ardourcrop

Here’s a switcher story of a different color: from the Mac, to Linux. It’s one thing to talk about operating systems and free software in theory, or to hear from died-in-the-wool advocates of their platform of choice. In this case, we turn to Kim Cascone, an experienced and gifted musician and composer with an impressive resume of releases and a rich sens of sound. This isn’t someone advocating any platform over another: it’s an on-the-ground, in-the-trenches, real-world example of how Kim made this set of tools work in his music, in the studio and on tour. A particular thanks, as he’s given me some new ideas for how to work with Audacity and Baudline. Kim puts his current setup in the context of decades of computer work. Even if you’re not ready to leave Mac (or Windows) just yet, Kim’s workflow here could help if you’re looking to make a Linux netbook or laptop more productive in your existing rig.

Stay tuned, as I’ll have some other stories on how to make your Linux music workflow effective creatively, particularly in regards to leaping over some of the setup hurdles Kim describes. -PK

Historical Evolution

I’ve been working with computers since the 1970s. Inspired by the work of composer David Behrman, I taught myself assembly language and programmed a simple digital sequencer on a KIM-1, single-board microcomputer, controlling an Aries modular synthesizer I had built. I discovered a then-new magazine called Computer Music Journal at the local computer shop and bought every copy I could get my hands on. (I still have them, too.) Later, I helped a friend’s father, an executive at IBM, unpack and set up the first personal computer IBM made. The manuals alone took up two or three feet of bookshelf space.

Fast-forward through a couple of decades of owning Commodore 64s, Apple computers, and PCs. In 1997, I purchased my first laptop: a woefully-underpowered Compaq Presario. It wasn’t fast enough for real-time audio, so I had to render sound files to hard disk using the audio programming language Csound. I created many of the sounds this way for my CD ‘blueCube( )’. But the capacity to work anywhere was enough for me to give up ever owning another desktop computer.

Frustrated with the ‘code-compile-listen’ process of working with Csound and wanting to work in real-time, I switched to the graphical multi-media programming language Max/MSP, which necessitated a move back to Apple hardware, so I bought a PowerBook. Having Max/MSP running on a laptop was the perfect environment for me. I could build the tools I needed whenever an idea presented itself. The computer functioned as both sound design studio and stage instrument. I worked this way for ten years, faithfully following the upgrade path set forth by Apple and the various developers of the software I used. Continually upgrading required a substantial financial commitment on my part.

Apple Seeds of Discontent

Photo (CC) NiklasNikon.

When I’m on the road, I use my laptop as a music studio, performance instrument, and administration office. I don’t like surprises on the road. Having a computer fail means a loss of income, and makes for an embarrassing moment if the failure happens during a performance. If watching laptop music bores some people, watching a musician reboot is even worse. So to be safe, I stress-test all new hardware or software in my studio for at least a month before I take it on the road. Max/MSP patches run for hours, software is used for weeks, and hardware is left on for days at a time to help induce failure before I leave home. But as fate would have it, an iBook I was touring with died a few years ago. I brought the laptop into an Apple repair shop in Berlin, where a technician diagnosed the problem as a faulty logic board. The failure rate on logic boards was high for that model of iBook, and in response to public pressure, Apple instituted a logic board replacement program. Luckily, my laptop qualified and the logic board was replaced for free. But the failure and ongoing buggy behavior impacted my work schedule and added to the stress of touring.

I’ve now replaced logic boards on three computers; the other two I paid for out of pocket. The out-of-warranty cost of replacing a logic board on an Apple laptop is around six hundred dollars — cheaper than buying a brand new laptop, but still significant.

If you make your living with applications that run on OS X, there are no options if a laptop fails. You either repair expensive Apple hardware or buy new expensive Apple hardware. This is called ‘vendor lock-in.’

Then, during my 2009 spring tour, my PowerBook G4 exhibited signs of age, with missing keystrokes, intermittent backlighting, the failure of a RAM slot, and reduced performance. As an alternative to repairing the PowerBook, I investigated what a new MacBook Pro and upgrades for all my software would cost. A quick back-of-a-napkin estimate came to approximately $3,000, not including the time it would take tweaking and testing to make it work for the tour. If the netbook revolution hadn’t come along and spawn a price-wars on laptops, I might have proceeded to increase my credit card debt. But as a wise uncle once advised, “you invest either your time or your money; never both.”

Meeting Ubuntu

I had tried Linux in 2005 on PowerPC-based Mac laptops, though at the time I couldn’t get audio working, even after extensive tweaking. But I had kept an eye on Ubuntu ever since. After considering MacBook Pro prices, I checked out the new netbooks coming to market and picked up a refurbished Dell Inspiron Mini 9 with Ubuntu pre-installed.

I loaded up my Dell with all a selection of Linux audio applications and brought it with me on tour as an emergency backup to my tottering PowerBook. The Mini 9 could play back four tracks of 24-bit/96 kHz audio with effects – not bad for a netbook. The solution to my financial constraint became clear, and I bought a refurbished Dell Studio 15, installed Ubuntu on it, and set it up for sound production and business administration. The total cost was around $600 for the laptop plus a donation to a software developer — a far cry from the $3000.00 price tag and weeks of my time it would have cost me to stay locked-in to Apple. After a couple of months of solid use, I have had no problems with my laptop or Ubuntu. Both have performed flawlessly, remaining stable and reliable.

Getting Past Ubuntu Audio Complexities

There are a few differences between how audio works on Mac OS X and how it works on Ubuntu Linux. OS X uses the Core Audio and Core MIDI frameworks for audio and MIDI services, respectively. All applications requiring audio services on OS X talk to Core Audio, which mixes and routes multiple audio streams to the desired locations. Core Audio is simple, monolithic, and easy to set up, and all the end-user controls are accessible from one panel. You can even create a single aggregate device from multiple sound cards if you need more inputs or outputs than one sound card can supply. To Apple’s credit, Core Audio and the applications that make use of it are the reason why you see so many laptop musicians seated behind glowing Apple logos on stage.

On Ubuntu, audio is a rather different story. Apple’s slogan ‘Think Different’ would be good advice for musicians encountering Ubuntu’s audio setup for the first time. Audio in Ubuntu can appear at first to be a confusing jumble of servers, layers, services, and terminology. Go to System->Preferences->Sound, click on the Devices tab, and check out the pulldown menu next to ‘Sound Events’ at the top of the panel. You will see various acronyms, possibly including cryptic-looking technologies like OSS, ESD, ALSA, JACK, and Pulse Audio. These acronyms represent a byzantine tangle of conflicting technologies that over time, and due to political reasons or backwards compatibility, have ended up cohabiting with one another. ‘Frankenstein’ might be an accurate metaphor here.

Thankfully, there is a simpler way, which is the combination of ALSA [a high-performance, kernel-level audio and MIDI system] and JACK [a system for creating low-latency audio, MIDI, and sync connections between applications and computers]. The battle-scarred among us have learned to ignore all the other audio cruft bolted on to Ubuntu and just use ALSA and JACK. One can think of the ALSA/JACK stack, the heart of most pro Linux studios, as the Core Audio of Linux and in my opinion Jack should be the first thing installed on any musicians laptop. I’d go so far as to suggest placing it in the Startup Applications so it’s always running.

jackstartup

Qjackctl (labeled JACK GUI) in Ubuntu/GNOME’s Startup Applications Preferences panel.

The ALSA/JACK combination is a little more complex to set up and tweak than Apple’s Core Audio, but there’s a lot of good information online. [Ed.: ALSA, JACK, and the real-time Linux kernel also have some advantages over Mac OS X that can be worth the effort. While JACK has been ported to Mac, Linux has more JACK-aware tools, which is necessary for transport sync. Just as importantly, once configured, you can build rigs with Linux that have greater low-latency performance than may be practical on Mac or Windows. In other words, while it may require an investment of time, it can be both free and better! -PK]

jackdiag_t

This diagram, albeit dated, shows how Jack and ALSA work together. Please note that Jack does currently support MIDI. Click through for full-sized version. Courtesy Jörn Nettingsmeier; used by permission.

Workflow

Over the past ten years, I’ve developed a workflow that has worked well in the studio and on the road. Since I created most of my tools in Max/MSP, they could shape-shift to fit any musical task I encountered. A sound mangling tool I’d written for studio use, for instance, I could then adapt for a performance with Tony Conrad. I modified parts of my performance patch for sound installations. This environment served me well over the years – until recently, when my aesthetic focus changed from using randomness in my work to taking a more deterministic approach. This happened to coincide with my change of operating systems.

I do a lot of location recording while on tour. My rig consists of an Olympus LS-10 digital recorder and an Audio Technica AT-822 single-point stereo microphone. I record at 96kHz/24-bit to a 16GB SDHC card in the LS-10. When I want to audition sound files in the field, I use my netbook’s SDHC reader, renaming sound files directly on the card. I can look at some of the files in Baudline if I need to check for low-frequency rumble or technical anomalies. I have come to use Baudline on a daily basis.

baudlinedesk_t

A typical Baudline session. Click through for full-sized version.

Back in the studio, using the sound editing program Audacity, I remove voice slates, trim heads and tails, adjust gain and EQ as needed, then save them to a project folder. And because I don’t like surprises in the studio, either, this folder gets backed up onto a remote network drive as well as a local USB drive.

audacitydesk1_t

A typical Audacity session. Click through for full-sized version.

Building my sound library takes weeks or months. During this time, I start filling a notebook with ideas, drawings, plans and marginalia, from which a score emerges. I import all my project sound files into the open-source Digital Audio Workstation Ardour, arranging them to loosely resemble the score in my notebook. Once my Ardour session is set up, I move sounds around, try different effects, create new textures by layering, then render and re-import sub-mixes until the piece starts to take shape. I use a KORG nanoKONTROL as a mixing surface. I assign faders, pans and switches assigned to the DAW allowing me to quickly play around with different mix ideas.

ardourdesk_t

A typical Ardour session. Click through for full-sized version.

Once the piece sounds finished, I mix down to a stereo .WAV file at 24-bit/44.1kHz, without using compression or EQ on the mix bus. Tip: mastering engineers really appreciate getting a raw 24-bit master that hasn’t been fiddled around with by the musician. For performances, I also use Ardour and the nanoKONTROL to do an acousmatic presentation. This version of the Ardour session will have compression and/or EQ on the mix bus, since I want the material to sound more polished. As a side note: I am looking into using the mastering tool JAMin [JACK Audio Mastering Interface] for this purpose in the future.

Sayonara, Apple

After ten years of working on Apple laptops, I’ve left the fold. Not only was the expense of owning and maintaining Apple hardware a key factor in my switch, but the operating system had become a frustration to me. Details like not having a tree-view in the right hand panel of the Finder window slowed me down. Ubuntu, on the other hand, feels more like an operating system made for grown-ups. And what’s especially nice is that Ubuntu scales nicely to the expertise of the user. Your cousin the computer geek or your Grandma can install and use Ubuntu and get as deep as they like. Combine this with the recent rash of cheap, powerful laptops, and Ubuntu’s market share is bound to grow.

