Just found this awesome series from Robin Vincent about how to build an audio PC. It’s a bit over 2.5 years old, so when he’s talking about chipsets etc. it’s not that current anymore, but the principle is just right – and because I think that some of my friends over at Wikiloops would possibly be thankful for such explanations, here it is:
Of course I would install Linux instead – or Windows *and* Linux – or Windows and *two* instances of Linux, which is what I did with my own machine. But that’s not part of what he’s talking about here, and I found his series really interesting. So thanks to Robin, and I hope that some of you who read this might find it useful as well.
As always, thanks for reading, viewing, and/or listening.
The more I’m using my new Debian 11 “Bullseye”, the more I like it. The first – and big – change to something better is that thanks to Geoffrey Bennett, a friendly musician and developer there’s now a Linux driver for the Focusrite Scarlett 2nd and 3rd generation interfaces in the kernel versions 5.x – see his latest thread on Linuxmusicians about it. He’s even developing graphical tools to manage these audio interfaces, but hasn’t released anything public yet. Still they work great, and I can now switch inputs from line to instrument, or assign a -10dB pad with a simple mouse click for instance in qasmixer, which shows my interface like this:
This is cool because now you won’t need any Windows- or Mac-only software just to change settings on your interface (only the smallest Focusrite interfaces have physical switches, and none comes with software for Linux).
I have also set up a new LADISH studio for the Sonarworks headphone correction in Cadence and Claudia, and Cadence bridges all of Alsa, Pulseaudio, and Jack nicely so that it all works together. The cabling for my self-built “systemwide” setup for Linux in Carla looks like this:
Of course, I also had to select the right inputs and outputs for Pulseaudio in their pavucontrol, which looks like this:
And these settings also allow third party applications like SongRec to check if a song might be a cover of others – and if yes, it shows something like this:
All of this is very complex because the Linux sound systems are so many, from Alsa over Jack to Pulse, and so on. But it all works nicely now, better than ever I’d say.
On Arch Linux I have Pipewire which tries to replace all of the sound servers mentioned above, and that also works – tho I haven’t looked that deep into it, and it’s also not quite ready yet. But from what I have seen and heard so far, that one is also perfectly usable already, so no matter which system is up and running (except Windows), I could make some music.
Good times. I’m happy that my transition to newer operating systems worked so well. And so today I also wiped all partitions from my old 250GB system drive which will go and find a new home in my brother’s PC as soon as he has time to deal with that. I already made a Ventoy-based USB boot stick with these same systems on it (plus some others which he hasn’t seen yet) for him.
Ok, enough for today. And thanks for reading, as always.
Since yesterday morning I installed the new Debian 11 with codename “Bullseye” which is now officially released. And that’s my main operating system since over 16 years, I remember that I started to use that while still living in Bremen where Zuleikha was born over 16 years ago. And if you keep something that long it has to be good, doesn’t it?
Anyway, I have everything up and running nicely by now, and even Ardour runs on both Debian (with Jack) and also on Arch (with Pipewire). The next thing I did was to take the same background image – a photo of the moon I took in 2011 using my Olympus E-520 DSLR (I didn’t have a mirrorless camera yet) – for all of my devices (2) and operating systems (4). Looks like this:
Since my Conky is using a light font, a darker background like this helped. But this is cosmetics, meaning I’m done with the most important stuff already. Cool, now I can turn my attention to some other things again.
Ok, the mirrors aren’t switched yet, but the release of Debian 11 ‘Bullseye’ is going on with full steam ahead, and I have it already. Took both the live and netinstall images from their site, and installed from the latter, and here I am:
I still have some symptoms with my old home, must be some files under .config or somewhere which lead the mouse to be strange, so for the moment I switched my /home to the new 1TB drive, taking only what I need from the much bigger one.
But well – I can write my blog, send and receive mails, the rest will follow.
As always, thanks to all Debian developers – you girls & guys rock! And thanks to you for reading.
So I received my Terabyte drive yesterday, and by now I have Windows 10, Debian, and also Arch Linux running on it, so here’s a screenshot from its Gnome 40 desktop:
This is cool because Arch is a rolling release distribution which always has the latest and greatest packages (like that Gnome 40 desktop above, this won’t be in the upcoming Debian yet). And so I can experiment with pipewire which is a new low level video / audio / multimedia framework with the goal to replace all of Alsa, Pulseaudio, GStreamer, and Jack at the same time. See its entry in the Arch Wiki on how to try it, and also read this blog about it.
So by now I’m thinking about what to reconfigure on my main Debian installation. Do I really need 3 different DAWs (which I paid for, but my favourite is still the open source one)? Do I still want headphone correction even for the price of a relatively high system load? Things like these…
And in two days from now the new Debian will be released, I’m looking forward to installing that one as well – I’ve tried the Release Candidate 3, but with my “productive” system I’m still a bit conservative – while I can play around in Arch, on which I’m currently writing this blog post.
