for thought.

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Logic has plugin sandboxing. It works quite well.

The problem is plugin sandboxing did nothing to help with the audio interface and the driver. However, it is one of those things that we generally accept in music production: never upgrade to a new Mac OS immediately upon release. Wait a few months.

You’re right. But this way you could at least be sure the issue you’re having comes from the interface/audio driver and not some buggy plugins. When having crashes out of nowhere without any additional information, you’re basically groping in the dark, losing countless hours trying to fix it.

Being able to sort out all plugin related crashes reduces the vast amount of crashes out there, as only a few are related to drivers or interfaces.

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Excellent point, and to be fair, I definitely got a LOT of crash dump data on the Mac which I diligently submitted to various vendors. After a few months, all component vendors have caught up and things were functioning again (of course not because of my bug reports, but no doubt a whole community’s).

Interesting incident with a different DAW vendor: after sending them reports, they responded with something along the line of “we just released this new version, let the community enjoy it and let the developers take a break”. Which would be fine, but that is simply something you do not SAY to your loyal users. You take the reports, set them aside, give your guys a break, but not TELL your PAYING users “hold off with the bug reports”. I gave them two YEARS, they still did not have a stable, efficient product, and of course, no sandboxing. Needless to say, I stopped using that DAW, did not buy into their subscription plans or buy any upgrades and never recommend it to anyone. Supply/demand. Users do vote with their wallets.

On the subject of the Mac OS upgrades, the magic number became 3-6 months to apply a system upgrade after release. This exponentially reduced problems. But then of course the whole CPU architecture change, 32/64 bit, VST2/VST3, Rosetta/native debacle ensued, so incredibly, Windows became the more stable and reliable solution. The only incentive for Mac was Logic, and if it is not the primary DAW, then Mac is not such an absolute rule-them-all proposition. Whatever works for someone’s setup and workflow. In my current setup, I have sandboxing, VST2/3 and both 32 and 64-bit plugins work, and there is no architecture or Rosetta mess. It also did no cost like $7,200 for a fully spec’d machine, and if I want to upgrade a component, I do not need picks, pry bars, heat guns and an “I void warranties” geeky T-shirt! Bonus: more money left for… plugins!