A Request

It’s important that kernel and audio application developers (1) ensure all audio creation software has support for JACK, (2) improve and update tools for JACK to make it easy for musicians to install, configure, and use, (3) ship distros with the realtime kernel already tested and configured for use, (4) to integrate the real-time kernel patches into the mainline kernel. [Ed.: On each of these points, distributions and kernel builds are steadily improving, partly thanks to feedback from communities like the music production community. The realtime kernel likely won't be the default, mainline kernel, but it's important to have well-maintained optional packages at the very least. That doesn't mean you have to wait for improvements to happen, though, and in future articles I'll talk a bit about how you can configure your system now to take advantage of this functionality. -PK]

Most importantly, consider paying a subscription to support developers of JACK and your favorite Linux audio software, or, if you can write code, proofread text, write a manual, do a translation, contribute graphic design, or create content; please help by contributing something to the development of the software you use.

I would like to thank Ken Restivo, Mike Rooke, Paul Davis, Philip DeTullio, Jörn Nettingsmeier and Matt Griffen at Canonical Ltd. for advice and inspiration in the writing of this article.

Kim Cascone is a composer, sound artist, touring musician, lecturer and writer. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Kathleen and son Cage.

Links:
http://www.osnews.com/story/6720/Introduction_to_Linux_Audio
http://www.alsa-project.org/main/index.php/Main_Page
http://ardour.org/node
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
http://www.kokkinizita.net/linuxaudio/
http://www.baudline.com/
http://jackaudio.org/
http://drobilla.net/software/patchage/
http://www.ladspa.org/
http://lv2plug.in/
http://dssi.sourceforge.net/
http://jamin.sourceforge.net/en/about.html
http://linuxaudio.org/
http://www.ubuntu.com/
http://code.goto10.org/projects/puredyne/
http://www.bandshed.net/AVLinux.html
http://rt.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Main_Page
http://www.pulseaudio.org/
http://developer.apple.com/audio/overview.html

Corrections / clarifications:

Ed.: I originally claimed that JACK Transport sync is not possible on the Mac OS X port of JACK. As kindly pointed out by a reader, this is not correct. JACK Transport-aware applications on the Mac will work.

Subtler issues:

Kim noted two annoyances with the Finder. One is wanting to type paths directly. On the Mac Finder, you need to invoke a keyboard shortcut prior to doing so. On Ubuntu’s default file manager (GNOME’s Nautilus), you can simply begin typing. There was some disagreement about to whether that really constitutes a notable difference, but suffice to say, you do have a greater range of choice and customization on an open source operating system.

Secondly, Kim argued that you could pull out a drive without having to go to a lot of trouble unmounting it first. At least one commenter argues that risks data loss, and given that users may be using something like FUSE to access foreign file systems like NTFS or the Mac’s own HFS+, I don’t yet know what the exact details will be. As I said in comments, however, Nautilus and the command line eject function for me are quicker and more effective than similar unmounting on Windows and Mac, so I still notch this one for Linux. -PK

  • http://nickstutorials.com Nick Maxwell

    This is an excellent article, and it comes at a time when I'm heavily researching an alternative and incredibly portable music setup using Ubuntu on a netbook. Thanks for the info!

  • http://www.leviathan-avc.com Thomas Vecchione

    Decent Article, a little short on the meat of it. However I did want to point something out in one of the editor notes…

    "While JACK has been ported to Mac, some more advanced features like synchronizing multiple applications are only available on Linux,"

    This is incorrect. You certainly CAN synchronize Jack Transport aware applications on OS X. I do this quite often with Ardour and Jadeo to do sound effect design for animations. The Jack on OS X is pretty well identical to the Jack on Linux.

    Seablade

  • http://fractaldimensionproductions.com Fractal Dimension

    That's a move I'm also contemplating (Mac OS X -> Ubuntu)…

    However, I wouldn't want to leave Live behind, as it's my favored music production tool. I've read about some guy's experiment to make it work under Ubuntu via Wine, but that sounds a bit too shaky for me. Of course Ableton is highly unlikely to ever release a Linux version of Live, so I'm stuck on either Mac OS X or the current flavor of Windows.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Thomas: Thanks very much for the correction, and my apologies. I believe there remain some other subtler differences because of what is possible via Apple's APIs versus what the "native" Linux client and server can do, but I will now proceed to go do my actual homework on this so that I get my facts right.

    That said, Thomas, any suggestions on "meat" you'd *like* to see covered? (Mmmmm… meat.)

    This brings up another point, which is that there are two ways to approach the problem. If you really are happy with Mac OS, the alternative is to limit how tied to vendors your work is in terms of applications. So, for instance, I'm much happier in my Windows and Mac work – as I am on Linux – with greater use of tools like SuperCollider, Processing, Blender, and so on… all of which run on all three platforms. There are advantages to the Linux operating system, too, but it's worth considering, especially if you're in a "hybrid" environment or even just have a reason to dual-boot your machine.

    @Fractal Dimension: Some applications actually run perfectly well under WINE in a way you wouldn't even notice that you're not on Windows. Reaper is a good example, under WINEASIO. You can maintain Windows plug-in compatibility, too. The MUSE Receptor uses a setup derived from WINE to make it possible to run, for instance, the entire Native Instruments Komplete suite. Unfortunately, so far it seems Ableton Live is *not* running as well under WINE, so to that exent, you're absolutely correct. I need to look into the exact issue to try to determine what might be necessary to fix this problem. The popularity of Live is really clear, so I agree this would be a major obstacle to a lot of people — and conversely, could see Linux audio grow in popularity by leaps and bounds if corrected.

  • Vehical Driver

    What does he use as an alternative to Max/MSP on Linux?

  • http://twitter.com/binary42 Brian Mitchell

    Most of those complaints listed about the Mac are not very true at all…

    You can navigate to a path in Finder by typing using the "Go to Folder…" shortcut (cmd-shift-G).

    Ubuntu has the same issues with drive unmounting. If you rip it out, it might not complain but it has the same effect as OS X. You can lose data. Period. OS X just tries to prevent bad habits. Linux just assumes you know your risk. Either way, if you care about your data, don't do it… which to me is more grown up.

    As far as hardware prices, you can easily find quality refurbished macs that are quite cheap and comparable to low end PCs. High end Macs are very well priced in most cases as well if you compare fairly.

    I'm not sure tree view is something I miss from my linux days at all. In fact, I really prefer the columns view when I need to jump around like that in Finder since it requires much less mouse scrolling and clicking.

    Of course, my recommendation to people is to try this software out before making the move. Most of it will run just fine on Mac OS X so you'll get a taste of the trade you are making.

    (I should say I really like Linux and FreeBSD for many things, though music production is not yet one of those)

  • http://nonplus.us nonplus

    Vehical Driver: one would use Pure Data http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Data

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Brian: I agree with those corrections; I should have caught them and I've updated the story.

    That said, it's worth mentioning that by the time a file manager complains, it's too late. And Nautilus now has an eject button. So there's no complaint *after* ejecting a drive without unmounting it, but otherwise the two do behave more or less identically. I do think that Linux tends to unmount drives with less fuss than Windows or Mac, however. The Mac can be slow about it, Windows can refuse to unmount a drive even when it's theoretically inactive, etc.

    Of course, if you really miss the Mac file manager on Linux:
    http://www.gnustep.it/enrico/gworkspace/ ;)

    Although I'm actually surprised there haven't been other attempts to do this. None outside GNUStep that I can think of, and I wouldn't *really* recommend GNUStep.

    @Vehical: I haven't yet tried running Max or Plogue in WINE, but Pd (http://puredata.info) would be an obvious choice, and Reaktor runs really well for me in WINE.

  • Adam Griffin

    Linux: no Ableton Live, no Cubase, no Pro Tools, no way dude! I've always had hopes for Linux and I keep checking back over the years to find that the software still isn't there.

  • http://nonplus.us nonplus

    Why do OS X acolytes grasp at straws to 'educate' people who've used Macs since System 6? …as if there is no valid reason to leave a platform? …as if it's not alright to enjoy something other than OS X? It must be murder going through a break up with you. Would you like to take a free personality test? ;-)

  • El Conorio

    I would've liked to see more discussion on hardware (audio, midi, control interfaces) compatibility or lack thereof.

    Also, did he convert his Max/MSP patches to PD, and if so, how difficult was that?

    I too hate Mac's Finder; I use Path Finder instead.

  • http://www.leviathan-avc.com Thomas Vecchione

    I believe there remain some other subtler differences because of what is possible via Apple’s APIs versus what the “native” Linux client and server can do, but I will now proceed to go do my actual homework on this so that I get my facts right.

    Well yes and no. In as far as what an application can ask of Jack, they are identical. However personal anecdotal evidence says I can get lower latencies stably on Linux if I spend the time to customize my installation. However obviously the plural of anecdote != facts.

    Obviously there are difference in a programming level, like the use of MACH threads instead of POSIX threads, but in general no user needs to know about that.

    What will happen though that is noticable to many users is that JackOSX provides a CoreAudio driver that allows any coreaudio software to have its audio routed to and from Jack and show up like you would expect Jack programs.

    I should also note that the 'standard' control GUI for Jack on Linux – QJackCTL – is a seperate download for OS X. By default JackOSX ships with JackPilot which is pretty simplified, and may be what confused you on the transport control/sync side of things.

    In as far as meat, it isn't so much for myself, but I would imagine that people would like more information on what each program is or is not capable of doing compared to the equivalent that would have been used on OS X. For instance Ardour is great for Stereo Audio, but isn't necessarily the easiest for multichannel output, though with the use of Fon's Ambisonics LADSPA plugins can do this rather nicely, but not 'standard' outputs easily like 5.1 7.1, etc.

    Also many people would find plugins a limiting factor on Linux since while there are many good LADSPA and LV2 plugins, and even Jack Client processing, the lack of popular commercial plugin development is troublesome for some people, and running VSTs via WINE sometimes just doesn't cut it, especially with anything iLock authorized. And the final thing is that hardware support is not guaranteed and research should be done to ensure compatibility before purchasing the audio interface. Right now RME has the crown for good high end interfaces, and as much as I love my Apogee, it doesn't currently run on Linux.

    Of course all that being said, I do love Ardour as a DAW don't get me wrong, and use it on OS X exclusively these days, having dropped ProTools(On Mac) and CoolEdit and Cubase/Nuendo on Windows in favor of it. So don't get me wrong there.

    I do completely agree with all the suggestions made at the end of the article and really wish that they would be taken to heart by people higher in the food chain in popular distributions.

    One thing in particular 'meatwise' I can think of that would be nice, is a description of diabling PulseAudio in favor of Jack. Right now this is the majority of troubleshooting I help others with is dealing with getting rid of Pulse on ANY distribution and running Jack. It tries to play nice, but doesn't always and I agree, it is just easier not to deal with it.

