Thoughts about switching to Linux

Marko Saric wrote an interesting article on opensource.com with the title ‘How to know if you’re ready to switch from Mac to Linux‘.

Just yesterday I was complaining about everything non-Mac or non-iOS in an email to my brother, and the reason for that were the audio system, the general focus on arts like music, photos, and videos, which no other system except those out of Cupertino handle as well in my opinion. Now comes someone and goes back from there, as did others before…

For me, I’m on Linux like forever now. I was some 20 or more years younger than now when I decided to switch from an OS which couldn’t in my opinion be supported anymore because it was deliberately a ‘black box’ (Windows) to something open source. My team lead at work during that time suggested to concentrate on Solaris instead of Linux, so I did both, and learned about both.

Like many here in Germany, I started with Suse, then later switched to Red Hat for a while, and decided sooner or later that I had enough of its ‘RPM hell’, so with a brief side-step over the BSDs to learn about proper package management and Gentoo (make it all yourself, a bit like Arch now) I ended up with Debian due to a tip of a younger colleague in the healthcare IT company I was working for by then.

Marko, in his very nice and recommended article above, recommends Fedora – and although he’s right about the Gnome desktop environment and many other things, please keep in mind that opensource.com is sponsored by Red Hat (which were by now bought by my current employers), while Debian is strictly non-commercial which I prefer by far. The fact that it’s no company at all means that it can’t be bought or sold or otherwise ruined by bad management and/or shareholder or other interest than the interest of those who actually make it. The best model of all IMNSHO.

So why was I complaining about not being on a Mac or on iOS in that email to my brother? It was mainly because of this article (in German) on gearnews, about Steinberg’s Cubasis 3 now also being available for the Android operating system (formerly iOS only).

Of course that’s a clever and bold move from Steinberg (who belong to Yamaha, the world’s biggest vendor of musical intruments in case you didn’t know that). But it’s the underlying Android OS (by Google mostly) which neglected audio during the last years, and which – in opposite to its Apple counterparts – still isn’t really fit for multitasking at all. Plus Apple makes (or has someone make) their own processors, and their A13 chip in the new iPhone SE is pretty much without any real competition (look at benchmarks if you don’t believe me) – even if the current Google Pixel 3a is still the best value per Dollar (or Euro) for the general public and user(s), for artists there’s still nothing better than an iPhone, an iPad, or a Mac, no matter the cost.

So there you have it. Why am I still on Linux then? Well, first because of the costs (can’t afford a MacBook Pro and an iPad Pro and whatever), but mostly because of the freedom. The freedom of choice, the freedom to build my own hardware, or to tinker with my OS and system as much as I like, the freedom to recommend or even give it all to friends if I like to, and, last not least, on Linux we’re having some real ‘badass’ stuff as well, and it’s getting better day by day. Try Ardour as an example, yes it also exists for Windows or a Mac, but it’s native on Linux – and that makes all the difference. Or Blender, or Gimp, or RawTherapee – we’re getting there, people, even the so-called ‘creatives’ amongst us.

So go and read that article of Marko’s, even if you’re currently not on a Mac. And substitute ‘Fedora’ with either ‘Arch’ (or ‘Manjaro’ if you want an Arch which is a bit easier to install), or with ‘Debian’ (or ‘Ubuntu’ or ‘Mint’ or whatever) if you want the best package management (which is pretty much irrelevant for a rolling release distro like Arch or Manjaro & Co).

Recommended reading.

Ardour 6.0 is released

Great news for all fans of free and open source software: Ardour 6.0 is out. In fact I was waiting for the announcement since last week or so, when Harrison Consoles announced their new version 6.0 of Mixbus and Mixbus 32c, both of which are based upon Ardour.

So this is how the original looks like:

Screenshot of the song “Reaching Out” in Ardour 6.0 on Robin Gareus’ machine

You can read the announcement and get some links from Paul Davis, who is the founder and main developer of Ardour (and Jack and other great programs), here.

And after using it for free for over two years already, I decided to finally subscribe to it, making this the first and only software subscription for me (with the exception of Wikiloops, glad to support that platform as well).

I’ve not seen or tried version 6 yet since on Linux I’ll get it more or less automatically via the KXStudio repositories, but now I can also download the Windows and/or Mac versions of it if I like to – and sure, never tried it on Windows, so why not? I know that some plugins like the ones from Calf Studio Gear are available for Linux only, but so what – I can still try and compare it to others, right? Will be fun I guess 🙂

So thanks to Paul, Robin, and the countless other developers who make something that great even possible. Hats off to you guys and girls.

