Tips on setting up Tidal in a workshop setting

I have a question for those that teach TidalCycles, particularly those that teach in workshop settings (i.e. not as part of a curriculum). How do you navigate getting each participant's computer set up prior to a workshop?

Recently I've been delivering workshops in using the Improviz visuals live coding language (made by the awesome Rumbelsan). The workshops have been aimed at beginners so I assume that they have no programming experience and no little to nothing about live coding/algoraves.

The biggest issue I've faced is getting the software running on people's laptops! Much like Tidal it requires using the terminal/command line and, unsurprisingly, many of the people who attend (I'd say 4/5 out of 10) have never heard of it or used it.

When this happens I lose at least 30 minutes tending to each individual to try and get it working and in some cases we admit defeat and give up (which sucks if they've paid for the workshop). To account for this me and Rumblesan wrote some guides detailing each step of using the terminal on Mac, Windows and Linux. Again unsurprisingly not everyone reads it.

I'm going to be delivering some Tidal workshops soon and fear I'll have the same or worse happening.

So workshop leaders, what tips do you have for controlling this? In the past I saw @heavy.lifting do a pre-workshop workshop on installing the software, which seems like a solution but I wonder if there's other tips.

Hey Antonio

I havent done this for a while but a couple of thoughts:

  1. Have a helper - if possible have someone else to help with install at the session.

  2. The windows chocolatey install script can cause a lot of issues so I tend to recommend people dont use it. If it works it's great but if not (and it often fails) it makes troubleshooting really tricky.

  3. I have been thinking about (but not tested yet) doing a guided install session rather than a general troubleshooting session. So say the first hour of the workshop go step by step through the install and troubleshoot each step as it happens. I thought this might make it easier to identify problems, and also help attendees understand how tidal fits together, and it might encourage peer support too. One potential problem with this is download speeds at the venue though... but you could maybe get round that by providing some install files on a USB stick.

I also thought about doing an online install party the day before. I did this for a foxdot workshop during lockdown and it worked pretty well, but foxdot is a bit less complicated to install.

It's a really crucial part of the workshop as you can really lose people if they get disheartened at install. Having a backup laptop (or two!) for people to use if they cant install is also helpful.

Finally, I'm happy to be available via phone/message on the day to help with windows probs if you let me know when it is :slight_smile:

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Good call. In workshops I've done recently luckily there's people on Windows and Mac who help each other out but I'll also try and find someone to help. That might also mean having to pay the helper but that's a separate issue.

Noted! I haven't gone through a Windows install yet but I'll keep it in mind.

I like this idea a lot. I'd have to make sure I have a Mac, Windows and Linux computer in front of me to troubleshoot but I can still see this working well. I can see it increasing the workshop duration though, which could be a problem for some people, but at least it means things work.

Fortunately a couple of the workshops I'm doing are IRL (got all safety measures in place) so I'll be getting Tidal installed beforehand. For online workshops I need to think of a similar solution. I did once think about creating a disk image with Ubuntu/Tidal install that people could run using Virtualbox but then that assumes that people know about virtual machines :upside_down_face:

Thanks for the tips!

I also saw this yesterday from Mads Kjeldgaard . Having an OS with Tidal/Supercollider that can boot from a USB stick is super handy!

Do LiveUSBs still work on MacOS?

I updated and simplified the chocolatey install last month, it should be more reliable now. At least anecdotally, I've seen a lot fewer requests for help lately.

alex, can you talk about your Peak Cut experience?

what first got me into linux some years ago (+10yrs!) was the possibility to use a bootable cd to experience supercollider -- first windows versions (called psycollider i think) worked ok but i couldnt run quarks/plugins like bbcut... and i didnt have money for macs, so i got jaromil's that included also puredata, and some interesting software that i didnt know like csound chuck fluxus etc -- after that i was learning to dual/triple boot my system, got more and more into open source...

i really like the idea of cd/usb bootable linux distros! :wink:

Remember Imperfect VR? We had much less setup - but with participants arriving late and some surprises alog the way it is useful to predict the unpredictable. My approach for workshops has become to make the installation part of the workshop experience and to reserve ample time for it.

Hey that's good to know :slight_smile: thanks!

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Hi guys,
I've been thinking through the problems presented in this thread a bit over the last day, and this was a suggestion I was thinking about proposing.
In my day job, I build/maintain a custom bootable linux (ubuntu) image for a corporate desktop fleet of some 250 computers (been doing this for ~16 years). My build is derived by debootstrapping a barebones image via my fork of the pyfll project, then handing over to ansible for the heavy lifting in terms of package installation and configuration management.

Since I've already ansibilised the tidal install, it would be relatively trivial for me to build a role to copy the ubuntu studio 20.04 (or 20.10) package manifest for example, include my ansible tidal roles, and build an iso with tidal.
I could also just make the repo public, and you can build it/customise it yourselves...

Given there's at least three people thinking about this, I'd be happy to spend some time on it over the next week - @hellocatfood when are your workshops running?

My guess is they should, but probably only using the UEFI boot mode - I added UEFI support into my builds recently, so it's likely that'll be ok.

On a practical usage note:
I would aim to do a combination of the suggestions above with a bank of fallback options:

  1. Encourage people to install beforehand, and run a short pre-session (1/2 hr) before the workshop to get any kinks out
  2. For the people who didn't install beforehand, point them at the automatic methods (chocolatey/scripts/ansible - depending on os), and that should work for some of them,
  3. For the remainder of people who are still having difficulty, have a few bootable usbs handy
  4. For anyone who's computer won't boot the usb, keep a couple of old laptops (raspberry pis?) handy that either have it pre-installed, or will boot the usb drives
  5. Alternatively, you could fallback again to estuary in a browser
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Puredyne was great ! I've tried running workshops with USB-based distros in the past, also using virtualbox etc.. It can work really well but there's always that one laptop that has weird bios problems, and a lot of laptops don't even have usb ports these days. In the end as it's got a bit easier to install tidal, I just started seeing getting people installed an important workshop outcome.

So these days I ask people to come early if they have install problems, have downloads of haskell etc on a USB key, and have some raspberry pis and screens to hand in case of emergencies, or someone showing up without a laptop.

I did have an in-person workshop coming up on 14th Nov, but I think that'll be cancelled now. :confused:

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