Anyway, cool to have some options. And like always, thanks for reading.
So in 5 days from now the new stable version of Debian is planned to be released, and I haven’t heard any bad news from the latest RC3 pre-release, so I guess the time plan will be met.
Looking at my system I noticed that my boot drive – a 250GB Crucial SATA SSD which holds both Windows 10, Debian 10, and some common shared space for data exchange between the two is a bit full already – had to clean up that common space not too long ago, but Debian also occupies over 75% of what I thought would suffice. Well, probably not big enough anymore – so yesterday I ordered a 1TB SSD as a replacement. A SATA drive again, although my aging mainboard has an M.2 slot I didn’t want to risk any compatibility problems, and for my purposes those SATA drives are fast enough. So this product is on its way to our home already while I’m writing this:
Prices are really down on these by now, for Mitchie’s drive – also 1TB but NVMe M.2 I paid almost double of what this costs. Ok, these M.2 sticks are both smaller and faster, so I guess that’s ok…
While waiting for that drive to arrive, I updated the mainboard BIOS with the latest available firmware – now I have a version from 2016 (the mainboard itself was invented in 2014). And I am thinking about whether I should install the same dual boot configuration, only bigger, or if I could/should even take three – like Win10, Debian, and Arch? Or a ‘Hackintosh’, so Win10, Debian, and MacOS? Joking, I want to *use* a computer now instead of permanently tinkering around with them – been there, done that, long enough for a lifetime I guess…
No, two operating systems are more than enough, usually we all use Linux, occasionally (like when we need that Olympus Workspace or want to try something else) we boot into Windows. Both Mitchie and Zuleikha use Ubuntu (which is cool), I’m on Debian, kind of Ubuntu’s mummy. Or daddy. It’s Deb *and* Ian, so probably both 🙂
Just made sure that I still have all ‘enablement’ codes and such which I have for commercial stuff on my /home which is still on a 4TB disk and won’t be touched – so I can reinstall things like Sonarworks (headphone correction) or Harrison Mixbus 7 on both Linux and Windows. Or Reaper which I also bought after trying it far longer than I should have (nice that you can).
So yeah, I’m prepared, and waiting for the hard- (should arrive mid week) and software (on Saturday if everything goes well). Debian’s motto is and always was: ‘quando paratus est’ – ‘when it’s ready’. And that’s always the best of all possible times, isn’t it? 😉
16 release-critical bugs left while I’m writing this (the green line on https://bugs.debian.org/release-critical/ – see the graph below):
Just out of curiosity I ran Cinebench R23 in Windows to see what my aging computer with a 4th gen Intel Core i5 Processor might do against newer machines. And it was interesting indeed, I came up with something like this:
As you can see, a single core application would run almost double as fast on all newer CPUs compared to mine, while multi core applications/programs (like video rendering or music in a DAW) would run three times as fast on Apple, and about four times as fast on a new AMD or Intel chips – and these are middle class ones just like mine.
Wouldn’t have thought that my old machine is still that good, and even comparable. I have checked graphics perfomance in Basemark GPU, but I don’t know anything about Vulkan, and with medium quality in DirectX 12 my machine only made some 10 fps in their official test, so perhaps no chance at all against an AMD or newer Intel chip. But ok, I don’t play, so…
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert in Windows, or anything Microsoft, Apple, and other proprietary stuff. Years ago I decided that one cannot support what (s)he cannot understand her-/himself, so I decided to ditch all operating system “black boxes” and invest my limited time into more open stuff.
Microsoft has announced Windows 11 as you might have heard/read. And although their presentation had some glitches (no wonder I thought – more or less the whole world is watching if one of these 800 pound gorillas is speaking), it was an enjoyable one, and their newly announced operating system looks really nice, and has some awesome new features, like for instance support for Android apps.
But, if you scroll down their site to the Minimum system requirements section, you’ll see this:
The processor section will tell you that you’ll need a recent one which was to be expected (at the moment only one of our machines would qualify, and that is Mitchie’s Lenovo Thinkpad L380 Yoga 13″ 2-in-1 notebook/tablet). But notice that TPM line?
