Redundant laptop systems

Has anyone here ever set up a redundant laptop system for live performance? I’m trying to find any documentation or resources on it, but it seems most people who know about it tend to guard their knowledge as a trade secret or something. The main thing I’m having trouble coming across is documentation on splitting signals from controllers (or any other device) that not only send data, but receive it as well (like a monome, or apc40, or push, or anything that accepts midi signals). Any help would be appreciated.

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You mean like a fully live failover, where there’s no interruption if the first laptop fails?

Or just having a backup laptop ready that’s a clone of the main one?


right, a live redundant failover. a clone laptop to switch to is a pretty easy problem to solve and involves far fewer bells and whistles, so that’s my backup plan.

and again, switching systems (like the radial sw8 & such) aren’t the issue, it’s the splitting and switching between dual directional data that seems to be the main trouble point.

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Interesting. And complicated.

I suspect the pure midi stuff would be easier to find a solution for than the USB, but even then…

It sounds like a really hard problem, unless you’re a USB hub manufacturer. Seems especially tricky with monome-proper devices because of the ftdi chip too.

And would you have to basically fully-run both the whole time? So that the state of your sequencer is correct when the audio switchover happens?

Also especially tricky is that it seems to me that adding this node into your system could potentially introduce more complexity and points of failure than it’s trying to make up for

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it occurs to me, though, that if you could use OSC as an abstraction layer, you could do it. You’d need one computer to plug everything into and run some (bulletproof) software that converts your midi and USB devices into OSC (and vice-versa), and fans if out to your sound-generating computers.

But then, you’d also need to be able to update all of your software to respond to OSC

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imho, smile
if you’re setting up a new system, routed from two identical laptops,
then, that’s a new system, and requires new ideas/technology/gear like any new live show system…

like you say, a clone laptop to switch to, is just another laptop, and much less to duplicate
(you may even have it already)
i’ve heard stories…even kraftwerk has crashed on the first tune,
and then everyone heard the startup 'bing
a live redundant failover may involve having two identical systems,
both the same (2 of each, all the gear and laptop)
or, you could just keep the tracks on your phone, and dial them up in case…

(the mics may still be working) :slight_smile:

I know this can be done (with USB midi controllers like launchpads etc), I’ve seen it in a few big shot setups, but not sure how how it’s achieved, sorry. Will keep eyes peeled.


We might be able to just figure it out from first principles.

I guess I’d start with “what have you tried? What worked and what didn’t?”

Oh man, there was a reddit thread on exactly this topic about a year ago… Someone who ran it explained all the equipment used, with pictures! If I recall there are special purpose commercial devices for doing EXACTLY this kind of thing: controllers / MIDI goes to both computers - but only one computer’s output is sent back. Ditto on the audio side. These rack units have the “panic” switch on them that switches to the other computer.


I think I remember seeing a video of some custom pro live rig that sensed audio output levels and automagically switched to a 2nd computer in the absence of a signal.

Looked be$poke. Will see if I can find it.

Edit : this was part of it, but not a solution for MIDI / controllers:

I saw a video of the band Booka Shade where they discuss having this kind of system.

Edit: found it

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thanks everyone for the input here! haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, but i’ve found out quite a bit and i’ll keep this thread updated with the evolution of the setup in case it helps anyone down the road.

for starters, i got this pdf from one of the guys at ableton, which shows the setup @Anfim is describing - HowtosendMIDIdatafromaMIDIcontrollerconnectedtoamastercomputertoasecondcomputerviatheNetwork (1).pdf (266.1 KB)

basically a networked solution for a redundant controller where the controller is also a “remote” ableton controller (as in, it changes states depending on ableton). first, though it works for apcs and launchpads it seems this doesn’t work for push for some reason. second, i have read that this type of solution can be a bit sketchy nowadays, as the wifi spectrum in concert venues is increasingly clogged with phone data use and tends to drop out. i’ll do some tests and let y’all know if it appears more stable than I’ve read.

should that not work, I also found this oldish video of two people using a kvm switch with an apc40. looks like it doesn’t work with all kvms, as not all of them are designed for more than a mouse and keyboard, but could be a stable hardware solution if i can find the right box.




i have spent many years creating contingency environments for live digital performance
And if one is performing with a laptop i have always recommended two things
1.) that the machine in question NOT be a personal computer.
One is NOT running Web apps, Photoshop and/or ANYTHING except for the performance software before the performance

and 2.) have a desktop on the deck for a system failure [machines break]

Now granted most of the times this was with Isadora or SFX for live theatre/dance but another CRUCIAL element that sometimes goes unsaid but i will share here. DO NOT USE CRACKED SOFTWARE. Do not use Cracked Plugins.

In graduate school i used to fool with cracks because i wanted to try them or use them without paying and Abelton crashed OFTEN. AS i aged instead of installing huge suites of plugins ONLY trusted plugins and essential i purchased would ever get installed and magically my crashes went away :slight_smile:

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thanks for this! pointed me to a couple nagging midi splitting/merging solves. appreciate it very much!

@madeofoak, just yr semi annual ICYMI:


my wife and I need to make a live theatrical redundant system eventually I’m bookmarking this to read later

why does this company always make things that are so close to being incredibly useful and then pull back just enough to make them kind of a weird / unusable choice? this thing, for example: great idea! let’s replace large, multi-U redundant systems with a single box, a 10-output interface with built-in redundant switchover. yahtzee, count me in! but then let’s make it only run via usb 2.0 (whyyyyy), put the usb ports / usb host port / slave chain jack on the faceplate instead of the rear, not include any input channels (even though we claim that it does A>D conversion at 96khz, and necessitating the inclusion of separate boxes for that), and only include midi via ethernet (which, while useful for very large stages, also necessitates additional boxes, eating up any space / $ you saved in the first place), and then let’s not include any documentation on exactly how the redundant switchover senses a failure. it’s like they exist just to taunt me.

also, i did succeed in making a redundant system! i’ll make a pdf and post it here in case anyone is interested in doing this themselves.


I second litteraly every single word you said (and it’s not the first time with iconnect)