    Also a better explanation of what a realtime kernel is, and that it isn't run by default on most distributions, including Ubuntu Studio, and that it isn't just the kernel, but also some text files(/etc/security/limits.conf on most distribtuions) still required to be edited by hand that gives permissions for realtime preemption for low latency. At the very least some links to this information elsewhere referenced near that section so it is easy for people to find.

    This is really off the top of my head. I don't want to sound like this was a bad article, it wasn't. I just personally thought it might have been a bit more in depth than it was. I still enjoyed it none the less though.

    Seablade

  • http://twitter.com/binary42 Brian Mitchell

    @Vehical I believe the Max runtime works on WINE but the patch editor does not. Others pointed out pd though and that would definitely count.

    I would consider working on some of these open source efforts if Linux could get its audio layer organized and under control. AFAICT, none of the current audio layers/drivers really support very good mediation between programs (let alone some problems I've had in the past with audio delay).

  • Zach

    I had a run in with Ubuntu Studio last year. I was heartened that my interface (m-audio at the time) worked and my midi keyboard was detected, but after several weeks, I could not make heads or tails of it enough to even play a soft synth, let alone do any serious recording or composing. The worst part was that I could find precious little help in tutorials or forums, which I lean on for other Ubuntu support. Maybe I'm too much of an idiot to use Ubuntu (I can manage to admin web and file servers on it). Regardless, I lost weeks of music making and never did figure it out. I'm happily back on on a Mac and Logic. Has Ubuntu Studio really progressed from a bloody mess to professional ready in a year's time? If so, that is mighty impressive.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Re: absence of applications. I find it curious that we constantly hear there are "too many choices" for music making on computers, but also that Linux doesn't have enough apps. Maybe these are different people. Anyway… I think the question is a personal one, and it's whether there's enough for your own use.

    Ardour, energyXT, Pd, SuperCollider, Csound, Renoise all run natively on Linux. Reaper, Reason, Reaktor, FL, Kore (minus the hardware), and Komplete, and many others run within WINE. (A fair number of Reaper users on Linux now, I take it.)

    To me, you could probably survive on a desert island with SuperCollider or Pd alone, Reaper is the only DAW I know of with both a built-in scripting AND dsp development engine, and to tracker lovers, you don't need anything other than Renoise.

    Now, maybe that's not you, of course, in which case Linux probably isn't for you. But it will be enough for at least some people, so for them, it's more about clearing these other hurdles… getting the thing running. On that point -

    @Thomas: yep, your wish list is my wish list. Just have to sit down and write it. I think the realtime kernel article is best made a separate story; I was having a chat this morning with one of the kernel developers at Red Hat.

    Hardware compatibility is fairly easy. I get great results out of anything USB class-compliant for MIDI and audio. RME has some terrific audio drivers for higher-end applications. And the FireWire support has been growing. There is even a lot of work into getting this running on Apple hardware, which is what Hans-Christoph Steiner, maintainer of Pd-extended, does on his MacBook Pro. But yes, going into specifics is a *very* good idea.

    @Thomas / @Brian: ALSA vs. PulseAudio – this is an easy one. I disabled PulseAudio here on Ubuntu 9.04 fully expecting to have some problem. Nope. Nothing. Haven't missed it once. So I can talk about that. And Brian, basically, the answer to your question is ALSA + JACK. Routing audio between apps is never an entirely simple matter, but JACK works better than anything out there.

    @Brian: That sounds correct, I think you don't get anything beyond the Max runtime. This may also be related to the copy protection on Max, which I know is a stumbling block for some apps in WINE.

  • http://www.leviathan-avc.com Thomas Vecchione

    I would consider working on some of these open source efforts if Linux could get its audio layer organized and under control. AFAICT, none of the current audio layers/drivers really support very good mediation between programs (let alone some problems I’ve had in the past with audio delay).

    Depends on what programs you are referring to. If you are referring to pro audio programs, I would say Jack does a very good job, as mentioned in this article. You can route audio between any jack enabled program, and if the program is transport aware can keep them in perfect sync at the same time. Add on to that that Jack is specifically set up for low latency (I have in the past run <1.5mS buffers for Jack stably) I am not sure delay is an issue.

    IF however you are referring to mediation between pro audio programs and regular consumer quality programs, then I agree, that is a mess. Some programs like mplayer address this by simply having a jack output, which addresses the issue, but others like Flash can still be a pain to say the least.

    @Zach

    My opinion of Ubuntu Studio is that it has not. However you could try some other laternatives out there, most notably would probably be 64Studio 3(The version that is currently in beta testing), but also some others I ahve heard rumblings about recently include AVLinux as well.

    Seablade

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Zach: I feel you, but I'm not sure I understand exactly what went wrong. What was the point at which you couldn't play a soft synth? Was it that you didn't know where to begin (i.e., which app)? Or did you try something and didn't work?

    As a writer, my goal is generally to write better documentation. :) And I want CDM to continue covering what you need to know for Mac, Windows, and Linux. On Linux, it won't just sort of write itself, as Kim notes. But at the same time, it'd be helpful to know what you want to see or struggled with or need to know, so keep feedback coming.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Thomas: FWIW, I'm running Ubuntu 9.04 here and ultimately found it to be the best compromise for everything I wanted to run, even relative to the specific distros. I'll go into specifics, though, because it didn't work right out of the box, and that's not a good thing…

  • http://www.leviathan-avc.com Thomas Vecchione

    I was having a chat this morning with one of the kernel developers at Red Hat.

    Heh… Just a warning in case you haven't read it, there was an interesting discussion (Read:Flamewar) on LAD not to long ago about a certain decision made in as far as default realtime support and how to implement it for distributions on Linux when a solution was proposed and implemented without even mentioning it to the LAD community first for feedback:)

    Hardware compatibility is fairly easy. I get great results out of anything USB class-compliant for MIDI and audio. RME has some terrific audio drivers for higher-end applications. And the FireWire support has been growing.

    Yes, but when writing an article for other newcomers to Linux, they don't necessarily know that USB2 is not going to be class compliant, or what class compliant even means half the time. Or that RME works fine, but Apogee doesn't, or what Firewire devices work, why MOTU is a bad choice in general, or why the FW410 doesn't work, etc.

    ALSA vs. PulseAudio – this is an easy one. I disabled PulseAudio here on Ubuntu 9.04 fully expecting to have some problem. Nope. Nothing. Haven’t missed it once. So I can talk about that.

    Yep, but mentioning having to do this on most distributions these days is a good thing. And yea I can tell you that most of the time disabling Pulse in a modern distribution is not quite that simple, had more than a few people asking for help in that regards recently;)

    Seablade

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Thomas: Yeah, I'm not surprised. I think the issue is that the realtime kernel's primary use is in finance and the military, and music – as usual – winds up off people's radar screen.

    Anyway, I don't know whether we can solve Linux's internal political battles any more than I'd want to try to solve Apple's or Microsoft's (and believe me, they exist). I think it's a question of whether you can get things working for your personal use, and hopefully, in the spirit of community, share those solutions.

    But indeed, yes, it'd be useful to go over hardware support, where you can go to get information, etc. I'm not an expert on that by any means but I can do the whole Research thing I'm supposed to do. ;)

    And I wasn't personally thrilled having to disable PulseAudio, either. PA has some cool features, too, so nothing against it, but it seems like what we need is a metapackage that, when deinstalled, restores ALSA defaults, rather than having to do everything manually.

  • http://www.yellowwoodmusic.com AMRAyw

    Ableton could do two things to rock my (computer) world: OSC support, and Unbuntu support. I'd switch from OS X for cost savings alone at that point.

    Here's hoping snow leopard is as light weight as they say it will be.

  • http://www.leviathan-avc.com Thomas Vecchione

    And I wasn’t personally thrilled having to disable PulseAudio, either. PA has some cool features, too, so nothing against it, but it seems like what we need is a metapackage that, when deinstalled, restores ALSA defaults, rather than having to do everything manually.

    All comes down to the distributions at that point.

    Seablade

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Are any major distributions now NOT using PulseAudio? I thought if they're in sync with new releases of GNOME, they were. I like some of the music-specific distros, but I also wanted package support for some newer software and fixes in the newer Ubuntu releases, which meant going a bit more "bleeding-edge."

  • http://fractaldimensionproductions.com Fractal Dimension

    @Peter Kirn: Well, I haven't done much research on WINE beyond running Live on Linux, so I'm happy to hear that it's actually getting more and more usable. Unfortunately that's not the case with WineX, the Mac OS X port, which is lagging behind the Linux version. But that's a different story…

    I agree that getting Live to run on Linux would boost the popularity of Linux tremendously, especially among touring musicians/DJs on a tight budget. If the netbooks covered some months ago here on CDM would be able to run a stripped-down Linux distro plus Live…

  • Kyran

    Nice article.

    I'm really looking forward to when ardour gets midi support.

    Here are some hosts that are currently running on this linux machine in the latest wine version (you need to enable the extra wine repositories in ubuntu, the stock version 1.0.1 is really inferior)

    FL Studio 8.5 beta 5 (latest beta), fully authorised

    Zynewave podium

    Reaper

    I have live running too, I can use all the instruments, but anything that requires live to read or write from it's folder in application data doesn't, so it's very limited, but it allows you to bring in sampler or operator or your favorite vst with live's fx on linux, and use ardour or podium for audio

  • http://www.zenarchery.com Joshua

    There are four apps I need any operating system I use to support: Photoshop, Illustrator, Live and Reason. If I had those four working natively, I'd move to Linux in a heartbeat. I'd love the ability to, for example, strip down my OS to precisely what I need it to do.

    (I've never tried it, but I assume it's possible, at least in theory, to customize your Linux prefs to have a 'general' usage login and a 'music' login that's stripped down and lean.)

    But nothing I've found replicates these apps' functionality and ease-of-use for me, which is why I'm on a Mac.

  • Zach

    My particular issue wasn't what software to use (I installed Ubuntu Studio fine and the software worked), it was getting said software to respond to midi input. I really could not make heads or tails of the documentation on how to get all the audio sub-systems, daemons, or what have you to connect midi the apps. Jack in particular, left me utterly baffled. I had a low tolerance for frustration when I was doing this, but it was still pretty ridiculous.

    @Peter A Ubuntu for audio primer (or for Dummies, as it were) would certainly be useful. Focusing on getting essential things like recording audio and midi would be particularly useful. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all on offer from Ubuntu Studio that one doesn't know where to start.

  • http://fractaldimensionproductions.com Fractal Dimension

    @Kyran: Interesting… So the issue with Live is accessing resources and not running the GUI and audio DSP code itself. Since this is a more generic problem, it might get fixed in the near future anyways. But then again, I slightly quiver at the thought of reimplementing the Windows API, so the WINE guys might have lots of other issues to deal with.

  • http://www.earslap.com Batuhan

    [Ed.: ALSA, JACK, and the real-time Linux kernel also have some advantages over Mac OS X that can be worth the effort. While JACK has been ported to Mac, Linux has more JACK-aware tools, which is necessary for transport sync.]

