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Goodbye Apple, Hello Music Production On Ubuntu 513

Posted by kdawson
from the ars-gratia-artis dept.
Adam Wrzeski notes a piece up at Create Digital Music by musician Kim Cascone (artist's bio) on switching from Apple to Linux for audio production: "The [Apple] 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. ... I loaded up my Dell with 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 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."
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Goodbye Apple, Hello Music Production On Ubuntu

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  • Good on him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pbjones (315127) * on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:54PM (#28948973)

    nice to see a person that has the right tool for the job. BTW you wern't locked into Apple, you were locked into the software developers choice of OS and hardware.

  • Re:Good on him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:56PM (#28949013)

    The only thing the article's author was locked in to was the belief that they must have the latest and greatest version of everything. If it works, DON'T FIX IT.

  • This is a joke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitHive (578094) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:57PM (#28949023) Homepage

    Anyone who believes this has never tried to record and mix multitrack audio on Linux

  • by onefriedrice (1171917) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:08PM (#28949165)

    I actually find it interesting, considering that a few years ago you often had to go through hell just to get anything to come out of the sound card using linux.

    On the other hand, many still do have trouble getting anything to get out of their sound card on Linux. I agree that the story is "interesting," but those of us serious Linux users will have to admit that the audio situation here is far from ideal, to put it positively. Alsa.... pulse.... awful. Compound this with the noticeable lack of good software and drivers for audio production equipment, and I will have to admit that the vast majority of professional audio people are much better of staying with Apple at the moment.

  • Re:This is a joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:12PM (#28949199)

    We'll see how he'll like it once one of the components he's using gets dumped for a complete rewrite coming "real soon now"(TM), just use this 0.1.12alpha release in the meantime. And oh, you'll need to compile these parts from source 'cause there's no packages yet and now nothing works because the package manager just updated half the system and it can't find libc.so.5.

    I mean really, he writes "mprove and update tools for JACK to make it easy for musicians to install, configure, and use." Was I ever that naive ? I might have been.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:12PM (#28949207)

    ...is that all his music creating can be summed up in him cutting and playing back audio samples with various effects on it - there is no actual sequencing or other advanced music creation involved.

    Had there been, I'd say, with many years experience as a composer, that this article would not be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:15PM (#28949243)

    I could certainly do it for under $500 with a good used MacBook. Does that make the $600 for the refurbished old-school Dell system "more expensive"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:19PM (#28949291)

    This dude is not exactly producing musical scores using his Ubuntu rig. I mean, seriously... go check out some of the stuff on his store [anechoicmedia.com] and you'll see why (examples):

    Reaching Dark Stations
    Recorded in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2007 at the Neutral Ground Gallery:::industrial factory sounds filtered through a turbine jet engine::Play loud, play often:::
    Statistically Improbable Phrases

    30 minutes of sputtering modems and hacked sparking mainframes; the sound of technology gone awry mixed with submariner dark station dronescapes; briny chains scraping against the hulls of rusted ships. Recorded live in Paris at Instant Chavires

    In short, he doesn't need the type of precision and accuracy provided by higher-end hardware and/or custom interfaces and plugins that one would need for 'serious' music (yes, I went there), so he can get away with using Ubuntu. After all, it's just 'bleepy shit' anyway.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:28PM (#28949403)

    Audio support is fine...the heavyweight music creation tools just don't exist

    The heavyweight music creation tools don't exist because a) there's not much of a market for them on Linux because; b) Audio support is most definitely not fine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:35PM (#28949479)

    Sorry. I'm a professional video game composer (and will remain anonymous), and I can tell you this will never fly, not until instruments/engines like Kontakt, Reason, PLAY, and Vienna Instruments all work on Linux. And that's not even counting all the plugins for reverb and such, like Altiverb. No freaking way could I produce compelling, high production quality material on a machine that didn't support these tools of the trade.

