Although a bit too early, the praise is still well deserved

Found this very positive article about the new and upcoming version of Debian 11 “Bullseye” in The Register yesterday. And although its author writes about a “release” a bit too early (RC2 is just out), his praise for this universal operating system is still well deserved, and his thoughts on topics like Debian vs. Arch or other things are very much congruent with my own ones.

So although I really recommend reading the article – especially if you heard about rumors of an upcoming Windows 11 (which will force you into using a Microsoft account if you got the “Home” version) – the real facts are here:

Full Freeze starts on 2021-07-17

The current RC2 (release *candidate* 2) can be downloaded here – most normal PCs would need the amd64 variant of this.

The work-in-progress release notes – and this page also tells you that it’s *not yet* released – can be found here. The planned release date is July 31st which could still change, so let’s wait and see.

But I know what I will download and use for the next 4- 5 years or until Debian 12 will be out. For those of you who don’t know much about it, see more on the Debian homepage. And thanks to the whole team for your work!

Ventoy

Yesterday I’ve found and then later installed Ventoy (see its Wikipedia page), an open source multiboot tool to create bootable media with – looks like the picture on its Wikipedia page:

In my case, I’ve put four different operating systems on my cheap 32GB stick, see them here on my file browser on Linux:

That’s the current Arch Linux and Windows 10 from this half year (21H1), plus live iso images of both the currently stable Debian 10.9 “Buster”, and the 20.04 LTS version of UbuntuStudio. Plus I have an own folder on it which I cleaned up a bit as well, so now the stick is less than half full.

This is cool – I’ve tried it on my own machine after work, and booted into UbuntuStudio to verify that it works. And if you want to change any of these operating systems to newer versions, simply swap out their iso files, and that’s it, which makes upgrading and staying current really easy.

Look at the Ventoy webpage in case you’re interested. And it will format your stick with the exFAT file system so that even images with more than 4GB (like the Windows you see above which has some 5.3 or so Gigabytes) can be stored – FAT32 can’t do that.

RRS (Really recommended stuff), and thanks to “longpanda” and the Ventoy team 🙂

Update, from June 2nd: just added Fedora Workstation 34 to the images on my USB key. This is a live image like Debian and Ubuntu so it’s bootable without changing anything on your machine. And while it’s not as current as the rolling release Arch distribution, it still comes with Gnome 40. It also invents Pipewire as the default audio system which is supposed to replace both Alsa *and* Jack one day, so playing around with that (as a musician) could also be interesting. Fedora is the development testbed and free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and like it comes with free software only (by default). So it’s well worth having a look at in case you don’t mind using RPM and dnf (or yum) instead of apt (Debian/Ubuntu) or pacman (Arch).

Integration of mobile phones with Linux

On the KDE Plasma site I’ve seen this:

KDE Connect

And after reading about it a bit, I’ve found that you can have the same for Gnome, as a shell extension which can be installed and configured from your browser, like in my case, Firefox. It’s called GSConnect, see here:

Of course I had to try that, so I installed KDE Connect onto my Android phone, and GSConnect onto my Debian/Gnome desktop. And indeed, I can move my mouse on the big screen with my phone, transfer files like music or photos between both devices, receive notifications and/or SMS, the possibilities are seemingly endless… oh, and in case you forgot where you’ve put your phone, let it ring from your computer.

Very nice. Works only with Android phones, for iOS and Apple devices or for other operating systems than Linux you’ll have to search for alternatives. Shouldn’t be too hard to find, since we’re talking free and open source software here, as always.

Fun! 🙂

Thanks for reading. And thanks to the developers who make stuff like that! 🙂

Tried Arch Linux yesterday

Yesterday my work notebook got an upgrade from RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 8.3 to 8.4 – normally not a big deal you would assume, but when dealing with internal IBM images, you’ll also download a complete Win10 virtual machine (more than 80% of the 8.8GB download), and while more or less everything is being drawn out of a VPN it all trickles down with about 5 MBit/s maximum speed – takes all day, although my cable network line could have handled 135 MBit/s… oh well…

“Well”, I thought after work, my son Jeremy advised me to try out Arch Linux years ago, and because that’s what they call a “rolling distribution”, it’s always current and comes with the latest and greatest packages, so let’s have a try. And so I installed that into a (kernel-based) KVM machine on my computer, giving it just 4GB of RAM, a 20GB part of my hard disk, and 2 CPUs.

