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Goodbye Apple, Hello Music Production On Ubuntu 513

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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  • by fremean ( 1189177 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:52PM (#28948943)

    Well, Apple DO encourage it...

  • 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.

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

      by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:17PM (#28949261)

      nice to see a person that has the right tool for the job.

      Having spent the last 6 hours writing music using a softsynth on linux (we're doing a 64k entry for the demoscene, on linux, so we have no choice), I have to say, in spite of the pre-emptive kernel, there need to be some serious kernel changes before it can stand up to the low latency requirements of music production.
      My synth will happily plod away in interactive mode using about 30% cpu on windows (there's reasons why I can't just boot into windows and run it), and yet it munches about 40% whilst idle in its VST host on linux, and regularly spazzes out at 100% of the interrupt time given to it, requiring me to hit the panic button. That's with the pre-emptive kernel and realtime-everything switched on. All of this whilst "top" is showing that it's actually only using 30% of the total cpu time. It won't just ramp up to use the entire cpu. On the standard kernel, it's, erm.. well.
      The problem appears to be the way in which the different applications are talking to eachother through processes which depend on eachother's data streams, but don't get called NOW when you need it. The previous version of my synth was a basic jack midi device, and that was even worse. Timing bugs all over the place. Occasionally it would miss entire notes.
      Then again, if ubuntu are taking this seriously, hopefully we can see linux improve in this respect soon.
      Either that, or I'm off to buy a quad-core xeon.

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

        by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:32PM (#28949449) Journal's actually only using 30% of the total cpu time. It won't just ramp up to use the entire cpu.

        It may actually be using the entire CPU, but not reporting it via "top".

        Unless I'm mistaken, CPU used by the back-end IO processing - the act of the CPU coordinating traffic between the computer's bus and the devices that are being written to and from, are not actually charged to the process or thread.

        That is, the details of how much CPU are used by the IO system aren't written to the process header, because the process header isn't in the computable scope (an area defined by a set of active register values). Ergo, "top" doesn't report that CPU because it isn't there. (Old VMS systems had a parameter that simulated this, called "Iota" (measured in microfortnights, oddly enough) that was added in back when charging for CPU usage was in vogue.)

        What that seems to indicate is that the problem may not be in the operating system per se, but in the driver and/or the device. The culture of one IO per byte may still exist in some buried (or should be buried) hardware devices. The IO needs to be blocked up a bit I think to get the performance you need for seamless music delivery.

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

          by gwait ( 179005 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:55PM (#28949725)

          Interesting point.
          In the early days of Windows audio, people found that their gaming graphics card was grabbing the PCI bus for incredibly long stretches at a time, as a side effect of the graphics card driver trying to max out performance and show great benchmark results. This would totally mess up any audio latency.

          I wonder if the linux graphics drivers are doing similar games, causing all sorts of latency hiccups?

          (As I'm typing this on a windows box the hard drive is causing seconds long delays as I try to type this!)

          Linux audio is definitely not yet what it should be..

        • Re:Good on him (Score:4, Informative)

          by AnyoneEB ( 574727 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @12:59AM (#28952071) Homepage

          That is, the details of how much CPU are used by the IO system aren't written to the process header, because the process header isn't in the computable scope (an area defined by a set of active register values). Ergo, "top" doesn't report that CPU because it isn't there.

          You can get some idea of that usage by looking at the "Cpu(s):" line in top. Specifically, "sy"=system (kernel) time and wa and hi are related to time dealing with hardware. See man top for more details. That information is not separated out by process, but you will be able to tell the difference between a program at 30% CPU usage because it is just not doing much and a program at 30% CPU usage because the processor is busy with other tasks (possibly the I/O for that process).

          I recommend using htop [] as it gives a visual with all of the different types of CPU usage in different colors so you can get the information at a glance (and it can separate it by CPU/core).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        I just want to be able to plug my rock band drums into my linux box and use with as a 0 latency "synth drum" box. I just don't have the time space or money for a full set of drums but it's been reported that rock band drums support velocity and something like 6 pads total (double up the pads to get a full set of drums including cowbell). The main drawback is that there's still a noticable delay even to the untrained ear, filtered through crappy youtube videos. I've been looking, but I haven't seen a drop in

  • Usable hardware? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chappel ( 1069900 )

    I love using linux for as much as I possibly can, but I have noticed a distinct difference in the audio quality between my old power book Ti and a 'business' grade dell. The audio out my mac mini is MUCH better than what I get out of Dell desktops I've used, too. My eeePC 901 does seem to sound pretty good, though.