    There is a downside to this, and it can be misleading.

    I've never used Jack Transport, I usually write my own environments and music softwares with SuperCollider and use OSC to message around.

    So I have no comments on the "Jack Transport" thingy here, but in the audio domain, judging from the last time I tried to make music with Linux (things may have changed, but I don't really think so), Mac OS X is far more "Jack aware" than linux which is a shame. Because in Mac OS X, every sound producing software is essentially jack aware thanks to the clean audio framework by Apple and hard work of JackOSX programmers. You can set "JackRouter" as your default audio device once Jack is booted, and ALL software works with Jack.

    This is not the case in Linux. Most software use the OSS to stream sound (which is not compatible with Jack!), and you really have to do some hacking to get them work with ALSA and most of the time, it just doesn't work. For example, I remember trying to get audio from firefox into Jack for 2 days (I essentially like to tamper with any sound realtime), and for media players, you need to deal with alsa plugins (the popular ones were using oss by default) and they were wonky. I've spent a week to get skype working with Jack (had to do some compiling for the translating layer!) only to jam with my friend online.

    In Mac OS X, issues like this are not problem, Anything can stream sound into anywhere consistently, all software is supported, the jack driver is software agnostic, because it works as a sound driver, sits between your sound interface and softwares.

    And to my knowledge, Jack OSX uses jackdmp which is the new multi processor aware version of jack, whereas most linux audio distros were using jackd, I never had problems with both, and I don't know if that is still the case.

    The realtime kernel thing was not a problem back then, but now I'm hearing that the realtime kernel for the latest ubuntu is seriously broken for music making, not sure how people deal with that (maybe there are patches to make them work, but you'll need to compile your own kernel. I can do it, no problem, but it takes my time. I really don't want to deal with that stuff on my computer while I'm making music. I am a programmer, I can get things up and working, but I chose to invest money instead of time in another sense, congruent with the advice of the wise uncle.

    (A little background info to show where I'm coming from; I've migrated from Linux to Mac OS X for music making 2 years ago, after working with Linux for more than 2 years at the studio and on stage. And from "my" productivity perspective, I think going back from mac to linux is a step back, in terms of productivity. Sure it is cheaper, no vendor lock-ins, open source, cool, and you can do A LOT if you know your way around, but you also have to deal with countless number of little issues; they become a part of your daily routine decreasing your productivity SNR when you try to do serious stuff. But be aware that all stuff written here is from my "own" workflow habits and productivity perspective. I am sure that these don't apply to everyone! And it is always cool to have Linux for installations, art serving web servers etc.)

  • Adam

    I couldn't get past the part about the 5 year old PowerBook G4 finally having hardware problems after a life ON THE ROAD, and you balk at replacing it. Can't wait to hear how many Dell or whatever laptops you need to purchase over the next 5 years on the road…

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  • JanC

    @Thomas, Peter e.a.:

    You can route PulseAudio through Jack, so you can use them together.

    And even better, the current development versions of PulseAudio & Jack should make it possible to switch between ALSA & Jack automaticly when Jack starts or stops.

  • Silly decisions

    Apple REFUSES to let me do what I want to do. Thank god for ubuntu.

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  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    JanC: That may well be, but I was having so much trouble with PulseAudio on Ubuntu 9.04 (as I did on 8.10… and 8.04) that I wound up looking to disable it. I also couldn't find a reason that I personally needed it. It actually seems to degrade audio performance even for the so-called 'consumer' apps running through it. Now, this may simply be some unpatched bugs, but even if that's the Ubuntu packagers failing to keep pace with PulseAudio itself, why keep packaging this as the *default* audio system when ALSA works fine for most people? Am I missing something?

  • Peter Kirn

    @Batuhan: Right, correct — you can wrap OSS into ALSA but not necessarily OSS into ALSA into a JACK server. And this article is comparing to Mac OS, so even though Windows fares worse than both JACK+ALSA and Core Audio, that doesn't really count. On the other hand, there are still apps (like SuperCollider and Renoise and Ardour) that are JACK aware. I think that speaks to the last point Kim made, that if we could just have better support for this technology that's there…

    It does need some additional third-party documentation, however. I'll see what I can arrange. ;)

    And honestly, if at the end of the day you stick with Mac OS but the Mac platform benefits from Linux technology – which you can then share with people using Linux – nothing wrong with that.

  • http://charlesmartin.com.au Charles

    I'm a huge Ubuntu fan, but I've had a lot of recent trouble getting Ubuntu Studio to run properly on a new desktop. First of all, the realtime kernel included in 9.04 doesn't boot for me at all (a common problem), so I built my own real time kernel from the 2.6.29 sources which works… except the ATI graphics drivers don't work at all in 2.6.29… *sigh*… etc etc etc…

    So, it's not an easy ride, but like Kim said… "time or money". Personally, I find spending the time is rewarding in a masochistic kind of way.

  • JanC

    @Peter:

    According to the PulseAudio developer(s) (and at least some ALSA developers) most of these issues are in the ALSA hardware drivers and/or the actual hardware and/or (in case of PA's ALSA "emulation") the applications not using ALSA correctly (e.g. some applications assume all ALSA audio devices support DMA, which can't be supported by PA, but apparently also not by Bluetooth audio and some other audio hardware).

    I am not really able to judge if they are right, but I have never seen anybody knowledgeable dispute this… ;-)

    And PA has been quite stable for me; even back when it was still called PolypAudio (4 years ago?) it was more stable than ESD for example. But that might depend on what hardware & softwa

    Some of the advantages of PA:

    * once PA is running, no application can lock the audio card through OSS or for ALSA by grabbing & holding the single hardware channel that most current audio devices have (= HDA).

    * you can reroute playing audio to whatever output device you want (e.g. to an USB headset, or to a network stream if you prefer)

    * it can be used in combination with e.g. VNC or remote X to provide a remote desktop with sound

    * currently it remembers the relative sound volume you set per application, but it could also be used to mute/dim certain audio streams when certain other streams (that are perceived more important) appear

  • JanC

    That truncated paragraph was supposed to read: "But that might depend on what hardware & software combination you use/need."

  • JanC

    PS: I don't do any "pro audio" really, and I'm pretty sure PA is not the right tool for that, just trying to point out there are reasons to use it for consumer audio, and that's the majority of users (distros like "Ubuntu Studio" should cater for the specialist users).

  • germ

    Some crass statements that cannot go unanswered here:

    - comparing refurbished Dell Studio 15 ($600) with a new MacBook Pro ($3000) is just ridiculous. There's a night and day difference in quality and performance. Two completely different classes of machines

    - you have had some problems with Apple logic boards. I have never had any. Good luck with your PC logic boards. I am sorry, but Apple still has some of the best quality hardware in the business

    - and talking of prices, you find the me PC laptop that has the same features as the MacBook pro 13" for the same price or lower. I dare you. Also, a 15" MacBook pro ranges in price from $1700 to $2600. Not $3000.

  • Tony

    Shameless plug for Reaper 3 on Ubuntu

    http://www.reaper.fm/download.php

  • Rob Willett

    Very good article. I had exactly the same experience but going from Linux to a Mac.

    I have a external Firewire sound system and was trying to get it work reliably with Ubuntu Studio. I spent weeks playing around with real time kernels trying to get the latency down, the firewire would sometimes work, sometimes not, the real time kernel would mess around with my graphics card.

    In the end I brought a Mac book and it just worked.

    I think Linux is great, I have a VM Server running multiple Linux installs and can claim to a modest knowledge of Unix having written compilers and large chunks of an OS, but getting it all to work at the same time for music was hard, it just works on my Mac so I use that.

  • http://wonderewereldvanbenny.blogspot.com/ Benny

    Is JACK a replacement for Rewire? Can I run Reason on Ubuntu (with wine) and use JACK to rewire Reason to an other sequencer?

  • http://letsneverdie.net/blog cactus

    <blockquote cite="As I said in comments, however, Nautilus and the command line eject function for me are quicker and more effective than similar unmounting on Windows and Mac, so I still notch this one for Linux">

    You're aware that OS X has the same command line shell that linux does, right?

  • http://letsneverdie.net/blog cactus

    Whoops, meant to quote this:

    "As I said in comments, however, Nautilus and the command line eject function for me are quicker and more effective than similar unmounting on Windows and Mac, so I still notch this one for Linux"

  • poopoo

    Thanks Kim, great article. I loved bluecube and the CSound book. I'll be interested to see the fruits of field recordings and linux.

    @benny.. You can run Jack on Windows XP. It will allow you to route audio out of Reason into other applications. I use it to route Pd audio in and out of Ableton live. For midi routing I use a virtual midi cable. Unlike Rewire or Jack in Linux, there is no transport sync in the windows Jack version.

  • vossile

    I'm looking forward to your hardware report in approx. 5 years time. In my books, the G4 Powerbook may well fail in 2009.

  • Brian Stone

    I've heard this anti-apple stuff from Kim before, and I'm happy he's finally found a home where he can be free from the oppression he felt with apple many years ago.

    I will say this much. There is no manufacturer which is immune to problems. I think its ironic that right now, Apple not only has been on a great run with their build quality, but also with price.

    If choice is important to musicians, the Mac seems to provide the most choices with the ability to run linux, mac os x, and windows.

    All that said its nice to see how the other people live. Sounds like a fun sandbox for people that have a lot of time, money and patience.

  • http://charlesmartin.com.au Charles

    Sometimes, tragically, Apples turn out to be lemons… but my father spent an MBP amount of money on a Lenovo Thinkpad which turned out to be the worst computer I've ever met. I would hate to rely on it for anything. It is truly horrible at many levels.

  • don johnson

    the switch won't make your music sound good. as an artist you have failed.

  • Kyran

    @Benny: I don't own reason, but it is reported to work perfectly within wine.

    Jack is like rewire on steroids, but in order for the transport sync to work, you audio application needs to be "aware" of it, something reason is not. So, yes, you can use it to plug reason into an audio sequencer, but getting both to play in sync might be trickier (some creative patching in jack and mmc messages might get you there).

    If you're using reason just as a sound rack, ignoring it's build in sequencer, then jack will fit your needs perfectly: just route the midi from your sequencer in reason, and the audio from reason into your audio sequencer (which may or may not be your midi sequencer)

    Regarding live: it looks like what's happening is some sort of permission problem. If wine keeps improving like it does, I have high hopes that live will run between now and a year.

    If there's going to be some tutorials on how to set linux up for music, I'd really like to help out.

  • http://homeandfamilyreleases.blogspot.com/ TheFamilyMan

    I remember using the Performer suite for Apple years ago. Cool stuff
    Though I have not really fooled with Linux in a while for daily use, more experience with Qnix which is a beast, I bet configuring this unix flavor (Ubuntu) isn't much faster or easier to get right. Maybe I'm wrong?