And yes, it is what it says on its homepage – a “simple, lightweight distribution”. I installed the Gnome desktop environment, and so for the first time I saw the upcoming Gnome 40 (only rolling release distros like Arch plus the new Fedora have that one). It even came with the default background(s) from the Gnome guys, so it more or less looked identical to their image:

Gnome 40 desktop view

So if you’re curious how Arch looks, and like me you prefer the Gnome desktop to others, have a look at the Gnome site.

Other than that it’s really pretty minimal, so I see Jeremy’s point – you more or less build (or install) what you need, nothing else, nothing less – the default environment even doesn’t have a printer. So sleek, minimalistic, yes it is. And sexy somehow.

So I tried and installed tools like Firefox, Thunderbird, and Ardour using Arch’s internal ‘pacman’ tool, and yes, all the latest versions including Ardour 6.7 which is only a few days old while I’m typing this. So this is a very easy and convenient way to getting the latest of everything indeed.

Would I need or even recommend it? Well about recommendations: for beginners, no – it’s much easier to recommend a standard Ubuntu or even Linux Mint (based upon Debian/Ubuntu but with more non-free stuff) to beginners than this – this is more for tinkerers who know exactly what they’ll want and/or need, and what not.

For me? Well having the latest and greatest does have its charm, but then there’s also not that much difference to, say, a Debian ‘Sid’ (unstable), and this. Both will give the latest stuff, and both will be managable by users who know their way around Linux, and how to react should things break or not work out immediately (think of greater transitions like from Gnome 2.x to 3.x) – but do I need this in my day-to-day usage of my own machine? I think not. I’m not that much interested in the system(s) per se, but want a reliable and configurable environment on which I can run my photo and music apps, handle mail and basic web browsing, all that day-to-day stuff. It’s not that sexy if you first have to deal with and fix your latest updates/upgrades rather than beginning whatever you wanted to do right away. So for me, a current Debian stable is just the way to go. Or, if you want something more recent, take Ubuntu (although the upcoming Debian 11 ‘Bullseye’ will be newer than the 20.04 LTS of Ubuntu of course), or any of its derivates (a friend from Paris takes ElementaryOS, a strikingly beautiful descendant of Ubuntu which looks a bit like MacOS).

To each their own as they say. Anyway, very cool and interesting to look over the proverbial fence, and to try out Arch. Somehow I still love its simplicity, and the idea behind it. So, if you want to see it, try it – recommended indeed. At least you’d never have to install a new version anymore… 🙂

Philosophically, Arch is a bit more lax compared to Debian concerning the ‘free’ (in free and open source), but both are more or less the opposite of ‘Enterprise’, which I like a lot. Both Arch and Debian are even a lot less commercial than Ubuntu, and unlike that (which is built by the staff from Canonical) they’re not companies, so they can’t be bought, sold, and ruined in any way, and I love just that. It’s a thing called ‘freedom’, and that has values far beyond monetary ones. Think about it.

As always, thanks for reading.

P.S.: While I’ve been at it, I could of course also have had a look at KDE Plasma – but ok, there are more rainy days to come, so… 😉

Upgraded to Mixbus v7

Yesterday I decided to upgrade my version 6 of Harrison Mixbus to their new version 7 – and just like my purchase of v6 I’ve got it at a discount, so until now I’ve spent 19€ for the first version and also 19€ for the upgrade – still cheap when considering the normal price of 90€ (plus 29€ for the upgrade) if you don’t get the discount. See their homepage, and also the Mixbus manual for more info.

I was quite happy with v6 already, but v7 seems to be even snappier. Like the latest versions of Ardour (6.7 at the time of writing) on which it is built, it has some quite nice features which you won’t find elsewhere, at least not built-in – take the targeted mastering approach for instance:

Mixbus/Ardour with a loudness target ‘Apple Music’ which translates to -16 LUFS and to -1dB true peak. A simple click with your mouse could change that to ‘Youtube’ which would be 2dB “hotter”, or to EBU R128 broadcasting standards (-23 LUFS and -1dBTP)

You can also save the master loudness analysis and the mixer settings automatically with each mixdown in ‘preferences’, so you’ll get something like this with your exported file(s):

Output analysis
Mixer settings

Most of that stuff can be done with Ardour which is a fantastic program of and by itself. It’s open source, but for a readily compiled version for Windows or MacOS you’ll have to spend an amount of your own choice (starting at $1).