  • Eh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:55PM (#28948987)
    I'm all for open-source, but trying to do any music production on linux has been a headache to say the least. I'm more than willing to give it another shot, but I've had very little if any problems on my mac. Actually, all the problems came from it being a "hackintosh" Mac OS X was designed for audio unlike other OS's. Between it's ultra-low latency audio subsytem and the industry standard Audio Units plugin archetecture, it'll take a hell of alot for Linux to beat that. Plus Logic owns any program I've ever tried and I can only run it on a mac. As much as I love open-source anything, I spent too much time just trying to figure out Linux technical issues and not enough time actually recording. If there were less competing standards on the platform and less buggy software I'd probably be running a Linux DAW right now. Until then I'm more than happy with my "Mac".
    • Re:Eh... (Score:5, Funny)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:26PM (#28949385)

      it'll take a hell of alot for Linux to beat that.

      Some sort of agreed plan would be a good start.

      • Re:Eh... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:02PM (#28949803) Homepage Journal

        Never mind a plan, some sort of agreed specification would be wonderful! (And, no, a bunch of vendors locked away with OSDL or some other tiny group isn't any way to come up with a specification.)

        I'd argue that JACK is probably the most Unix-like in passing data from A to B, where all components are special-purpose. I'd also argue that it's the closest to a true audio plugin system of any system out there for Linux. Thus, any specification would logically be derived from the JACK experience.

        Why only the experience? Because JACK is linear, but audio processing may want more complex flows. There's a very nice package that lets you build up a synthesizer by running leads from modules to other modules, allowing you to split and merge the signal as you like. That would obviously be superior to single pipe in, single pipe out.

        Another problem is that you want audio to be hard real-time, and only the kernel is currently capable of being hard real-time. The user space can only do soft real-time. But flipping between user space and kernel space adds enormous latency for each switch-over. It wouldn't take a long pipe to kill the audio entirely.

        Thus, either real-time needs to make it to user space, OR there needs to be an ambivalent layer that is neither strictly kernel nor user, where you can have hard real-time without the horrible overheads.

        At this time, neither option seems likely to happen, but until it does true HQ studio audio won't be possible in Linux. It'll come damn close, but it'll never reach the point hardcore professionals would take it on.

    • Re:Eh... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SinShiva ( 1429617 ) <> 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.
  • So what? I'm not trying to troll here (well, maybe a little) but honestly, who cares?

    This whole mentality of "Us against the world" is kinda amusing to me. I guess it's because I'm not a developer, or something, I dunno.

    But this is one artist saying "Software X is/was expensive, so I'm using a different and free solution." Ok, great, good for her. So now what?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Em Emalb ( 452530 )

      after clicking a link, Kim is a "him". My bad. Damned gender-implying names...

      slashdot requires you to wait 1 minute in between posting. Your time is not up yet.

      doo doo doo doo doo doo doo....doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. doo doo doo duh duh duh-duht-bum-bum.

    • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@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.

  • Hardware has kept me from Ubuntu in this regard. I have an old Steinberg VSL ADAT card that has no drivers on linux or even OS X.

    Honestly, I don't know the state of pro audio on linux past this, but it is keeping me for now.

  • Waitaminute... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ciderVisor ( 1318765 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @06:56PM (#28949009)

    Did the author manage to get anything other than a DAW and sound editor running under Ubuntu ? Max/MSP for instance ? Reason ? Ableton Live ?

    I've given up trying to do anything musical with Ubuntu. Windows and OSX are still miles ahead in terms of compatible hardware and software that 'just works'.