You can download precompiled versions of Ardour starting at 1US$ here.

Thanks for reading.

How to make a “systemwide” Sonarworks on Linux – the easy way

I’ve been contemplating on trying Sonarworks since a while, and after WhiteDrum55 and kimbo both acknowledged its usefulness in a thread in a Wikiloops forum, and after I learned that Sonarworks even offer some kind of beta version of their plugin on Linux, I downloaded and tried that. I was sold after 20 seconds, and decided to buy it after an hour or two.

So what does Sonarworks do, you might ask. Well basically it equals out the frequency curves of your headphones (and speakers in the ‘Studio’ version). Looks like this for some headphone models we have:

Screenshot from 2020-05-08 07-50-29
Screenshot from 2020-05-08 07-51-04
Screenshot from 2020-05-08 07-51-40

These are, from top to bottom, the curves (in blue) before correction, the corrective ones (in green), and the resulting ones (in purple) for the Sennheiser HD598 (my main “open” cans), the AKG K141-2 (Zuleikha’s), and the Sennheiser HD569 (my closed ones).

So that software makes them basically sound almost alike, definitely more neutral. Which is invaluable for recording and mixing.

After playing around with it a while in my DAW I thought how nice it would be to have these corrections systemwide, and in fact for Windows and for MacOS, Sonarworks offers a program they call “Systemwide” which does exactly that. But for Linux they don’t – so I’ve made one. 🙂

(Credits have to go to user sysrqer in this Linuxmusicians forum entry who’s describing how to do it in just a few words – so I’ll mostly add some screenshots to make it a bit more clear here)

You’ll need a few programs called ‘claudia’, ‘carla’, and ‘cadence’ for this, which come with the KXStudio repositories – so these are available for Debian and its many derivatives like for instance Ubuntu Studio. There are ways to do this on other distributions, but not with these tools, and therefore not that easy – so that’s out of the scope of this article.

So in Cadence, you’ll use LADISH to automatically load a studio after your login, like this (I called mine ‘Sonarworks’):

Screenshot from 2020-05-09 11-14-59

In the “Engine Settings” for Jack, you’ll have to mark a checkbox to “Ignore self connect requests to external ports only”, like this:

Screenshot from 2020-05-09 11-14-41

Then, under “Tools”, you use ‘Claudia’ to set it all up:

Screenshot from 2020-05-09 11-13-49

In ‘Claudia’ you have to set up that Studio (here ‘Sonarworks’), and add Carla to it, like this:

Screenshot from 2020-05-09 11-14-11

In ‘Carla’, you’ll add the Sonarworks Reference 4 plugin which comes as a VST plugin for Linux (with an .so file type):

Screenshot from 2020-05-08 07-53-48

And in the “Patchbay” tab of ‘Carla’, you’ll do the cabling like this:

Screenshot from 2020-05-08 07-54-10

Make sure that you don’t have a second set of cabling running from the PulseAudio Jack Sink directly to the System playback inputs, and also check after a reboot, or after loading/unloading programs like Ardour.

And boom – you’re set:

Screenshot from 2020-05-09 11-57-53

With the wrench symbol in the plugin loaded into Carla, you can start the graphical interface of Sonarworks – so that is how my screen looks after I log into my system.

This isn’t all perfect yet, and the plugin itself has some relatively high demand on CPU (about 10% on my older Core i5 processor), but that will surely improve over time. Hearing music (and now also videos and other sources) like they should sound is invaluable to me, and well worth the price. Did my first new mixes for Wikiloops already using this, and I couldn’t be happier.

As always, thanks for reading.

My first day of the second week of homeoffice

I made photos, one shortly after I began to work at home, the other shortly after finishing work. Looks like this:

7e4_3232162-homeoffice-week-two
Homeoffice week two, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2020
7e4_3232164-tuna-feierabend
Tuna the cat at closing time (Feierabend), Mörfelden-Walldorf 2020

Thanks for viewing.

What to do in times of a pandemia

Well I can hardly give any tips of what best to do in a “lockdown” kind of situation, when you can’t or at least shouldn’t really leave the house. I can only tell you what we’re doing:

  • we went shopping of Friday after my work already, so we were through with that early on. It also helps if you enter the supermarkets as a single person, not with a whole family. Better for the distances we should keep…
  • reading is always good – my current favourite fiction author is Haruki Murakami as you might know if you’re reading this blog once in a while
  • listening to music and/or watching TV is what I’ll guess what most people would do, and of course we’re also doing that. Long running series like “Doctor Who” are good tips if you like that
  • If you’re a computer geek, get involved into some free and open source project – write some code or documentation, or share some tips via an own blog or Youtube or whatever
  • We’re the lucky ones, at least Zuleikha and me – we play instruments. Plus we are both members of Wikiloops where you can play with other musicians from all around the globe for free if you like. All you need is some way to get your instrument or voice into a computer, which is usually done with some kind of audio interface – see here for some examples. And Wikiloops just lifted its time restrictions, so even as a new user you can now start down- and uploading at once, without having to wait (or to pay).
  • If you are creative in another field – I consider myself a portrait photographer for instance – then do this at home as well. Take photos of your family, or in case you’re alone, take self portraits. There’s always something new to learn, and if it’s only about lighting.