The reason for me to also get/purchase Mixbus was first my curiosity about it, but in the end I’ve kept it because of its sound – *and* because the workflow is about the same as in Ardour which I knew and loved since years already, and which I’ll keep using anyway.

My latest mix and export with Mixbus v6 was ‘Colours’:

And people seem to love the sound of my upright in that one…

As always, thanks for reading.

Ardour 6.7 is out

The latest and greatest version 6.7 of Ardour, the open source DAW for Linux, Windows, and Mac is released. See the release notes, and download a readily compiled version for an amount of your own choice (starting at 1$). As a supporter I have it already. There are also a manual and a tutorial. That latter one is some years old already, but still useful if you’re new to recording multitrack audio with a computer.

Thanks to Paul Davis and to his team.

Always experimenting with audio

I wrote about buying both Reaper and Harrison Mixbus, but at the moment I’m back to plain old Ardour for my audio mixes – and I still keep changing things, like:

  • I changed from the version 5.12 which is the current version of Ardour in both Debian stable and also in KXStudio to 6.6 which will be the second last of the 6.x versions of Ardour (with the latest version being 6.7, soon to be released). This looks a bit like Mixbus which is based on Ardour 6.x, except the bells & whistles and the built-in eqs, compressors, and such.
  • I also changed from using lots of Calf tools to alternative ones which are making use of better (programmed) DSPs – those Calf plugins look nice, and are easy to understand, but sonically there are better ones I think.
  • In my latest remix I experimented with using 96kHz sampling rate while working, and used plain old CD quality 44.1kHz (and even the mp3 format which Ardour now can also write) for exports, except my single bass stems which I still exported as .wav files. This ‘oversampling’ is done more or less automatically by some better plugins, so I’ll go on working with 48kHz which is the norm for video and also the one used by many mobile devices (like phones).

Just in case you’re interested, at the moment I’m using:

Beside these, I’m also using:

Of course, I’m also still experimenting with Harrison Mixbus, but can’t do everything at once and for all projects – I still want to make music a bit as well… 😉

So much to learn, so little time… but I still love it when/if I approach better output quality along the way. One important thing to keep in mind is for instance gain staging – make very sure to not saturate your outputs too early, and to get your signal into the next plugin already too ‘hot’ for it to handle that signal… drive it hot at the output, not while still working 😉

As always, thanks for reading 🙂 And also thanks to those who donate their precious free time into developing awesome tools like the ones mentioned above, for free. Help them with a little donation if you can, they need the nice feedback like every other musician/technician as well…

I bought Mixbus

After supporting Ardour since a while, and also after purchasing Reaper because I used that on both Windows and Linux, I recently saw a note in the LinuxMusicians forum that currently Mixbus is on sale again. And following the link, it was indeed reduced by quite a margin, so I decided to get it. I mean, 19€ or $ or 17£, that’s a steal for this program – plus they are also the biggest sponsor of Ardour, that’s why I jumped on it.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, here’s a video ad from its makers:

Harrison Mixbus (v2)

It looks pretty on my desktop (a much newer version 6 compared to the video above:

Editor view of Harrison Mixbus
Mixer view of Harrison Mixbus

Pretty much identical to Ardour 6 on which it is based, plus some added polish / features / plugins. And it also comes for Windows and MacOS like Ardour.

I’m quite curious to see (or rather, hear) what things like their mixer with tape saturation etc. will do, so I’ll dig into that soon, and keep you informed.

As always, thanks for reading, and for viewing.

Updates, cheap frame grabbers, selfies

Sometime last week I read about a vulnerability of the Chrome browser which most of my colleagues – and according to my statistics also most of the visitors of this site – are using. So I sent them a short notice about it, and also upgraded my own versions of the Chrome and Chromium browsers on both Linux and Windows (tho I rarely use them, mostly for debugging if someone reports about errors or so).

