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Carabiner

A loose connector for interacting with Ableton Link.

Carabiner is a program that embeds the C++ Link library and listens for local TCP connections to allow other programs, like beat-link-trigger and Afterglow, to participate in some aspects of a Link session, even though they were not written using C++ compatible languages and runtimes.

Carabiner does not support the full power and elegance of Link, so if you are writing a program that can use the library directly, you are much better off doing that instead. Carabiner is for cases where that is impossible or impractical.

Usage

If you are on a Mac OS X, Windows x64, Linux x64, or Raspberry Pi system, you can download the executable from the releases page. Then just open a terminal window, and run it:

> Carabiner
Starting Carabiner 1.1.2 on port tcp://127.0.0.1:17000
Link bpm: 128.5 Peers: 1 Connections: 0

By default it listens on port 17000. If this port is already in use on your system, you can specify a different port using the --port command-line argument. Legal port values are in the range 1–32776.

Carabiner will send updates about changes to the Link session state no more often than every twenty milliseconds (or fifty times per second). If nothing is changing, no updates are sent. If you want to change the minimum interval between updates you can set a different millisecond interval using the --poll command-line argument. Legal poll values are in the range 1–1000.

The status line shows the current tempo of the Link session, and the number of Link Peers which have been found. It also shows how many TCP connections are currently open to Carabiner from client programs like beat-link-trigger. See the documentation of the client program for instructions on how to have it connect to Carabiner.

You can shut down Carabiner by typing Control-C in the Terminal window, or simply closing that window.

If you want to run Carabiner as a system daemon (an always-available background process that starts when the system boots), add --daemon to the command line you configure to start it up, so that it does not spam the system log with status line updates that you can't see anyway.

Running on the Mac

You will need to open the Terminal window yourself and run Carabiner by typing the path to the program. Previously you could run programs like this by double-clicking them in the Finder, but an issue with the Mac's download security model prevents that today. It will still work if you built it from source, but if you downloaded it, you will see a complaint about being unable to confirm the identity of the developer. That's not actually true: if you downloaded it from the project's Releases page on GitHub, it has been properly code-signed and notarized by Deep Symmetry, but that is only honored when you run it from an already-open terminal window. You can confirm the signature, if you want to be sure, by running the following command (from the directory in which you placed Carabiner, or put a full path to the file as the last argument):

> spctl --assess --type install -vv Carabiner

When your copy is properly signed you will see this output:

Carabiner: accepted
source=Notarized Developer ID
origin=Developer ID Application: Deep Symmetry, LLC (9M6LKU948Y)

If you're curious, this seems to be why it won't work from the Finder:

> spctl --assess --type exec -vv Carabiner
Carabiner: rejected (the code is valid but does not seem to be an app)
origin=Developer ID Application: Deep Symmetry, LLC (9M6LKU948Y)

So it's recognized as validly signed, but doesn't think it should be launchable because it's not an application bundle. That's true, it's a simple executable file, and the Finder is happy to use Terminal to launch those if they weren't downloaded, but not (so far) if they were. Hopefully a future macOS update will fix this.

If you downloaded an unsigned or modified copy, not even Terminal will let you run it in Catalina, and will offer to move it to the trash for you. You can either replace it with a recent official signed release, build it from source yourself (as described below), or—if you want to live dangerously—search for instructions on how to work around this security feature.

Clients

  • link-to-py is a Python 3 module for interacting with Carabiner written by Benjamin Yetton.
  • beat-carabiner is a Clojure library for interacting with Carabiner and integrating it into a Pioneer DJ Link network.

Embedding

  • lib-carabiner is a Java library that embeds copies of Carabiner for all supported platforms, offering a very simple API that can automatically install the appropriate binary for the current operating system and processor architecture as a temporary file, and start or stop it on demand.

If you know of any other clients or embedding libraries, please open an issue or mention them on Carabiner's Zulip stream.

Building

If you want to run Carabiner on a different platform, or make and test modifications to its source code, you can build it yourself.

🔧 As noted in the change log, starting with version 1.1.6, building on macOS now requires Xcode 12 and therefore macOS 10.15 (Catalina) in order to support building universal binaries for both Intel and Apple Silicon machines. As always, in addition to installing the Xcode GUI application, you need to install the command-line tools, using xcode-select --install before you can use these build instructions.

Carabiner relies on link and gflags as git submodules (and link relies on its own submodules), so after you have cloned the main carabiner repository, you need to cd into it and set up the submodules by running:

git submodule update --init --recursive

Carabiner uses CMake to manage its build process. Once again, from the top-level directory of your carabiner repository. On the Mac, and other Unix platforms:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake ..
cmake --build .

Once the build completes you will find the executable in bin/Carabiner under the build directory.

🔧 On Windows, you need to install both cmake for Windows and Visual Studio 2017. Then you can use the following variation (after updating the git submodules, as described above):

mkdir build
cd build
cmake -g "Visual Studio 15 2017" ..
cmake --build . --config Release

Once the build completes you will find the executable in bin\Release\Carabiner.exe under the build directory.

Protocol

Client programs interact with Carabiner by sending and receiving simple single-packet messages.