    Heck. And that's just the plugin side of it! We haven't even talked about the sequencer, which has to beat heavy hitters like Cubase, Logic, and the few others that people tend to have in their arsenal. Linux has a very long way to go before it can be considered a professional music platform.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mechanyx (960689) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:50PM (#28949661) Homepage
    Agreed. Driver support amongst studio quality interfaces is severely lacking and limits your options significantly.
  • Re:Eh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SinShiva (1429617) <slashdot@drowzy.net> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:01PM (#28949799)
    i'm extremely pleased with fedora 11 running on my netbook, but i completely agree with you. i switched to fedora from zenwalk because as much as i loved learning linux, at times i just wanted shit to work so i could do something productive with it. and fedora allows me the niceties of aircrack, perfectly working intel drivers, etc. not seeing UNCLAIMED next to anything except my currently unused VGA port is brilliant. and the wifi drivers are so far along compared to what i was using in zenwalk. monitor mode working with atheros out of the box is nearly orgasmic. for me, this makes my netbook perfect for everything it needs to do. however, it doesn't take a kernel hacker to realize how behind the audio subsystem is. i use mpd, which requires me to modprobe snd-pcm-oss for it to output sound. annoying and easy to fix, but it tells me much about how this would affect somebody who needs to make a living in the audio field. program compatibility with whatever sound system you using alone could break you. let alone the intricacies i'm not thinking of that somebody who actually knows what they are talking about might bring up. unfortunately, linux needs more people who are crafty programmers that specialize in audio. people who need audio to work a certain way, rather than people willing to work a certain way to get audio.
  • by Tangential (266113) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:05PM (#28949851) Homepage
    You could buy a used (aka EBAY, craigs list, apple.com) macbook (which would blow the doors off of the mini) to replace your 5-7 year old powerbook for about $700. It would (or at least should) include the latest iLife bits. You'd be way ahead. Linux is a helluvalot better than OSX for stuff like databases and web servers, but there is no way that video or audio applications (or most any desktop app) are anywhere close. I used linux exclusively on my notebooks from 98-06 and I can tell you about 1000s of hours wasted (although I enjoyed it) getting everything to run. With OSX everything just runs. Plus, using the media apps is a breeze.
  • Re:Good on him (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bondsbw (888959) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:14PM (#28949953)

    With OS X, on the other hand, you can't even get a modern browser running on 10.3,

    You say this like Microsoft is good and Apple is bad. The problem is that developers no longer target 10.3. But why target an old OS that has such low market share?

    Microsoft's part in this is that Vista was a huge flop and they can't pry XP out of people's cold, dead fingers. Developers would be dumb to drop support for an OS still accounting for 67% of the market [wikipedia.org]. (And Windows 2000 is practically the same OS, from a development perspective.)

    So if you call Microsoft's failure a success, sure, what you said makes sense.

  • by Simon80 (874052) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:17PM (#28949971)
    There's nothing that suggests these problems are caused by release compatibility issues. This does suggest that you are groping for reasons to justify your choice of distribution, however.
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:35PM (#28950115)

    ...you must be kiddin'!

    First of all, Linux is not the guilty one for not providing software for musicians. It is the developers of the software, like Apple, Steinberg, Propellerheads and Native Instruments, to name a few big ones.

    Second, without all that Software. And I mean specifically that software, it is literally impossible to create the wanted sound on a Linux platform.

    My setup is nearly 100% software (with a set of MIDI devices and a powerful sound card), and includes Cubase, Reason, Reaktor, Absynth, DR-008, and pretty much every Software from Native Instruments. And that is only the base. You also have to add a ton of specific plug-ins. E.g. for reverbs using impulse responses, or very specific filters to create the sound of a vintage synth.

    You can not ever possibly recreate this under Linux, without it becoming a main platform for music production, so that those companies port their software. Which of course is a vicious circle.
    But if Steinberg alone would port their VST platform Cubase onto Linux (Don't tell me about using it in Wine. I tried it. For real songs with dozens of tracks. It's a total joke. And I don't even mean the latency.), the circle could be broken.

    So please stop with your dreamy dreams from wannabe professional musicians telling me how they were able to create a simple four-track audio song with some amateur FX plugged in. Because it has nothing to do with even my semi-professional work.

    P.S.: I may sound angrier than I am. In fact I really *really* wish I could help with some big thing, like persuade Steinberg.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:51PM (#28950237)

    It's a bit like your child, or your sports team (when you're the trainer)... You love to see it grow, flourish, any become king of the world. Because in a way, this makes you the king of the king of the world. And who wouldn't love that?

    Linux is the child of us all. And it just passed puberty, but still can't go get drunk and play with the big girls/boys.