  • 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

    • 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

      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 dotgain ( 630123 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:15PM (#28949237) Homepage Journal
      Mod parent informative. You could make a mastercard ad with your luck setting up sound on Linux.
      1. Getting a sound card to work $x,
      2. Getting it work without pops and thumps when we slide the volume control $2x,
      3. Getting two sound cards to work $x^2,
      4. Getting two sound cards to work in sync $infinity
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by paulbd ( 118132 )

        Nobody who is serious about audio production attempts to sync two audio interfaces without an explicit sample clock (aka "word clock") sync connection. Whether this is done implicitly, as is possible with firewire based interfaces, or via an additional coax cable with suitable termination on a PCI card doesn't matter: you don't get sync out of two separate clocks without resampling, which is the enemy. You can even take out your soldering iron if you want and run a wire between two el-cheapo consumer inter

  • I agree with the premise of this article: Linux is a perfectly good platform for digital audio creation and editing. It might even be better than a Mac, depending on how you weigh different pros and cons. But I unfortunately don't really feel I learned much from this article about why Linux is a good choice. All the apps he mentioned (Audacity, Ardour, etc.) are available for both platforms. And his reasons for switching, like the lack of a tree view in the OS X finder, strike me as weirdly trivial and not music related.

    As someone who's done some published research on audio latency/jitter issues in a former life, I'm also somewhat annoyed by how much these sorts of articles focus on tech like JACK and low-latency kernel patches. This used to be a huge issue, but I suspect it shouldn't be nearly as high up anyone's priority list as it used to be--- back in the 2.4.x. series kernels, when the default kernel's clock tick used 10ms granularity and scheduling was flaky, it made a much bigger difference. Today, I suspect this sort of behind-the-scenes performance is only infrequently the bottleneck in anyone's audio performance; when I see actual glitches in performances, they can often be fixed by much more boring scheduling tweaks like "nice -19" on the processes that are bottlenecks in the audio path, or finding bugs in how you're setting up your callbacks.

    In any case, these days I see JACK as useful mainly for being a reasonably well supported audio-app-interconnection bus; as he says, the Core Audio of the Linux world. But that doesn't make it hugely unique either.

    So I guess I'm in the weird position where I agree with the article's conclusions, and some of its specific points, but overall if I didn't already agree with it, this article wouldn't have sold me on why Linux is great for audio editing. Sorry. :/

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by spintriae ( 958955 )

      But I unfortunately don't really feel I learned much from this article about why Linux is a good choice. All the apps he mentioned (Audacity, Ardour, etc.) are available for both platforms. And his reasons for switching, like the lack of a tree view in the OS X finder, strike me as weirdly trivial and not music related.

      Yes, that's all he mentions. Never once does he mention price. Nope. Well, perhaps vaguely here:

      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 he certainly doesn't mention it here:

      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.

      Or here:

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Trepidity ( 597 )

        Yeah, that's fair. I suppose what I really wanted to read was an argument about why Linux is particularly well-suited to audio, which I think it is. But an argument that it's "good enough, and cheap" is, as you point out, also legit.

  • Ubuntu studio?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cam42 ( 1459387 ) <camtheguitarist@ ... minus physicist> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:08PM (#28949157) Homepage
    I've been using this for quite some time now. anyone else?
  • BFD (Score:2, Funny)

    by tyrione ( 134248 )

    Kim Cascone (December 21, 1955, in Albion, Michigan) is an American composer of electronic music who is best known for his

    I stopped caring at this point.

  • Similar story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spit ( 23158 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:11PM (#28949193)

    I used to produce with Cubase VST/32 on OS9, which was an environment I enjoyed working in. When OS9 was abandoned and my mac died I continued with VST/32 on Windows2000, but it wasn't the same. Neither were the new versions of Cubase on OSX.

    My biggest problem with this situation was my old projects were stuck in this archaic format with nowhere to go. Since then I've moved to Ardour on Ubuntu, I find the environment is even better than before and tools like Hydrogen are great. Best of all is Jack, there's nothing like it.

    Linux audio is good and it's only going to get better, the price of the software isn't relevant in this assessment, only quality.

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kklein ( 900361 )

      Thank you. That's what I noticed as well. Yes, anything can do that, because all you're really doing is the same crap that you used to do on rackmount samplers back in the 80s. If a modern computer--even a netbook--can't handle that, we have problems.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

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

      Thanks for the hardest sentence I've ever had to parse.