👉 To protect against multiple messages being read as one, because they were sent right after one another and delivered as a single network packet, you should always put a newline character at the end of the message. As of version 1.1.0, Carabiner can process multiple commands in a single network packet, as long as they are separated by newlines. Trailing newlines will not cause any problems for older versions of Carabiner, but those versions will not see any commands following the first in a given packet.

Similarly, starting with version 1.1.0, Carabiner places newline characters at the end of its own responses, and clients should be prepared to deal with multiple responses in a single network packet in case they have sent a query at roughly the same time that there was a change in the Link status to be reported on.

The currently supported messages are:

status

Sending the string status to Carabiner requests an update containing the current status. It will respond with a packet like the following:

status { :peers 0 :bpm 120.000000 :start 73743731220 :beat 597.737570 }

As with all non-error messages from Carabiner, this consists of a message type identifier followed by an edn structure containing the message parameters.

🔧 If you are working in Clojure, you can take advantage of its built-in support for edn. If you are working in Java, you will likely want to consider using lib-carabiner both for its ability to embed and manage Carabiner itself, and also because it can parse these responses for you. Or you could use edn-java directly, it's what lib-carabiner uses. And there are many other implementations for other languages.

In this case, the message details map identifies the current number of Link peers, the current tempo of the Link session, the timestamp of when the session timeline started, and the current beat position.

If you have enabled Start/Stop Sync, status responses will also include the current transport state:

status { :peers 0 :bpm 120.000000 :start 73743731220 :beat 597.737570 :playing true }

A status response will also be sent when you first connect to Carabiner, and whenever the Link session tempo changes, as well as whenever the number of Link peers changes, and (if you have enabled Start/Stop Sync) when the transport state changes.

⏱️ About Link Timestamps: The :start value in the above message, and the time and :when values sent and returned in the commands below, are expressed in microseconds, but they are not interchangeable with values returned by the normal "wall clock" system clock you use to determine the current time of day. Link needs to use a monotonically increasing clock that is not affected by things like leap seconds or NTP server synchronization. In Java you can obtain Link-compatible timestamps using the System.nanoTime() method. If you are working in other languages, you will need to experiment in order to find out how to read the same clock that Link is using.

This also means that Carabiner needs to be running on the same host (computer) as your other software that is using Carabiner to synchronize with the Link network. Link itself will handle distributed synchronization across the network, but Carabinber and the clients you write to talk to Carabiner need to share the exact same time base, so they need to be on the same machine. This is why Carabiner only accepts connections on the loopback address (127.0.0.1).

bpm

Sending the string bpm followed by a floating-point value, for example bpm 140.0, tells Carabiner to immediately set the Link session's tempo to the specified value. If this is a change from the previous value, it will result in a status response as described above.

If the bpm value is missing, cannot be parsed as a floating point number, or is outside the range from 20.0 to 999.0, the session tempo is left unchanged and Carabiner responds with the message bad-bpm .

If your client wants to use a tempo outside the range supported by Link, Ableton recommends setting the Link tempo to the closest multiple or fraction which is in range. For example, if the user wants 15 BPM, set the session tempo to 30 BPM.

beat-at-time

Sending the string beat-at-time followed by a microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response), and a quantum value (which identifies the number of beats that make up a bar or loop as described in the Phase Synchronization section of the Link documentation), asks Carabiner to identify the beat which falls at the specified point on the Link session timeline. For example, sending beat-at-time 73746356220 4 to the link session used in the above examples would result in a response like the following:

beat-at-time { :when 73746356220 :quantum 4.000000 :beat 5.250000 }

This response indicates that at the specified microsecond along the Link session timeline, we are a quarter of the way from the sixth to the seventh beat (Link numbers beats starting with 0).

If one of the parameters is missing or cannot be parsed, Carabiner responds with bad-time or bad-quantum .

phase-at-time

Sending the string phase-at-time followed by a microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response), and a quantum value (which identifies the number of beats that make up a bar or loop as described in the Phase Synchronization section of the Link documentation), asks Carabiner to identify the phase which falls at the specified point on the Link session timeline. A phase is a floating point value ranging fom 0.0 to just less than the quantum. For example, sending phase-at-time 73746356220 4 to the link session used in the above examples would result in a response like the following:

phase-at-time { :when 73746356220 :quantum 4.000000 :phase 1.250000 }

This response indicates that at the specified microsecond along the Link session timeline, we are just over a quarter of the way from the second to the third beat of the four beats in a quantum period.