Other than that I haven’t done much this weekend, in fact I wasn’t even out of the house except to feed the birds:

7e4_3222159-bird-food
Bird food, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2020

As I’ve read, the rate of new infections with SARS-CV2 aka the Corona virus is slowing down here in Germany. So maybe (and hopefully) it helps if everyone is staying at home or at least keeping a safe distance. And while it’s still way too early to speak of or to hope for a trend, we can still carry on and wait this out, shall we?

Be safe. Stay healthy. And thank you for reading.

False positives at GMX

I have a friend from the UK who – like me – uses a GMX mail account or two. The only difference is that her domain is gmx.com while I’m using gmx.net.

And twice already some mail of hers landed in the internal gmx “assumed spam” folders which you only see via their web interface if you look – so my advice: don’t ignore their regular messages about that assumed spam folder, and go and check it – you might have missed someone who clearly didn’t send spam (in my friend’s case, not even a link was inside her mails, so it’s not clear why the gmx algorithms assumed that to be spam…)

I’ve told their web interface to not classify her mail addresses as senders of spam, still have to check if that works.

Otherwise they’re very good – and they really keep out lots of spam. Not bad for a cost-free provider at all – and if you’re using them with an email program like I do, you won’t even see all the ads which they need to finance it all.

Just a hint to go and check…

Second internet outage since this year…

Wow. This time our line including telephone and some HDTV (3play) was cut off for almost 24 hours – seems that UnityMedia is up to some restructuring since they have been bought by Vodafone? Let’s hope that it’s stable from now on…

I took a photo of our cat again yesterday, this time with proper light (one of my studio strobes bounced over a wall). Then I cropped it into a 16:10 format to use it as a screen background, turned it into black & white using a Kodak Tri-X film simulation, and vignetted the corners a bit so that my Conky system monitor output (in white) can still be seen layed over it, as here:

Tuna the cat, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2020 as my current screen background. Original (without the Conky system monitor output and the headline from Gnome3) is on Flickr.

As always, thanks for reading, and for viewing.

Slowly making that machine mine again

I’ve written about the “new” operating system I had to install at work. And this morning I was talking to my wife about it, saying that even with the so-called “EPEL” repositories (from the Fedora project), these “Enterprise” decision-making guys still don’t include anything like Ardour. So I guess that these decision-makers don’t have kids or even nieces or nephews, or how would they explain that companies like Disney who would likely use anything like Ardour are not “Enterprises”? What a strange world…

But at least with these additional “EPEL” repos, I’ve got things and smaller niceties like Conky back – so at least the looks of my Gnome3 desktop at work and at home aren’t that different anymore. See here (again, I try to keep most business-related stuff out here):

My desktop at work, showing a browser and Conky plus the Gnome menu on the left

Hm. I still couldn’t record any pro sound and videos with it like I could with my old OS and its real-time kernel and Ardour and such. Not for work and not for pleasure – which seem to be different things for these “Enterprises”.

But ok – I’m not working at Disney, or at Pixar, so I guess the fun part is elsewhere indeed. Still I sometimes wonder if they even consider all the talent and creativity they’re wasting (or trying to kill)? What a strange world indeed. Maybe they’ll fit in somewhere in the vicinity of “hedgefond managers” in the groups divided by Toby? See here for a funny start into your week and month:

Rowan Atkinson: Toby the Devil – We Are Most Amused and Amazed

And as a small contrast program to it, here are some awesome fellow musicians:

Opera performed by animals | Maestro – CG short film by Illogic collective

As always, thanks for reading & viewing, and have a very nice start into your week & month. 🙂

New desktop background

I just set this as my background at home:

Background picture on my 1920×1200 monitor

It’s this photo which I took myself in 2018 in Paris, with the standard lens (25mm/1.4) on my Olympus E-M10 camera. Looks black & white but isn’t. The topic is SacrĂ©-CĹ“ur de Montmartre as seen from MusĂ©e d’Orsay.

As always, thanks for viewing, and for reading.