  • 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 justindnb ( 1098861 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:18PM (#28949283)
    If you're looking for a great alternative to expensive, bloated audio applications, check out Reaper. It's made from the guy who originally wrote Winamp. The licensing is very friendly and only costs $60 (discounted license). They're very responsive to user feedback and add features constantly (updates usually arrive every 2 weeks). I've used other tools in the past like Reason and Cubase, but ended up ditching them in favor of Reaper. Its built-in effects are quite good and it supports DX and VST plugin formats. Unfortunately it is only supported on Windows (32 and 64bit) and Mac OSX at the moment however
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:18PM (#28949285) Journal

    Seems like some enterprising individual could start putting together cheaper-than-dirt Ubuntu-based music machines by buying Dell Studio laptops (with Microsoft license rebate, naturally) and preloading everything necessary.

    The complaint from non-geeks about Linux is you have to do it yourself. If you didn't have to do it yourself, and it really was that cheap, it becomes a lot more interesting.

  • 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 [] 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gwait ( 179005 )

      Exactly, linux or not, the build in sound card on almost all PC's is utter crap, filled with buzzing squeaks from the internal PC switching power supplies.
      This guy wouldn't notice. Try recording a nice acoustic guitar sound with a good mic..

      This alone means you need some decent quiet soundcard, and it then has to talk with linux audio drivers..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kklein ( 900361 )

      (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 Earyauteur ( 1142601 ) * on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:19PM (#28949295)

    Kim mentions the use of free audio production software, such as Audacity, as substitutes for commercial offerings. While an Audacity user is more than welcome to dive into the code base and make needed improvements, not every user has the time and/or ability to do such. In my estimation, neither Audacity 1.3.7 nor Audacity 1.2.6 are stable enough to be considered "professional-quality" software. I am not trying to insult the developers and their abilities -- they have a complex project on their hands. But Audacity's graphical interface has serious and repeatable bugs; Audacity's sound export facilities reliably adds spurious noise to sound. I admire Kim's decision to use Ubuntu as an audio workstation, but I don't think Kim has been forthcoming about sacrifices in software quality that a user must make to do so. Kim can easily translate most audio programming done in Max/MSP (the commercial environment he has worked with extensively) to the public domain environment "pd" -- but as an experienced user of both systems there are more functionality loses than gains moving from the commercial Max/MSP/Jitter environment to pd (Pure Data).

    If the cost of an Apple system and the higher cost of outfitting it with professional quality audio production and performance software are bankrupting a musician, then I can see the logic of using an Ubuntu system at this time. Otherwise, I still believe the adage "you get what you pay for" applies. However, I believe with effort from open source audio developers an Ubuntu audio workstation with both cost and quality advantages is more than possible. The bugs I am seeing in Audacity today remind me of the bugs I saw in the comparable commercial application "Peak" ten years ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I use Linux for audio production, and I think the "you get what you pay for" adage only really applies when you look at the broader toolchain. If somebody is using a bog-standard "Linux box" PC, sure. You get what you pay for: Zero hardware that's manufactured toward audio production.

      However, since I moved my own production setup to Linux, I've found that I rely even less on software than I did under Win/Mac, and more on hardware and open standards. The hardware I buy is more expensive, but it's Linux com
  • until it has something like this []. Something cheap and extremely usable.
  • Wow! Kim Cascone! THE Kim Cascone! Why, we were just talking about him...

    Oh wait, actually I have absolutely no idea who this guy is. Why do I care? I take it we're going to be finding random "I switched from OS xxx to OS yyy" stories on Slashdot now?

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Actual he has done some good stuff with the talking heads and HeadSpace, Thomas Dolby's studio.

      He is a hardcore music guy that know his chops. This is why it is interesting that he switched to Linux; which ahs notorious issues regarding music.

      It's not like some garage band decided to use Linux to save bucks.

      I wish there was more real information. I would love to see a Slashdot interview about this guys set-up.