If one of the parameters is missing or cannot be parsed, Carabiner responds with bad-time or bad-quantum .

time-at-beat

Sending the string time-at-beat followed by a beat number (a floating point value, since you can inquire about points that fall between beats), and a quantum value (which identifies the number of beats that make up a bar or loop as described in the Phase Synchronization section of the Link documentation), asks Carabiner to return the microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response) at which the specified beat (or fraction of a beat) falls on the Link session timeline. For example, sending time-at-beat 100 4 to the link session used in the above examples would result in a response like the following:

time-at-beat { :beat 100.000000 :quantum 4.000000 :when 73793731220 }

This response indicates that the hundred and first beat falls at the specified microsecond within the timeline. As a sanity check, you can ask about the first beat, and verify that the :when value matches the :start value reported by the status message. Sending time-at-beat 0 4 in the session used in these examples results in the following response, which you can compare to the status response above:

time-at-beat { :beat 0.000000 :quantum 4.000000 :when 73743731220 }

Sending another status command now shows that the current beat has moved on while these examples were being written, but the timeline start point has remained the same:

status { :peers 0 :bpm 120.000000 :start 73743731220 :beat 2560.623742 }

If one of the parameters is missing or cannot be parsed, Carabiner responds with bad-beat or bad-quantum .

force-beat-at-time

Sending the string force-beat-at-time followed by a floating-point beat number, a microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response), and a quantum value (as described above) tells Carabiner to forcibly and abruptly adjust the Link session timeline so that the specified beat falls at the specified point in time. The change will be communicated to all participants, and will result in audible shifts in playback.

Continuing the previous example, sending force-beat-at-time 1.0 73746356220 4 will tell Carabiner to adjust the Link session timeline so the second beat starts as close as possible to the specified moment (which previously was 25% of the way from the sixth to the seventh beat). Carabiner responds with a status message which reports the new :start timestamp of the timeline.

status { :peers 0 :bpm 120.000000 :start 73745856220 :beat 2989.161370 }

At this point, repeating the beat-at-time command we used in the section explaining that command, beat-at-time 73746356220 4, will return a beat value that is very close to 1.0 (in this example it was exact):

beat-at-time { :when 73746356220 :quantum 4.000000 :beat 1.000000 }

If one of the parameters is missing or cannot be parsed, Carabiner responds with bad-beat , bad-time , or bad-quantum .

This command should only be used when synchronizing a Link session to an external timing source which cannot participate in the consensus-based Link timeline, and should be done only when the session has drifted beyond some reasonable threshold, so that external jitter does not lead to excessive adjustments.

If you are building an application that can perform quantized starts, and thereby participate in a Link session more graciously, without requiring the other participants to shift the timeline, you should use the following command instead:

request-beat-at-time

Sending the string request-beat-at-time followed by a floating-point beat number, a microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response), and a quantum value (as described above) tells Carabiner to ask Link to try to gracefully adjust its timeline so that the specified beat will occur at the specified time. If there are no other peers in the Link session, this will behave the same as force-beat-at-time, above. However, if there are any peers, it will avoid the kinds of audible discontinuities described above, by adjusting the local timeline so that the specified beat will instead fall at the next point in time after the requested time which has the same phase as the specified beat.

Carabiner responds with a status message which reports the new :start timestamp of the timeline.

If one of the parameters is missing or cannot be parsed, Carabiner responds with bad-beat , bad-time , or bad-quantum .

As the Link documentation explains, this command is specifically designed to enable the concept of "quantized launch". If there are no peers, the deisred mapping is established immediately when requested. Otherwise, we wait until the next time at which the session phase matches the desired event, so we can seamlessly join the peers that are already in the session.

enable-start-stop-sync

Sending the string enable-start-stop-sync tells Carabiner to start synchronizing transport (playing) state with peers on the Link network. This is only supported in Link version 3 and later (which is used in Ableton Live 10 and later). Older peers will neither report their transport state, nor respond to changes you send through Carabiner.

Carabiner responds with a status message which now includes a :playing value that reports the current transport state, true or false. From this point on, any changes to the shared Link transport state will cause a new status message to be sent to report the new state.

disable-start-stop-sync

Sending the string disable-start-stop-sync tells Carabiner to stop synchronizing transport (playing) state with peers on the Link network.

Carabiner responds with a status message which no longer includes a :playing value, and will no longer send status updates when the Link transport status changes.

start-playing

Sending the string start-playing followed by a microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response) when Start/Stop Sync is enabled tells Carabiner to set the Link transport state to "playing", and inform any peers that are also participating in Start/Stop Sync.

Carabiner responds with a status message which reflects the new transport state.

stop-playing

Sending the string stop-playing followed by a microsecond timestamp (an integer relative to the :start value returned in the status response) when Start/Stop Sync is enabled tells Carabiner to set the Link transport state to "stopped", and inform any peers that are also participating in Start/Stop Sync.

Carabiner responds with a status message which reflects the new transport state.

version

Sending the string version asks Carabiner to report its version number. This is only supported starting with verson 1.1.0; previous versions will respond unsupported version (which sounds pretty on-point, but really means that they don't know about the version command), so you can assume that they are version 1.0.0 or earlier. Supported versions respond with version followed by the version string, for example version "1.1.0".

Apology

I am not a C++ programmer; the last time I wrote anything in it before Carabiner was in the early 1990s. This seems to work, but I am sure it could be written much better. Suggestions for improvement are definitely welcome!

Licenses

Deep Symmetry

Carabiner is Copyright © 2016-2021 Deep Symmetry, LLC

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/.

Link and Mongoose are dual-licensed. While available through the same GPL v2 as Carabiner itself, they are also available through proprietary licenses for embedding in non-free software, by contacting their respective developers.

gflags is Copyright © 2006, Google Inc. It has its own license.