    Try adding some work to a Linux project, and then notice, how you start to get this feeling too.

  • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:53PM (#28950247)
    Add me to the exception list. When I think it is flawless in Linux, it's broken for either mixing, volume, recording, blah blah. I don't have the time nor inclination to bother fixing it anymore. Sound has worked flawlessly for me in Windows since Windows 3.1.
  • Re:Eh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NickW1234 (1313523) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:54PM (#28950259)
    Well, Jack will most certainly do more than "Single pipe in/single pipe out"

    I used to have my box set up running brutefir (a filter program) in jack. I would run the outputs from my buses in ardour to both channels 7-8 on my soundcard for monitoring on my headphones, as well as to the inputs of brutefir for separation into Sub/Woofer/Tweeter channels, which ran out of brutefir to channels 1-6 on my card.

    That aspect of it is great. The problems are that jackd (and the apps that depend on it) crash far too easily.

    The odd time that I did something really stupid and caused an underrun jack would usually crash. I'm not sure if it's jack itself that started the crash, or brutefir dropping out causing it to crash, but anyway you look at it, it meant killing all of the audio apps (which frequently hung when they lost their connection to jackd), restarting everything, and then reconnecting all of my flows.

    Obviously I shouldn't be getting underruns to begin with, but if I do, I should get a report, and a botched recording, rather than a large conglomeration of crashed and hung apps.

    One of the biggest things required is a consistent standard for linux audio. Maybe a jack-like framework implemented in the kernel.

    Basically, we just need something that everyone can actually use, rather than varied support for the many sound daemons allowing only certain sub-sets of programs to work together without a lot of hassle.

  • by sbeckstead (555647) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:59PM (#28950299) Homepage Journal
    Just to give you background, I've been using Linux since kernel version 0.29 and I used minix before that. I know what I'm doing and I'm tired of working that hard to use my computer. At this point in time I can't recommend Linux to anyone that isn't in a graduate course for CS, a masochist hacker that doesn't mind arcane instructions to make, or a high end sysadmin who needs a virtualisation server architecture and eats breathes and dreams in HTML, PHP and HTTPD.conf files.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @09:08PM (#28950363)

    Out of curiosity, did you write up any documentation and put it online? I'm sure there are other people who might like to know about all the crazy tweaks you have to do...

  • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @09:43PM (#28950607)

    I noticed that too. There's not really any composition or...well, anything, really. I guess that if you're not doing anything really hard, it works OK.

    I'll stick to Reason and Live though.

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @10:20PM (#28950881)

    I'm convinced Linux is about the process of Getting It To Work, not about Working With It. I really think that its a hobby unto itself to say you "made it work" without actually getting any substantial use out of it or looking at the dozens and dozens of hours that went into getting even that far.

  • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:12PM (#28951315)
    Sounds like you didn't read the article. The author has a problem with "vendor lock-in," so he migrated away from Macs. That's his higher vision - he walks a different path than you do, with a different priorities. For all we know, maybe your higher vision is being the best consumer you can be. This guy was uncomfortable, made a switch, and is getting the word out to benefit others like him.
  • by peterkirn (814469) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:49PM (#28951561) Homepage

    Heheh, well, in fairness, I'm dealing with some odd FreeBSD + Apache issues and moving the whole thing over to a better-tested Linux + nginx + FPM setup, so our server wasn't running so well to begin with. This has certainly encouraged me to get that process moving faster. ;)

    I definitely hear your thoughts. I won't argue that you have the same range of choice on Linux; clearly, it's behind. I think the reason you'd run under WINE is people aren't running into the crud of Windows, they can use whatever hardware they want, and with the right configuration and hardware setup, you can get exceptional low-latency audio performance, even over a cheap USB interface that might not do as well as on Windows, and on a free operating system over which you have greater control. That's not to say *everyone* will want to do that, but that's definitely the answer to "why" you might!

    Using VSTs in WINE turns out to be very, very easy - that's again the reason why people would consider this solution, and why the MUSE Receptor works.

    I'm not sure why Reaper isn't a "pro" tracker. It seems to me to be a very effective combination of more modern DAW-style features with tracker editing, and it has native JACK support.