  • mfw

    If you want the thrill of being the hippest bleeding edge postcyberpunk neuromantic roadwarrior mofo in town, sure … why not buy a $600 computer that is able to run free versions of SuperCollider, Ardour, PD & Jack.

    I mean it would cost almost a whopping $400 more to get one of those super-expensive bourgeois corporate MacBooks instead …and for what ?

    Well you could run free versions of SuperCollider, Ardour, PD & Jack on them for example … or Max/MSP, Live, Pro Tools, Logic etc but if you are professional musician whyever would you want to have access to that junk ?

    Sorry Mr Cascone, I have great respect for your music and your contribution to the electronic music community in general but, while I can totally see the attraction of supporting an open source OS for moral & political reasons, I can't for the life of me see any musical or even financial advantages for swapping OS X for Ubuntu at this point in time.

    I mean you had already payed for your licences for Max/MSP and all the other software you were using, and invested years in developing your patches for it, and to save $400 (over maybe 3 years !) you throw that all away ?

    For a starving student this would seem a very, very bad decision, for a touring professional musician, well lets just say that the motivation seems to be something other than rational …

  • David Baron

    Great article. I run mostly Debian Sid but have been a Cakewalk (older Home Studio on Win98–a lot of bang for the buck but NO upgrades) person using Dx effects. I have loads of linux software installed, loads of effects and stuff I compiled to use VST with WINE. Simply have not tried a record, digitize and mixdown yet.

    BTW, OLDER Cakewalk up through express works in WINE, and so does Jammer, Onyx, and some other MIDI tools (with a few qwerks here and there).

    Codeweavers' WINE can run even more applications.

  • David Baron

    Hardware compatibility? My Dman2044 with the chunky breakout box I love has NO alsa support.

    My rusty trusty Yamaha sw60xg soundcard has no support either but runs perfectly as an mpu401 by supplying the DIP selected port-address (trick suggested by Yamaha before they had drivers for w2k!) This is XG sound generator, no DMA, no IRQ, nada–but is an ISA card so again, few upgrade options keeping it. XGedit can control it using WINE.

    I found an old Ensonic 1371 in the trash and use that for listening. Old but adequate, has support on most anything.

  • KimH

    <blockquote cite="mfw">Sorry Mr Cascone, I have great respect for your music and your contribution to the electronic music community in general but, while I can totally see the attraction of supporting an open source OS for moral & political reasons, I can’t for the life of me see any musical or even financial advantages for swapping OS X for Ubuntu at this point in time.

    I mean you had already payed for your licences for Max/MSP and all the other software you were using, and invested years in developing your patches for it, and to save $400 (over maybe 3 years !) you throw that all away ?

    For a starving student this would seem a very, very bad decision, for a touring professional musician, well lets just say that the motivation seems to be something other than rational …

    I was going to write a post, but given mfw's, I don't need to. Cascone's motivation has to be something other than rational…

  • mfw

    … to clarify : like most people on here i strongly believe wonderful music can be made on most any platform and the more people working with different tools on different platforms, hopefully the greater the diversity of the music being made will be. I'm very hapy that Mr Cascone is happy with his choices and i'm honestly looking fiorward to hearing what he is getting out of his new setup.

    Its just the reasons presented for the choice that seems a little silly …

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  • http://audiotools.lowtech.org Jake Harries

    Good article.At http://www.access-space.org we have been using only open source software and o/s since 2000.

  • Josh

    Jamin is a VERY cool mastering tool. I've been using it for about a year now and it makes my output sound so much smoother than just using Audacity's tools. Look at it!

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  • Gogmagog

    I was wondering when the Mac fanatics would crawl out from under their rocks.

    What the hell, the guy takes the time to write an article about his unbiased experiences moving to Linux and people think there's an ulterior motive? His reasons make perfect sense to me: he had issues with both the hardware cost and software cost and wanted a cheaper, reliable alternative. Macs ARE more expensive than PCs, Protools and their ilk ARE more expensive than Linux. End of story. You can argue all you want about which is better etc. but you can't deny the cost savings.

    On a different note, two things: Sonic Visualizer is a way cool app for audio analysis and has tons of plugins that go beyond the basic FFT analysis, etc. And I was wondering where one might find some of Mr. Kim's music?

  • http://www.indamixx.com ronald stewart

    "I’d go so far as to suggest placing it in the Startup Applications so it’s always running". We do this

    "ship distros with the realtime kernel already tested and configured for use"

    We do this

    "The battle-scarred among us have learned to ignore all the other audio cruft bolted on to Ubuntu and just use ALSA and JACK. One can think of the ALSA/JACK stack, the heart of most pro Linux studios", We do this too!

  • billy

    I'm a Mac user (and a fan) but I've been interested and fooled around (very lightly) with Linux for 10 years or so, and would love to make a Linux music setup just for the geek factor. Kim's reasons for switching were very strange though and didn't make a lot of sense to me. He sounded like someone that has played with a Mac for a week, not someone who used one for 10 years. He seemed like he didn't really know the nuts and bolts of it, but willing to put endless time into setting up Linux.

    I salute him for making music in Linux, but as a case for for switching it was less than compelling.

  • http://www.burntchicken.com/utm/ UTM

    Great article, but at the risk of sounding argumentative, I'd like to point out what I find missing. Although I prefer using OS X for most applications, I have a couple PCs with Win XP. I have VMWare installed on a MB Pro that runs Ubuntu and Win XP. As much as I support the concept of free and open source software, what keeps me with Apple is that I find the user experience better than any other OS. Better as in easier to configure, administer and troubleshoot. Better in terms of performance, quality and compatibility with other HW/SW. And yes, better in terms of UI attractiveness and ease-of-use. After all, if you spend most of your day accessing, navigating and manipulating files and folders, you might as well like the way the UI looks, right?

    I'm intrigued to try out the Linux tools and techniques mentioned here, and I'm happy to support the developers, but what prevents me from abandoning OS X isn't my investment in Apple or a lot of FUD about Microsoft or Linux. It's the frustration of having to relearn how to work with another computer system: opening the Terminal and carefully typing commands to configure things and dealing with enigmatic driver conflicts. I don't even like doing that in OS X. When I'm ready to compose or play music, I want the minimum of futzing around trying to get sound to come out of the monitors. I'd like to say that Linux isn't ready for me but it's more like I'm just not ready for it. The older I get, the more I want to explore the familiar instruments and tools I haven't yet exhausted. I doubt I've explored half of what's possible with the HW/SW I own. Heck, I still keep on old Mac 8500 with OS 9 and OMS so I can run ReBirth.

    I enjoy Kim's work and own several of his CDs so bear with me when I suggest that perhaps the Linux move seems more sensible for Kim and like-minded artists with a strong tech background. I mean if you're the kind of composer who can categorize your approach to music in terms of randomness and determinism, then perhaps you probably aren't going to be fazed by doing "sudo apt-get install qjackctl" but for others, that's intimidating. Some can barely categorize their music by their aesthetic focus on cars, girls or rock'n'roll. :)

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I look forward to hearing some of Kim's new music.

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  • doug theriault

    I've used macintosh computers since the late 80's for music. I have never had a motherboard die on me, not once. My current powerbook G4 I've had for 7 years and it's fine. I use max/msp, LiSa and other software just fine. While I support the move to linux, it would be difficult for me to find the appropriate tools using Linux at this point. I still use Tiger on my machine as Power PC's do not work well under leopard (at least for me).

    Mac tips from me would be to leave at least 10gb free of space on your harddrive. Use diskwarrior on your computer, at least once a month. Elevate your laptop if your fan comes on to much…

    Always a good read from Cascone, check out his music!

  • mfw

    "His reasons make perfect sense to me: he had issues with both the hardware cost and software cost and wanted a cheaper, reliable alternative. Macs ARE more expensive than PCs, Protools and their ilk ARE more expensive than Linux. End of story. You can argue all you want about which is better etc. but you can’t deny the cost savings." well in this cas I think you CAN deny them ! As far as software is concerned pretty much all of the free software mentioned also runs on Mac, 0=0, no-one is forcing anyone to use ProTools TDM. Plus KC already owned Max/MSP etc etc … if your motherboard dies and you get a new Mac you don't have to buy Max/MSP again … but if you move to a platform on which it doesn't run you lose that value that you paid for. Where is teh cost saving there ? As far as hardware is concerned, sure in some cases a Mac is a lttle more expensive than an equivalent PC, in some cases it isn't but as I have already pointed out the difference between a $600 computer and a MacBook is under $400 … ok $400 is $400 but over a number of years, in the context of even a minimal music making setup – soundcard, speakers or at least headphones ! ;-) … i mean this is a guy who has been a professional touring performing musician for decades … if he really so desperately needs to econmise the price of half a cup of coffee per week … maybe things are worse than I thought … i somehow doubt it

  • Jackie

    Thanks so much for a really great article! I came across it just when I was looking to do a major PC hardware upgrade in my studio and expand into PC recording rather then upgrade my Apple equipment at a significantly higher cost. I think this article has solidified my desire to utilize Linux for my upgrade.

  • Andrew Bingham

    Then, during my 2009 spring tour, my PowerBook G4 exhibited signs of age, with missing keystrokes, intermittent backlighting, the failure of a RAM slot, and reduced performance. As an alternative to repairing the PowerBook, I investigated what a new MacBook Pro and upgrades for all my software would cost. A quick back-of-a-napkin estimate came to approximately $3,000

    The author had a PowerBook, so moving to an Intel-based MacBook probably required upgrades to all of his software.

  • http://www.marcoraaphorst.nl Marco Raaphorst

    I have created hundreds of patches for Reason and still love that program a lot. Same for Ableton Live. But hey, I am typing this comment on my new Ubuntu machine with 2 real time kernels and me fully exploring Ardour (love addition growing fast, great and clean program!!!).

    I will use Reason and Live for music & sound design demos and lectures, but I will also do that for Ubuntu soon I guess. And personally I believe in open source as the way to go. Or simply said: now's the time (yes, Charlie!)!

  • ArtInvent

    The hardware itself is now actually a distinct minority in the expense equation. Even if Apple hardware and OS were cheaper than anything else (which it certainly is not) there is still an overwhelming benefit to going with open source software.

    The reason that Ubuntu exists is the furtherance of Free Open Source Software. Getting off the proprietary software upgrade merry-go-round is pretty much the whole point.

    It was pretty much Audacity about 5 years ago that turned me on to the entire ethos of Free software. Here you have an incredibly precise and elegant application that does exactly what it does with absolute directness and economy. Over the years it has gotten more flexible and sophisticated but has always retained that simplicity and elegance. There is no feature bloat or artificial upgrade-prodding from someone wanting your dollars, which in turn will make you want even more powerful hardware to run all this code that you may not really even want or need.

    I simply find that Ubuntu and all of the Free applications of the Linux ecosystem has finally released me from this endlessly distracting software-hardware-OS-software-hardware-OS rigmarole and justs lets me do what I want to do, which is to make music with as little else as possible getting in the way.