  • As a musician (Score:4, Interesting)

    by diskofish ( 1037768 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:31PM (#28949439)
    I wonder how the vendors are going to support another OS when they can't even get their stuff working properly with different hardware configurations on TWO operating systems (Windows/OS X). I can't tell you how many problems I've had with FireWire audio interfaces.

    Once this hurdle has been reached, I am all for whatever open source audio stuff comes my way. I use currently Audacity for editing samples and quick n' dirty recording. Audacity WORKS but it's interface is mediocre at best and if you want ASIO support you have to download an unsupported patch to get it.
  • There is no doubt that Ubuntu notebook would be somewhat cheaper than Apple hardware of comparable specs. Although, your own comparison is terribly flawed by choosing refurbished and low end Dell laptop compared to high-end Macbook Pro. Regular MacBooks can be had in the ballpark of $1K and refurbished one might well be available for $600.

    But a bigger problem is comparison between Linux open source and commercial audio apps for OSX. Apparently you are both a geek and a music guy and can manage fine. For on

  • by sbeckstead ( 555647 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @07:42PM (#28949557) Homepage Journal
    The only problem I have is that on Linux, when I hear about this fantastic package that supposedly runs on the distro du jour, I usually find that I have to download 5 or more different pieces of kit like libraries or audio driver special patches and low latency kernel patches then re-compile all of these with this switch set and hold my nose a certain way while tweaking this driver then recompile the kernel on Tuesday with my hair on fire then do it again Wednesday standing in a freezer. And when I finally get all that done I find that no one mentioned the package that already existed with half of it done for me but the other half is written in perl and then I have to update perl modules from some depository to the latest and greatest. Then the PHP modules required by the web interface aren't loaded by default and the PHP version is too advanced i have to install the old one but if I switch to this other distro all this other stuff is done then when I finally get all these ducks in a row my sound card isn't fully supported by any distro in existence so I switch to a USB sound card that is supposed to be universally supported except that the drivers are proprietary so they weren't actually included in my distro cause that gave somebody heartburn.

    By the time I get it running I have to update the kernel again and that broke the drivers all over again.
    So Sorry I'm saving up and buying the tools that have already been proven to work.
  • cat /dev/urandom > /dev/audio

    No need for a fancy Dell either, it works just fine with any soundcard, and I bet it sounds a lot like whatever this dude's doing (maybe even better).

    Try it sometime!

  • Like most people, all of my Linux experiences are seen through the filter of whatever distro I'm using. When I wanted to try out music production on Linux, I installed Ubuntu Studio 9.04.

    My experience was bitter-sweet:

    • The people on the forums were really nice and really helpful.
    • But the RT kernel they shipped occasionally hanged my machine. Something that never happens with the normal Ubuntu kernel.

    So sadly, I didn't even get as far as seriously critiquing the apps. It's a pity, because there seems to be

  • by Tangential ( 266113 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:05PM (#28949851) Homepage
    You could buy a used (aka EBAY, craigs list, 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.
  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @08:35PM (#28950115) 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bassman59 ( 519820 ) 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.

      Software is only half of the problem. Imagine Cubase ported to Linux -- all well and good, but the support for multi-channel professional-quality interfaces doesn't exist. And without the I/O, you have nothing.

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @10:50PM (#28951139) Journal

    I just finished recording and producing a jazz album using Project CCRMA hosted on Fedora. The recording through to the final mastering were all done using linux. Having read his article I was surprised to find he hadn't mastered his production using Jamin which, when used in combination with Ardour and Jack, gives the type of control over the production process I've not seen duplicated using a Mac (Windows is not capable at all in this regard). I suppose though that is the workflow he is used to.

    The innovation is what it means to the production process. There is no mixdown to a 24bit 44.1Khz stereo track prior to mastering and you can render your tracks through the mastering software into the final tracks and tweak automation artifacts instead of compromising by using equalisation. Sure you still equalise but you end up doing less as you can refer back to the master if there is a problem and fix it there. Plus you have better control over (audio gain) compression to reduce transients and maintain dynamic range in the final product.

    The bands that listen to my recording are amazed at the results (well my recording techniques *ahem* do play some part :-) and some asked me if it was done on analogue equipment - which is quite a compliment. The thing is sure, it's not perfect and sometimes frustrating because the your hardware is often pushed to it's limit, you find bugs you have to adjust your work flow around but simply put I don't think the capability *exists* anywhere else.