I know that my Core i5-4xxx wouldn’t qualify, but I do have secure boot (switched off to dual boot Win10 and Linux), so I checked. So if I type in ‘tpm.msc’ as suggested in the article above, the answer is ‘nope’:
Even after only giving in ‘tpm’ I could see it in the settings already, like this:
This ‘Learn more’ link leads you on a web page explaining it:
And – more general – the system settings about security, and then device security also say it:
Again, with a ‘Learn more’ explanation link, which leads to:
This is all good and well, and there are some clever people who found ‘workarounds’ (or ‘hacks’) already on how you can still install Windows 11 even if your system isn’t officially supported, or if you have hardware security and secure boot switched off, like me. But remember: this is a hack, and there are some valid reasons why vendors like Microsoft, Apple, and the likes try to ‘protect’ you. The internet isn’t that nice place anymore that it was after it was invented – lots of people “only want your best”, and that means that it’s full of ads, scammers, and whatnot – we all know that.
So? Trust Microsoft, Apple, or any of the other big guys? Well ditching perfectly fine working hardware isn’t that clever, at least it doesn’t make much sense in regards of your own footprint whch you’ll leave for the rest of the world to deal with – so just dumping your old stuff and getting a shiny new machine from a ‘certified’ vendor only helps their business models, not you or the planet as a whole.
Instead, you could get hardware security by 3rd party vendors like this one, and then only use open source to secure, and to encrypt, and you’re good to go for a long time. At least that’s the method that our official bureaus like the BSI are using. So if your BIOS or rather UEFI is secured or even open source, and you’re using tools like Microsoft’s Bitlocker or Linux’s LUKS together with 2FA or MFA (callback or even hardware keys), you should be good and safe, even without Windows 11 or the latest and greatest of anyone.
That said, W11 is coming, soon, maybe even this year for the “Christmas business” already. And W10 will still be supported for a while, but its days will be numbered, like the ones for W7 were. Even with Linux you should probably take notice, and get the latest updates and kernels offered by your distribution, and no one else does make that easier for you than Linux does.
So, for me? Well I’ll lose not only my job in a few days, but with it also part of “my” hardware like that nice Lenovo Thinkpad P50 (with an Intel Core i7-6xxx only, but with 32GB of RAM, so that would have made a nice mobile recording studio with Ardour). Do I need a replacement for that? Probably not, although I *have* used it to record a concert of Zuleikha’s. My own desktop machine has an Intel Core i5-4xxx like Zuleikha’s Dell notebook (of course that one has the mobile version), and these run Ardour or RawTherapee or even Windows 10 just fine. Windows 11? I don’t know, I’ve been a member of MSDN via my (former) employer, but I’m not in the list of those who want the latest and greatest updates, so I can’t say yet if any of those hacks would work for me/us – Windows simply isn’t that important *for me*, that story could be totally different for my brother or others who earn their living based upon Windows, Office, and the likes.
But imagine this: if Windows 11 will really require new hardware, then what to do with your old one, like my perfectly working desktop, or Zuleikha’s Dell Inspiron 15″ notebook? Can’t sell these to anyone who would want Windows 11 (the majority of people I guess), except if they would probably do the same as we did: just use something else (not to say ‘better’ here to avoid any political/religious fanboy wars). Could it be that Microsoft just did all of us open source guys a big favour? More than half of the world is using a Linux derivate on their phones (called ‘Android’), Google’s ‘Chromeboxes’ are thriving which are also based on Linux, heck even the Mars lander or the ISS run it, like do ‘Live’ distributions on a 10$/€ USB key. So if a company like Microsoft ‘obsoletes’ so many machines which are still in good working states, it could be entirely *their* loss much more so than *ours*. Let’s see how the 800 pound guys will deal with that – or with even more people staying on W10 than on W7…
Just my thoughts of today… and like always, thanks for reading.
P.S.: I used to be a (very small) ‘system builder’, and all of our desktop hardware was assembled by myself. So if I had to buy anything right now, I’d go with something like the ‘Optimal PC’ recommended by Heise’s c’t magazine of last year (hardware list), take one of those new AMD 7nm chips with built-in graphics like their Ryzen 5 and 7 ‘G’, or even use a small barebone to get something better than a Mac Mini IMHO. Just food for thoughts as they say… and according to this video, as fast or better than Apple’s new 5nm M1 chip, at least in Cinebench:
After trying out the new and upcoming artwork for Debian 11 “Bullseye” on my desktop (see my last post), I downloaded the poster art for the last Wikiloops member’s meeting in 2018, and tried that – and so this is how my desktop looks right now:
Fits, because first I’ve been there (which was great), and second I’m a bass player… 🙂 So thanks to Dick for providing this – and thanks to you for viewing/reading, as always.
Some fellow musician in Wikiloops asked about output levels of songs, and how to get these. I tried to answer it to my best knowledge, and also explained how *I* do this using Ardour. Since version 6.3 of Ardour there are two ways to export to a certain loudness level, and I hadn’t fully explained that before, so I did it now – and made a short howto video about it:
In case that is useful, I’m glad that I could help. And as always, thanks for reading, and watching/listening.