  • M-RES

    This is a really interesting and inspiring article. I've been considering the sidegrade to Linux on cheaper hardware myself rather than buying a new MacBook to replace my PowerBook.

    Nice to see users such as Marco Raaphorst also supporting the platform. I've used many of Marco's patches in Reason and really appreciate his input into the software, so having supporters of his calibre is high praise indeed.

    It's worth noting that Ardour is also available for OS X (as is Audacity of course), so for Mac users looking at the Linux alternatives you can try before you make the leap – just to make sure you'll be comfortable with the FOSS alternatives.

    I'm not completely sold on Audacity on the Mac. It's a little clunky, but I can't really complain given that it's free!! :)

    But overall I'm seriously thinking about having a look into this for my DAW use. The hardware required would be a lot cheaper this way, although ultimately I'm a Reason man through and through, so I'll probably always have a Mac around to use it.

    Recently I got back into drumming and have invested heavily into my custom e-kit, so software kits are something that interests me a great deal. There are a few options for Windows/OS X – Reason Dumkits, Superior, BFD to name a few – but are there any Linux alternatives that can match the ease of use and functionality? Low latency is a massive factor in this, making Linux look even more favourable if the software is there… any suggestions?

  • http://none Me too

    I dumped XP for Ubuntu 2 years ago. I've often looked at Macs, how sleek and beautiful they are and tried to talk myself in to reasons why I need one. I don't. Ubuntu does everything I need. Still Ubuntu for me.

  • http://www.leviathan-avc.com Thomas Vecchione

    @janc

    Peter is correct, while Pulse Audio at least TRIES to play nice, it doesn't in reality for pro audio uses. For this reason for pro audio people Jack by itself and disabling pulse is a much better solution.

    That being said, I agree that Pulse for consumer audio is not a bad solution at all in most cases.

    Seablade

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  • Tony Philpot

    Very interesting article, Kim. Many of the applications you mention are completely foreign to me living, as I do, in the UK. Have you any experience of Magix's Sequoia? I use it as my standard for recording/editing, and would love to know whether it can be easily persuaded to run under Linux. The major drawback to using Windows on a laptop is the fact that it is so resource hungry.

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  • Kyran

    @Tony: If sequoia requires a dongle for authorisation it's a no go on running it in wine I'm afraid.

    @m-res: Hydrogen is a beatmachine for Linux. I don't know how good it'll work with an e-kit (I don't have one), but it's worth a try :)

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  • http://gedmin.as Marius Gedminas
  • Dan Nigrin

    It's worth pointing out that Stephane Letz, the man behind the programming of Jack OS X and Jack Windows, as well as the new Jack multiprocessor version (jackdmp), has gradually been working on making a Jack transport to CoreMIDI bridge – to allow for basic Jack transport functionality to work in OS X even *without* an application being Jack transport-aware…. Very cool!

    Dan Nigrin – Defective Records

    MC-202 Hack / Jack OS X / Major Malfunction / PC-1600 User / VSTi Host
    http://defectiverecords.com http://jackosx.com

  • http://w1xer.at/ Jay Vaughan

    I use Ubuntu Studio on my home system and it simply is awesome for music-making ..

    If I want to have a quick noodle, I simply fire up JackCtl, ZynAddSubFx, and plug in my Korg NanoKey controller .. connect the NanoKey to ZynAddSubFx using aconnectgui, and oila .. instant jam session. Lots of great sounds, a very powerful synthesizer, and off we go. It just plain works.

    Then, if I want to start recording things, I fire up Ardour, connect ZynAddSubFX to an Ardour track, fire up SEQ24 (MIDI sequencer), connect it to ZynAddSubFX, and away we go .. another excellent jam session, being recorded with multi-tracks per instrument. Add ASynth, alsamodular, and so on, all being driven by SEQ24 and recording multi-track'ed into Ardour.

    Its just a beautiful setup – okay, its not as 'easy to connect' within the applications themselves, but when you realize that you manage the connections between software like you would any other modular (hardware/physical) system, it really makes a LOT more sense than the older paradigm of having it all 'integrated' in OSX/Windows. I really like the fact that I can treat all of the different Linux Audio apps as independent modules and connect them through Jack – its a very functional means of managing the software being used in the session, and I think the fact that it separates the applications from the connections is a very important factor for usability – you either get it, or you don't, however. I can understand the confusion of people having to work with a newer, different paradigm, but the advantages (latency) are definitely worth the effort.

    One great thing about Ubuntu Studio is that its all pretty much ready to go out of the box .. okay, you have to deal with some system-administrator type decisions (RT priority added for your user id) before you can get excellent results, but the realtime kernel is already running if you're booting Ubuntu Studio, and you can just get on with it.

    Whats needed though, clearly, is more education on the subject, and I think that there are definitely opportunities for savvy user-training type people to do nice videos on how to set up an Ubuntu-Studio based system for production. This will come, for sure.

    In the meantime, I've got to say goodbye to my MacBook Pro as a 'main music making DAW' and hello to my Linux workstation. Its just more powerful, simple as that, and frankly .. to be honest .. a lot more interesting. I don't want to run all the 'standard stuff', thats not the sort of musician I am (I don't even use presets on my hardware synths, *ever*), so for me the unique nature of the Linux Audio universe, and the diversity of interface and capabilities, is *very* appealing.

  • safetyfirst

    Interesting article but not so unbiased as you read through the comments. It's always the same if somebody switches a system it becomes like a new religion. You don't need to convince me that you did the right thing. I think it's very one sided to say that apple hardware is crap. Mine works fine and has always, for over 10 years now.

    Anyway, thanks for the insight on setting up audio on a linux system.

  • mfw

    This thread really is a laugh a minute.

    If I want to record some music with any number of softsynths, samplers, with or without realtime audio recording, and mix with scores of native plugs, or do pretty much whatever comes into my head, very often my first choice is to fire up Ableton Live on my Mac. Others might choose Logic or PT or whatever …

    Jay V on the other hand has what is, when compared to the Mac that he has "had to say goodbye to", apparently a "more powerful, simple as that" system and "one of the great things about it is that its pretty much ready to go out of the box"

    in fact it so incredibly simple all he has to do is :

    "simply fire up JackCtl, ZynAddSubFx, and plug in my Korg NanoKey controller .. connect the NanoKey to ZynAddSubFx using aconnectgui, and oila … Then, if I want to start recording things, I fire up Ardour, connect ZynAddSubFX to an Ardour track, fire up SEQ24 (MIDI sequencer), connect it to ZynAddSubFX ..Add ASynth, alsamodular, and so on, all being driven by SEQ24 and recording multi-track’ed into Ardour."

    wow, and to think that while you're doing that i have to work up a whole head of steam to double click on Live …

    please … give me a break … there are probably lots of reasons why someone might want to chose Linux as a platform to make music with, and I think its great that people are doing that … but if you want to sell it to us as being SIMPLER than working on a Mac, or even Windows then you're going to have to come up with something a little better than that mate …

  • Derek Holzer/Tonewhe

    Just to chime in…my recent sound work focuses on field recordings and self-built analog synthesizers. My main audio workstation runs Linux. I use Ardour for multitrack recording and composition, Pure Data for just about anything to do with manipulating my field recordings and Jamin for mastering (premastering the field recs and final mastering of the finsihed tracks).

    I still find Audacity very clunky, it's not my favorite as far as editors go. However, the FLOSS app that I love on Linux is ReZound–a very full featured and intuitive sound editor. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like the author is developing or maintaining it anymore…

    That said, my DAW is a dedicated machine that pretty much runs only those programs. I struggled with desktop Linux for some years before picking up a G4 Powerbook (which I still have). The Apple day-to-day workflow did feel rather refreshing after so much bashing around in terminals. And not having to live in fear that updating one piece of software pulls in a million dependencies which may or may not make your system less stable…

    However, if (knock-on-wood) this Mac died tomorrow, I'm not sure I would buy another one. Most of the apps I use on it are FLOSS apps (Gimp, Inkscape, Pd, Ardour, JACK, NeoOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird…) so it's not like I have any licenses to worry about. And in general, having to own one particular kind of machine to run a particular kind of software, or having software which only runs on one machine in the whole universe (i.e. the one it is licensed to) is not merely inconvenient, it's just plain stupid. So I never got "hooked" on ProTools, Photoshop, Illustrator, Live, Reason etc… although I see what might make those apps attractive.

    I guess I'd have to say that own personal work flow has flowed around the kind of apps which I found most usable: the ones which didn't cost an arm and a leg, and which didn't limit me to one particular architecture, operating system or specific machine.

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  • http://bbrace.net/undisclosed.html brad brace

    > (I recently bought-into Ubuntu, primarily to make

    > postage-stamp sized mp4s with mixed audio [no fancy-funded

    > venues for me]… this is all possible but as yet I can't

    > get the movies to play on anything other than my (System76)

    > PC.)

    >

    > an aside: is a SD reader really any different from a SDHC

    > reader when using SDHC cards?

    > (I recently bought a slew of 32GB SDHC cards from

    > eBay/HongKong that really only hold 4-5GB, if they don't

    > lockup your computer… beware!)

    >

    > { brad brace } <<<<< bbrace@eskimo.com

    > >>>> ~finger for pgp

    >

    > — bbs: brad brace sound —

    > — http://69.64.229.114:8000

    >

    > I am not a victim Coercion is natural

    > I am a messenger Freedom is artifical

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  • a1g0rhythm

    No one has mentioned CCRMA yet so I will.

    CCRMA is the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University. They provide Real Time Kernel packages for Fedora and lots of packages for music programs including PD extended and Supercollider. Since the packages are used in the Stanford CCRMA Labs they are well tested and include setup scripts so your computer is ready to rock after installation down to the CCRMA menu that divides the ~100 apps into convenient groups.

    The CCRMA mail list is active for answers to questions, often by Fernando Lopez-Lezcano, the Stanford professor who manages the software packages. Fernando is actively involved with the Real Time kernel programmers and will provide release candidates for testing. And he works with to get more of the music packages into Fedora. The CCRMA software link is:
    http://ccrma.stanford.edu/planetccrma/software/

    If you want the latest Linux music and audio tools CCRMA is the way to go. As an example of CCRMA Labs state of the art, check out their silent fanless computers:
    http://lad.linuxaudio.org/events/2009_cdm/Friday/

  • Peter Kirn

    Yes, the CCRMA packages are great. Of course, I would argue at the same time that people shouldn't feel obligated to choose one of those sorts of distros. You should be able to build from source on a variety of platforms. Now, I know that the reality is often a little short — and at some point, such is the cost of freedom of choice (on any computer platform).

    I would say that right now I think Fedora with CCRMA and Ubuntu represent the easiest path to some of the bleeding-edge software. Unlike CCRMA, the Ubuntu Studio work is contributing to the Ubuntu repositories, so there isn't a separate distro.

    For getting up and running with a variety of audiovisual apps, things like pure:dyne (for some of the more experimental apps) and Studio64 (for an arguably more mainstream view of music production, either 64-bit or 32-bit) are probably easier. But these four are heads and shoulders above the rest, at least in my experience — especially with the work on OpenSUSE falling behind.