    I've been using it since 2003 and have seen the foundation laid down by Alsa and Jack projects continually refined. Often the criticism is made that 'linux copies this or that' but after comparing it to existing processes it seems to me that audio production under Linux is on the leading edge of technology as the framework for innovation in music production.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm not familiar with Jamin. I've looked over their site, but I'm still not entirely clear what functionality this gives you that Windows can't accomplish (I've never used a Mac for music, so I can't comment with regard to that platform).

      As far as I can see, it's a mastering suite, and you particularly like the fact that you don't have to mix down to a stereo file before mastering. This is the same workflow that I follow by adding Waves plugins to the master bus in a Sonar project in Windows.

      I'm not dissing

  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @09:34PM (#28981547)

    I know Linux has its appeal, but this is frankly ridiculous. At best it is a stunt. At worst it is a complete waste of time.

    It's like recommending Windows for a Web server. Yes, you can get a Web server up and running on Windows. But why? You can get a free modern Linux or BSD for the same hardware and it is not only 98% set up for you already, but when you deploy it to the Web it will do the job much better. Thousands or perhaps millions of people were there in Linux or BSD land before you, optimizing those systems in innumerable ways to be a better Web server. When you set up a Web server on Linux, you stand on the shoulders of giants from the first moment. It's that way also when you set up a music and audio workstation using a Mac. It's not just that the hardware and software is optimized for the task over years and decades, it's that the relevant community is there now and has been there for many years. There are a million benefits to that. Enough music and audio -related technical problems have been solved already on the Mac that you can work on your musical problems and audio problems without having to stop to do technical or I-T work.

    If you buy any stock Mac and add no 3rd party hardware and software, you already have a better music and audio system than anything you can build with Linux. You will get all these for free with the Mac, already setup and working: GarageBand (music and audio workstation based on Logic), CoreAudio (multichannel pro audio subsystem that supports simultaneous use of multiple 32-bit/192kHz audio hardware as well as multiple pro audio software apps), CoreMIDI (ultra low-latency MIDI subsystem with compatibility with all MIDI devices), QuickTime (backbone of digital media production for 20 years now and the basis of the MPEG-4 standard that replaced the CD and DVD), and iTunes (which is scriptable on the Mac, so you can, for example, create a script that stamps arbitrary tracks with all of your own artist info). The software you get with the Mac is worth the price of the Mac; the hardware is free. If you try and replicate this functionality on another system, you will spend the price of the Mac just attempting to do it. Further, every Mac except MacBook Air has built-in 24-bit optical digital audio in and out, as well as analog audio in and out. So you don't even have to buy audio hardware to make a decent 24-bit recording. A Mac mini is $599 and it has all of this already setup and working to very high specifications and can share the Linux system's display if you already have a Linux system. It's small enough to travel. It has a FireWire 800 port to hook onto an audio interface or fast hard disk. It backs up all your work automatically, including versioning, if you just give it access to a second disk. It can play 24-bit audio in any context, even within 3rd party apps such as MS Word that are not audio-related.

    If you do want to add hardware or software to the Mac, there are about 10 digital audio workstations for the Mac, some of which go back to the 1980's (e.g. Logic Pro used to be called Notator back then) and you can run 2 or more simultaneously and share hardware also. You can not only plug in pretty much any pro audio interface, you can plug in 10 of them at once if you want and they will all work simultaneously. You can plug in any MIDI instrument. There are dozens of highly creative Mac-only music and audio apps like MetaSynth which simply don't exist on other platforms. And if you are doing any soundtrack work, the fact that the Mac is the best video editing platform will benefit you in many small and large ways.

    Even the iPod can do better than this Linux system when it comes to music. You can buy an iPod touch for $229, and an app called "FourTrack" for $9.99 more and you have a 4-track recorder and player with multitouch transport controls, pan pots, and faders. A key thing is that with multitouch, you are essentially working with a little hardware mixer. You can drag 2 sliders down at once, for example, so you can do an awful lot on stage with

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