    Now, don't get me wrong. If you've got your software running happily on Windows or Mac, and then you look at some additional configuration work on Linux *and* giving up some software, I can see why that wouldn't immediately appeal. But that's part of why I ran this story on Kim - you know, ultimately he's not using a whole lot of tools, but he found just the right set of tools that he needed for his job, and got everything else out of the way.

    I think if the community could attack some of the problems you're describing -- even better documenting it -- that kind of scenario could apply to a widening circle of people.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:41AM (#28951939) Journal

    Uhhh...so don't update? Seriously, if you are using it for audio work WTF do you need to update for? You don't need to be surfing on the damned thing, just do the work and leave it alone! That is why I have a netbox that just does the net, a games box that just does...well you get the idea. Don't try to be a jack of trades and master of none. You said you have dual boot, yes? so boot into the other OS when you want to surf, and leave music production in the music production OS and be done with it.

    If it ain't broke then DON'T fix it. Sheesh it is as bad as those damned Windows users I have to deal with all day just overloading their PC with crap and...../goes off muttering about stupid users/ and get off my lawn!

  • by kklein (900361) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @01:04AM (#28952095)

    (yes, I went there)

    Someone had to.

    I've actually made "music" like this before. It is a hell of a lot easier than making actual music, where you have musicians and machines that all have to work together, and you need it to actually sound like something at the end. If your chain scrape sound comes in 500ms too late, no one will notice. Any instrument, though, and it is dicking around in editing or recording that again or whatever.

    Music is hard work. Any fool with a Linux box can make "atmospheric" crap.

  • by wakingrufus (904726) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @01:22AM (#28952201) Homepage
    yes linux is for a select group of people: those who can use computers. typing in commands is part of using a computer. fact is, a lot of time it is possible to do everything you want to do in linux via GUI, but doing it in a terminal is EASIER. especially when you are looking for help. take the following example:
    ok open your home folder, right click the $foo file and go to the permissions tab, then click the executable box and close. then double click that same file. oh wait, you arent using GNOME, well lemme figure out how to do that in KDE, the menus might be different.....etc...etc
    OR
    copy/paste this into terminal: $ chmod +x ~/$foo
    $ ~/$foo
  • sort of (Score:3, Insightful)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @05:04AM (#28953619)

    Configuring audio on Linux can be tricky, but that mostly affects casual users. If you're a professional audio user, you need to fiddle around a lot to set things up on any platform, and Linux is no harder than other platforms.

    I think the point is that this kind of work has gone from "hard" to "feasible" on Linux. And in some areas, Linux actually has significant advantages of OS X, so that Linux now is a platform worth considering.

    (Personally, I wouldn't dream of doing any kind of audio work on OS X anymore.)

  • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @08:33AM (#28955415)

    ...which is exactly why Linux users tend to have better-looking studios: They buy nice hardware and stay out of software-only land. Anyway, have fun in Reason; I'm off to buy a Roland synth... -Former Reason user, with a bunch of useless commercial ReFills sitting around

    Software is far more flexible than hardware, and you can do things in software that are impossible in hardware. All your hardware is useless if you have no I/O. Not to mention that software is orders of magnitude cheaper than hardware for processing, blowing away any cost benefit you had from switching to Linux. Serious studios have both software and hardware, as they both have their advantages. Please tell me one serious studio that uses Linux, I would be very interested in hearing about it, but I would be very surprised -- it is a piss-poor platform for audio production. I am not sure why you are trashing Reason and getting all hot and bothered over a Roland synth -- you can do all of the same things with Reason for a fraction of the cost, the Roland synth is *gasp* still just a computer, except you have to pay for the extra hardware. Anyway, I am rambling, you clearly don't know what you are talking about.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday August 07, 2009 @09:18PM (#28992841) Homepage Journal

    OK, Peter Kirn, I now have Ubuntu Studio running on this 3 year old Dell Workstation, and ALSA and Jack and ReNoise. It wasn't tricky at all to set up, although I did have some trouble getting the mappings straight from my MIDI controller (although that happens on Windows a lot, too). I'm having some serious fun at the moment getting to know the ReNoise interface, and I just wanted you to know that I credit you with an assist. I'm planning a music project that's going to be written, recorded, mixed, rendered and mastered all in Linux.

    Thanks, friend.

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