    On the other hand, I still personally find almost all the pre-packaged distros to be a bit overwhelming in terms of sheer number of tools; my own personal style is more to start with basically nothing and build from there. But you definitely have the choice.

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  • Derek Holzer

    The problem with Fedora, and Ubuntu as well, is that (like Windows and Mac OS) there is a good deal of "bloat" in the operating system. You end up running all kinds of extra desktop-related things which don't have anything to do with your DAW–like several sound servers which sometimes clash with each other, and at least two different window managers (KDE and Gnome, for example), each also having their own widgets, applications, plugins, sound servers and processes which periodically use up resources.

    I found using a leaner, hand-built distro like Gentoo and a lightweight window manager like Fluxbox made tons of difference in the amount of processing power and memory I had available for audio, and I think this ability to "cut out the crap" could also be pointed out as a strong advantage of Linux over other OSes. It enables me to set up dedicated "server" machines for installations, or "headless" performance computers, each controlled without screen, keyboard or mouse (via MIDI controllers or sensors for example) which would be more difficult on Windows/Mac, and would certainly not be as efficient CPU wise.

    On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, if you want to use that same machine for more general purposes then the workflow does get a bit more complex, especially for those uncomfortable with terminal commands. Some people need these millions of behind-the-scenes desktop helpers, eating up memory but making life a bit easier. For those people, a "Windows-like" or "Mac-like" environment is possible in Linux, but still a bit clumsy in my opinion.

  • medved

    sdf

  • Moshe

    Nice article. Linux is good bang for the buck but for me I need Ivory, Drums on Demand and several other programs that really have no decent Linux substitute. I use Reaper, Sonar and Nuendo mostly with ProTools available for clients who demand it.

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  • Diz

    This is joke ???

    Pro Tools, Logic Studio or Melodyne are now available for Linux ???

    If application is good then there is no matter if it OSS or commercial.

  • Guy

    @diz

    This is not a joke. You wrote "If application is good then there is no matter if it OSS or commercial."

    Great, if you have the money to get what you want when you want. I am happy for you.

    For me wanting to keep making music whilst raising a family, Linux has been great. When my main PC died I found I could keep making music with the dynebolic distribution on an old PIII with my transplanted soundblaster card. A real life/sanity saver.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Derek: Gentoo is a great distro, and I love having the option to have choices with windowing environments. But some of the things you say here are potentially misleading.

    * You don't need to install both KDE and GNOME. You can if you like. You can uninstall both if you like. By default, Fedora and Ubuntu install with GNOME and not KDE.

    * Millions of helpers? More than a bit of an understatement. I might skip GNOME on older or lighter hardware, and there are great reasons to choose Fluxbox on any system. But I think it's very possible to have a GNOME system that's usable and performs well on most machines, too.

    * You can certainly use lightweight window managers easily on Fedora or Ubuntu, and build from source when appropriate.

    Again, if you're happy with Gentoo, no problem there! But I think it's not quite as black and white as you're suggesting.

  • Derek Holzer

    @Diz (and some others here):

    If ProTools, Live or whatever other software you use to do what you do are the only things you can work with, then of course nothing will "replace" them. But I'd like to think that a talented and creative person wouldn't become completely dependent on a single tool to make their artwork.

    I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that in electronic music the goal of many commercial softwares is to make things as easy as possible–but what goes with that is a certain amount of technological determinism. Ableton Live makes it very easy to make German techno. So anything squeezed through that software will sound the way that the programmers of Live imagined music to sound like. That's just fine if you like German techno. Personally, I prefer something a bit more challenging to the ear.

    Exploring non-mainstream software, not relying on the same handful of plugins that every other producer does, and best of all building your own tools to produce the sounds you hear inside your head, instead of letting the software lead you down the well-tread paths of genre & cliche is the ticket out of the clone-war situation that pretty much bores me to death with e-music these days.

    @Peter:

    When I got started in Linux (2003), I went through so many distros it would make your head spin. Partly I was trying to find the one that made the most sense to use, partly I had some hardware (RME Hamerfall DSP soundcard) which was supposedly well-supported, but in fact needed some very complex ALSA/kernel/cardbus manager configuration on my laptop to get working, and partly to see which one was the heaviest in terms of resources.

    Perhaps I exaggerate my case a bit, but I still found so much background stuff in Fedora/CCRMA and Ubuntu going on by default that I simply didn't need, that building from the ground up became very appealing. I wouldn't suggest this approach to everyone, however. As you might have guessed already, I have a special interest in instrument-making as an artistic process. It's time-consuming, but it takes me places that pre-packaged solutions might never go.

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  • George

    Mfw, you are really are starting to get on my nerves with your Mac fanboi posts. Take it for what it is.. people are allowed to be different and explore new ground. You can stay rooted in the Mac realm. No problem there, but just because people want to be different to you and your circumstances you feel this compelling need to shoot them down. Sheez!

  • http://kibergrad.com/ mp3

    Cool…

  • http://parisson.com YomGuy

    Hi all, and thank you Kim for this great article which, I hope so, will convince some mac users to discover the great Linux sound environment.

    I wanted to say to the community that Live DOES work on Linux thanks to Wine, JACK and wineasio drivers. I managed to get the 7.0.3 version running on Debian Lenny with all audio AND midi functionalities. But I must admit that the process is not as fast and optimized on my laptop as on Win or Mac because of some slow graphic ressources (the vumeters are so hungry !). But on a recent netbook, I think Live could work flowlessly…

    Give me some feedback if you want some advices to get it work ! ;)

  • http://parisson.com YomGuy
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  • http://fractaldimensionproductions.com Fractal Dimension

    @Derek:

    Just to reiterate what's already been said countless times before in this conversation: horses for courses. I checked out some of your work available online, and that explained your approach to audio software and music composition in general. However, not everyone wants to revolutionize electronic music, they simply want to make music for a wider target audience.

    Regarding your thoughts on Live and German techno… I'm really surprised, that all the pop/rock/hip-hop/IDM/trance/house/breakbeat/drum & bass/etc. music made by various artist with Live all sounds like German techno to you.

    I agree that the tools you use influence the end result, but isn't this also true in your case? You have chosen to go for a DIY/FOSS approach, which is a perfectly valid choice, but by doing that you determined that your work will never sound like a mainstream pop record. You could argue that this was exactly what you wanted… Well, some people consciously choose certain proprietary tools, which are best for what they want to achieve.

  • Derek Holzer

    @ Fractal Dimension:

    Of course, I almost completely agree with you here. One of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had with software, however, is trying to get Live to *not* quantize things to a 4/4 grid ;-)

  • http://fractaldimensionproductions.com Fractal Dimension

    @Derek:

    Well, yeah, Live comes with a set of default settings which are aimed towards beginners.

    I've had a similarly annoying experience with Apple's iMovie HD software, it was just too "user-friendly" for me to use. :)

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  • http://none Nonya

    You must be kidding. Folks, no matter your frustrations with Logic, Pro Tools or the like – they're nothing compared to what you face with Linux. Even considering Linux along side these tools is a joke.

    Using the excuse of a g4 to switch to Linux is laughable at best. If you've every heard Kim's music, you can probably see why it's possible for him to use Linux – along with its many limitations. While it may work for him, don't be suckered into think you're going to be pulling up Ardour and coming even close to what you get with the "pro" level stuff on Mac & Windows. If you want to be fudging with your system to try and get functionality out if it that doesn't exist, by all means, go ahead. If you wan to just hit record and play, buy a tool that is worthy of your talents. Linux audio is a joke folks.

    Sure, blips and bleeps are great – and Linux can certainly accomplish them, it's not that difficult to achieve. If you think your going to come within even ten years of something like Komplete + Logic, you're on crack.

  • http://none Nonya

    Somebody should tell Radiohead to use Linux – bahahahaha

    http://www.native-instruments.com/en/community/te

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  • TJ

    For experimental stuff no doubt Linux can work out well (listen to some Lopez first to understand how he can avoid so many of the pitfalls in standard music production).

    But for the typical musician striving to be creative and realize a more conventional sound (with all the expectations that go with it), I couldn't recommend moving away from a more standard OS and all of the finely-honed tools and updates that go with it.

    My experience with years of production is that nothing kills your creativity faster than constant technical problems. The desktop musician has too many hats to wear already, without adding a system administrator hat. If you dilute your energies too far, the results will either drive you crazy or chase you completely away.

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  • http://vinylproject.com/dp Chris Everest

    A welcome article and breath of fresh air for the Linux community. And specifically for me, well-timed. Being a 100% Linux user myself I have been planning the addition of Mac OSX to my tools so that I can take advantage of more audio software. Despite my disdain for expensive software I was still planning a new Mac purchase and install. I am now reconsidering my decision (or at least delaying it) until I build a new Linux test rig to try out some new things.

    My audio interests have been primarily in the DJ realm and thus completely analog (read vinyl). My computing environment is more 'developer' than 'power user'. As I contemplate moving to more digital mixing, effects and possibly audio production, I want to make sure I can build something useful. I can tackle all the Linux setup/administration, but it's important for me to have audio 'user' peers to ping for support.

    Thanks Kim.

  • Kyran

    Yomguy, can you use the freeze function in live?

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  • http://gonetil.wordpress.com gonetil

    I think there's a phrase that sumarizes it all:

    In other words, while it may require an investment of time, it can be both free and better!

    That's a good way of living, I belive.

    Great article, congratulations.

  • http://www.jonathanleonard.com jonathan adams leona

    I use OSX, Windows and Linux. I think they are all great and merit some exploration. There is switching fear, or moving fear involved in these discussions. Some people are afraid of having to change their system and some people downright concerned when they even hear of someone else changing their system and experience sympathetic panic.

    You don't have to switch. You don't have to leave anything behind. It is enough to understand that Linux is equivalent, not better.

    But if you are reading this post you are determined to find something….what is it?

    Some kind of assurance? Some kind of guarantee?

    Unfortunately there really is no sure thing in any system no matter how self assured and confident the vendor is.

    There is a paradox in convenience once something becomes essential. A car is convenient but how else does one get to the middle of nowhere without help and become truly stranded?

    There is also a hidden danger in accepting powerful tools from a remote authority that will not fully explain how the tools work. Beware the convenience and experience these tools provide.

    There are some things in the world that transcend culture and the need for people to experience bondage. People don't want to be free. They want to be happier with what little they have. People become uncomfortable when you open the gate and say, you can leave if you want to. They could leave, but so much of what they are is the bondage that they won't know the person on the other side.

    As an enlightened engineer and creative spirit I cannot see the difference ultimately between any of these platforms. From a universal perspective I find I am the only limitation.

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  • Nonya is a retard

    Nonya,

    How about you actually listen to his backcatalogue before blasting shit out of your mouth while making yourself look like a fucking idiot.

