Genesis Digital Audio Workstation

Vaporware Grand Plans

2015 Mar 16

Real-Time Safety and Multithreading

Most operating systems do not attempt to make any real-time guarantees. This means that various operations do not guarantee a maximum bound on how long it might take. For example, when you allocate memory, it might be very quick, or the kernel might have to do some memory defragmentation and cache invalidation to make room for your new segment of memory. Writing to a hard drive might cause it to have to warm up and start spinning.

This can be a disaster if one of these non-bounded operations is in the audio rendering pipeline, especially if the latency is low. The buffer of audio going to the sound card might empty before it gets filled up, causing a nasty audio glitch sound known as a "buffer underrun".

In general, all syscalls are suspect when it comes to real-time guarantees. The careful audio programmer will avoid them all.

libgenesis meets this criteria with one exception. libgenesis takes advantage of hardware concurrency by using one worker thread per CPU core to render audio. It carefully uses a lock-free queue data structure to avoid making syscalls, but when there is not enough work to do and some threads are sitting idly by, those threads need to suspend execution until there is work to do.

So if there is more work to be done than worker threads, no syscalls are made. However, if a worker thread has nothing to do and needs to suspend execution, it makes a FUTEX_WAIT syscall, and then is woken up by another worker thread making a FUTEX_WAKE syscall.


libgenesis follows semver. Major version is bumped when API or ABI compatibility is broken. Minor version is bumped when new features are added. Patch version is bumped only for bug fixes. Until 1.0.0 is released no effort is made toward backward compatibility whatsoever.

Genesis Audio Studio has an independent version from libgenesis. Major version is bumped when a project file will no longer generate the same output audio as the previous version. Minor version is bumped when new features are added. Patch version is bumped only for bug fixes. Until 1.0.0 is released no effort is made toward project files being backward compatible to previous versions.


Positions in the audio project are in floating point whole notes. This is to take into account the fact that the tempo and time signature could change at any point in the audio project. You can convert from whole notes to frames by calling a utility function which takes into account tempo and time signature changes.

Multiplayer and Peer-to-Peer

When a user opens Genesis, there should be a pane which has a set of rooms that users can gather in and chat. For example, a lobby. Users can create other rooms, perhaps private, to join as well. Users can invite other users to join their open project. When a user joins the project, a peer-to-peer connection is established so the edits do not go through a third party. Further, if the peers are connected via LAN, network speeds will be very fast.

The server(s) that provide this chat are also peers. Individuals or businesses could donate to the server space, similar to being a seeder in a torrent situation, by running the server software, adding their node to the pool.

When two (or more) users are simultaneously working on a project, the playback head is not synchronized. The users are free to roam about the project, making changes here and there. However, each person will see "where" in the project the other person is working, and see the changes that they are making. So it would be trivial, for example, for both users to look at a particular bassline, both listening to it on loop, albeit at different offsets, while one person works on the drums, and the other person works on the bass rhythm.

Plugin Registry and Safety

Plugins must be provided as source code and published to the Genesis registry. The Genesis registry will not be a single server, but once again a peer-to-peer network. Downloading from the plugin registry will be like downloading a torrent. By default Genesis will act as a peer on LANs when other instances of Genesis request plugins over the LAN.

It's not clear how this goal will be accomplished, but we will attempt to build a system where these constraints are met:

DRM will never be supported although paid plugins are not out of the question, as long as the constraint is met that if a user wants another user to join their project, the other user is able to use the plugin with no restrictions.

Project Network

Users could browse published projects and samples on the peer-to-peer network. A sample is a rendered project, so if you want to edit the source to the sample you always can.

Publishing a project requires licensing it generously so that it is always safe to use projects on the network for any purpose without restriction.

The network would track downloads and usages so that users can get an idea of popularity and quality. Projects would be categorized and tagged and related to each other for easy browsing and searchability.

So, one user might publish some drum samples that they made as projects, one project per sample. Another user might use all of them, edit one of them and modify the effects, and then create 10 projects which are drum loops using the samples. A third user might use 2-3 of these drum loops, edit them to modify the tempo, and produce a song with them and publish the song. Yet another user might edit the song, produce a remix, and then publish the remix.

This project, sample, and plugin network should be easily browsable directly from the Genesis user interface. It should be very easy to use content from the network, and equally easy to publish content to the network. It should almost be easier to save it open source than to save it privately.


Genesis is licensed with the Lesser General Public License. A full copy of the license text is included in the LICENSE file, but here's a non-normative summary:

As a user you have access to the source code, and if you are willing to compile from source yourself, you can get the software for free.

As a company you may freely use the source code in your software; the only restriction is that if you modify Genesis source code, you must contribute those modifications back to the Genesis project.

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