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  • lverona

    The amount of free (as in freedom) software available on Linux is actually not that big. All the serious integrated DAWs, like EnergyXT and Reaper and all the apps you can run with WINE are proprietary.

  • lverona

    Can you describe your workflow within linux? How do you edit midi, what midi sequencer you use, what do you use to record audio and how does it all work together?

  • http://hubpages.com/hub/All-Candle-Supplies Bamboo Sheets

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  • wentzr

    lverona – i can't speak for anyone but these kinds of questions are always best answered by what your needs/creativity carve out FOR you… form follows function… as configuration follows desire :)

    I'd highly suggest simply downloading an ubuntu live cd… either "ubuntu studio" or "artist x" and just see what works with what you have/what you want and what doesn't. I use lots of things, and i still use windows and mac.. but am using ubuntu as my *primary* operating system in my gfx and audio production studio as well as a large growing number of people. The shear beauty of it is realizing there is nothing short of a few hours of configuring and trial by error between you and having your system do WHAT YOU WANT.

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  • paco

    Claro claro, dell mini 9, convertido en un hackintosh, se puede decir mas alto!!!!

  • http://www.cellularoneringtones.org (luc Marseille) http

    Free ringtones here.

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  • http://www.alliancetec.com Henry Gilbert

    I am very impressed.

    I work with a music producer Tony White and he uses a Mac with Logic Pro.

    Now I am not a musician, I know absolutely zilch about music production and yet (maybe because of some Linux experience) can do some simple things.

    I mean very simple things like adding id2v3 tags or encoding with 'lame'.

    All the files on his music page have been encoded and tagged by me from the original.

    My current computer is extremely low spec.

    But when I get a new one I want to resume my audio studies. Jack, Alsa, Rosegarden, Tymidity, Low Latency / Patched Kernels that sort of thing.

    I want to learn how to do music and videos using Linux.

    Your post tells me that I do not need to spend a fortune on a Mac. Everything can be achieved just the same with Linux. So thanks for clearing that one up for me.

    All the best.

    Henry / web & music promoter

  • http://nickleus.com nick

    @Iverona: for midi editing use either seq24 (simple) or rosegarden (advanced)

    like Kyran said, one great shortcoming of Ardour is no midi support. it also doesn't support mp3.

    i can't get audacity to work correctly in karmic. it won't record in jack mode.

    despite these setbacks there are always alternatives and workarounds.

    i have used windows, mac and linux, but i suggest linux (ubuntu) to anyone who wants to do things for free and learn a lot in the process.

    if you do decide to use ubuntu, i suggest also installing a program called ams (alsa modular synth), the program that has taught me most about music so far.

    here's a list of core/important programs:

    qjackctl

    patchage

    seq24 / rosegarden

    zynaddsubfx

    hydrogen

    ladspa plugins (open software package manager and search for ladspa)

  • Piano fan

    I had a friend who switched from Piano to Guitar back in 2003. I have had the occasional attempts at Guitar myself. For me, it was too much messing around. Sure, a Piano costs more, but I have never had to deal with tuning, restringing, pickups, bar-chords, etc.

    To me, if you play 'Guitar' you are not a real musician – just a techie try-hard with some motive or agenda to push. ;)

    Seriously – I think that people need to just respect that there are many 'instruments' in the music world and that computers/software simply add another dimension.

    I'd much rather see more discussion on the finer points of technique and the shift in creative styel that Kim noticed with the change in tools. (Did anyone else notice that Kim had somewhat of a creative turning point at the same time as his switch? I'd like to know if perhaps the change in 'instrument' was part of the change.)

    Many fine artists in a range of fields have a fine tradition of celebrating the differences between (for example) pencils and oils – even when some artists could not afford the best oil paints.

    Celebrate the choices we have. Don't divide. :) Experiemnt, share and explore – it is a vast creative landscape out there.

  • dubremix

    Audacity is horrible. You get what you pay for. It's so bad.

  • graham

    for someone who ruined their installation of OS X on their macbook and had no way to reinstall it, ubuntu studio, plus kim's and other commenters' advice has been an amazing help! i can finally get back to making music! thank you sooo much!

  • Biscuit

    I've played percussion and guitar for twenty years now and let me just say this… "piano fan" must be code for "I couldnt figure out how to play guitar so I just gave up." Stick to what instrument you ALREADY know how to play is so fucking weak… A REAL musician CAN tune their instrument, CAN restring their instrument, do you see a pattern here "Elton"? Sounds like you got alota "quit" in you "Chopin". Django…

  • Biscuit

    You unkowingly are a damn hypocrite "piano fan". "Celebrate the choices we have, but, fuck ALL guitarist." You are a MF'n disgrace to musicians everywhere. I LIKE to play piano. But I LOVE being a guitarist. Still, I have the God-Given knowledge that "singling out ANY kind of musician (and I AM A FUCKING musician) is simply proof of your immaturity and unmistakable unappreciation of us all. Rot in Hell F.S.O.B. !!

  • Biscuit

    P.S. "Mr. Piano", May a thousand and one fleas infest your crotch. And, don't give up on the guitar. I can't begin to explain how the guitar effects your musical ambition.".. the guitar is just a wonderful instrument. It's everything: a bartender, a psychiatrist, a housewife. It's everything, but it's elusive" – Les Paul – Legendary Guitarist and creator of the Les Paul Guitar. I like to think Les Paul would be an "UBSter" too.

  • pablo

    try this music-oriented, bootable stripped linux cd (no hdd install!), download for free, change boot drive to optical drive and voila.. I tested it on 10 different pc, http://puredyne.goto10.org/download.html

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  • PB-in-AL

    This was a very helpful article. I was linked to it from the Ubuntu Studio web site. I'm interested in exploring Linux as a music/video production platform.

    In response to the last editor comment regarding unmounting drives. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS unmount first!!!! I lost half an album of mixdown because I just wasn't paying attention late one night and didn't unmount the drive. The next day I was going to let the artist hear what I had completed. I pulled up Finder, navigated to the external Firewire drive. I was able to see all the file names I was expecing, but half of them had zero bytes. I just about threw up on the spot.

    Lesson well learned.

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  • http://protofuse.net/ protofuse

    if one day I'm not happy with my win7 64bits + Ableton Live, I'll switch with this kind of DAW… really

  • http://www.buycoppercookware.com copper cookware

    Wow this guy sure knows a lot about computers. He is a pretty smart guy. I can't believe he has been working with computers since the seventy's. One thing that I do know how to work is copper cookware. Copper cookware cooks all of you food to perfection.

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  • http://noisepages.com/members/asokaddd/ Asoka Dissanayake

    Hi!

    Your article is excellent and it is at a pretty high level of research.

    I have no idea about music but write comments on Linux distributions except Ubunbtu unfortunately.I am going to take some extracts from you for promoting Linux. O.K?

    There are many Linux distributions specialized on Music.

    1. Dynabolic (Denis RoJo an Italian =I call him Bob Marley of Computer music.

    2. Musix from France

    3. ArtistX

    4. XBMC

    They are free all what you have to do is to go to the site and download.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/asokaddd/ Asoka Dissanayake

    Hi!

    Your article is excellent and it is at a pretty high level of research.

    I have no idea about music but write comments on Linux distributions except Ubunbtu unfortunately.

    There are many Linux distribution specialized in Music.

    1. Dynabolic

    2. Musix

    3.ArtistX

    4.XBMC

    I am going to extract some for your article for promoting Linux.

    O.K?

  • kent t

    Just be aware, that Ardour WILL crash pretty often.

  • http://getlcdmonitor.com Ricky

    wow who knew lcd monitor getlcdmonitor.com

  • plugins

    could someone please lobby Steinberg/Propellerheads to open up their api's… being able to use different software, plugins, etc at the same time not only synced together but being able to even render to wav the whole lot is really nice in the mac/win world and still sadly lacking in the linix world… 

    or can we put some pressure on those who make the big Win/Mac DAWs to support some open standards for such things?

    Sure a lot of windows apps do run under wine (even sort of had Ableton Live running under wine.. but I couldn't get to the very important audio settings to increase the buffering – to much stuttering on my P4!)

    but windows music apps are best run on  windows (unless you can afford pretty beefy hardware!)

    I would like to see native linux applications with the sort of run/sync/use/render together functionality that winows/mac users have taken for granted for years.

    (the only reason I need to keep a windows box in the house is for music software!)  

  • pacman

    hdiutil eject would eject your USB on OS X.

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  • Mick E. Hart

    Im an old school taper and went from cassettes to DAT to hard drive based live recordings (im a mic guy and only use soundboards if I can do a 70-30 mix with the mics).

    Ive been using Linux for the past 2 years and and am learning every day.

    It hasnt been easy to get all my music habits down with Linux but its doable.

    One thing that is universal: JACK is great when it works but getting it to work is simply idiotic.  I used LMMS at the beginning because it worked without having to do the JACK dance.

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  • nnn

    mfw's comments don't seem all that fanboyish to me although perhaps a bit rabid. I'm not a mac user but even from a PC perspective there's a lot more complexity with a linux set up. Also, some of the linux equivalents don't really compare with some of their paid doppelgangers. You WOULD be taking a bit of loss if you've already paid for licences for those programs and didn't use them at all. I don't know that that's necessarily what Mr. Cascone is saying though.

  • http://www.emitter19.blogsport.de kris

    some comments:

    "Just be aware, that Ardour WILL crash pretty often."

    thats not true, go with a stable distro and it wont crash much!

    if you want something sounding better that protools go with mixbus on linux (also on mac)

    this is a real pro tool!

    Jamin I cant recommend on linux for mastering, but the linuxdsp plugins put in the master strip in ardour/mixbus

    I read a lot of comments saying "if not this and that program or some equivalent doesnt work on linux I will not change"

    this means I will never go to visit England till Paris will be also on the island. there are tons of equivalents and sometimes even better software, but you have to look for it. and be open for new ways of working on your stuff. stepping to linux 4 years ago changed my workflow, and made it more efficient..  

  • http://www.best-video-converter.net Fox

    The distribution of Ubuntu Studio has built an  all-in-one package for music and video production. This is the reason why i love open source software. Great post !!!

  • carte r4i gold

    your tuto is useful, thanks

  • James

    I switched from mac to linux about two years ago, partly for economic reasons and partly to protest the expansion of the App Store hegemony outside of iOS. Plus the Emacs interface for SuperCollider turns out to be nicer than the native SuperCollider.app editor :-p Never looked back.

  • arzo

    Just one – important – question.
    Is the midi interface well supported by ubuntu? I mean, for example: the nanoKontrol was well recognized by Ardour?
    thanks for the tip!

  • Aaron Levitz

    Kim,
    It sounds like you’re still running max/msp in your Ubuntu setup, over an emulation layer of some kind. It’s inspiring to think that that’s performing reliably to your exacting standards. Can you describe how that part of your setup is configured?

  • mony
  • mony
  • karlos

    This is an amazing post man….
    Thanks and congratulations for your master and focus.
    Long life!