There were also news about Windows updates, and that these might be important, so I did that as well – I have a dual boot machine here so if I interrupt the boot up process I can also start Windows 10 instead of Linux. This one might be tricky in case you have your Windows machine connected via WiFi – one of their last updates corrupted that (and they have another update for that alone). Anyway, better be safe and update, I did…

What I do *not* have on my main machine is a webcam for video conferencing, but I have tried droidcam which works fine even with an iPhone, I also tried their Linux client on my employers’ notebook (Lenovo P50 with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8), and that works.

But I also remembered that I have a much better camera, so I ordered one of these cheap frame grabbers (mine was 14€, you find them even cheaper by now):

These are detected automatically, no drivers needed. Here’s a screenshot from Ubuntu Studio where it even shows its name as ‘MACROSILICON USB Video’, and the ID 534d:2109 (on my Debian and Red Hat machines both of which have older kernels it leaves away the name but is detected and works just fine):

Rob Trek has a video about this one, and how to use it with Olympus cameras like mine:

He also had another one on how to use these cameras for live streaming and online conferencing with Skype, Zoom, Meet, and so on:

Very nice, although until now I can’t really get rid of the focus rectangles with that long press on the ‘Info’ button¹. But then again, Olympus never claimed the E-M10 Mk2 to have a clean HDMI output, so this is what you should look out for when deciding onto a new camera with which you’d also like to live stream – the quality of all of these is *much* better than your typical webcam… (the one in the Lenovo P50 is horrible).

¹Edit: if I turn off face/eye detection, C-AF on, and then select not one focus point/box but all – pretty much the whole screen – then I get a clean HDMI out for streaming. Cool; works for me without having to get just another camera…

Speaking about cameras, I was using mine a bit more often lately, but since I can’t always photograph our cat, and since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, I mostly pointed it onto myself – like here for instance:

7e5_2083303-me-as-lester
Me as “Lester the Nightfly”, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2021
Listen to the original
7e5_2123333-yet-another-self-portrait
Yet another self portrait, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2021

As you see I also went wider as usual – 50mm-equivalent in the first, and 28mm-equivalent in the second shot, and I used two of my studio strobes for better colour and definition. So if you don’t have a good looking model, you can at least use good lighting which is the second most important thing in photography 🙂 No reason to not be creative just because you can’t go out that much, is it?

As always, thanks for reading, viewing, and watching (or listening). Be well and stay safe everyone, and take care…

Ardour and Reaper

Since I got my audio interface and a studio condenser microphone to record my own voice for videos, I was using Ardour as my main program for recording on my Debian Linux machine. I have tried the Windows version as well, even the new 6.3 one lately, but in my opinion this free and open source tool runs best on an operating system like Debian which is also free and open source, and I think it’s natively developed on Linux as well.

With the audio interface I had gotten some free goodies like for instance the very nice XLN Audio Addictive Keys Studio Grand (what a name!) sampled Steinway grand piano – a 90$ value in itself. I had tried it, loved it, and also installed it on Linux where Windows VSTs need an additional layer to work. It does work, but of course it puts some load onto the machine that way, which is counter-productive in a near realtime usage like music. I’m no pianist, so for me the Salamander Grand, a Yamaha C5 nicely sampled by Alexander Holm was almost equally good. Plus it is under a Creative Commons license, and it runs natively as a soundfont on Linux.

Then I’ve got some more free plugins (and they keep coming if you buy an audio interface from Focusrite, thank you very much to that company!), but like most if not all freebies such as these – they exist for Windows, and for the Mac, and that’s it. So Windows, hm, never was doing much in there…

… I had tried Reaper since version 5 or even earlier, but since I never do much on Windows anyway, that trial version was just laying around mostly unused, and the 30 day trial period was way over, although I had only started it a couple of times. So when I learned about some really cool tricks and about the new version 6.x of Reaper, I decided to pay for it and to license it – it’s no free software like Ardour (which I also support nevertheless). And so I installed Reaper 6 both on Windows and also on Linux (which I also hadn’t done before). For my last two collaborations with other musicians from Wikiloops (see below), I’ve used both Reaper *and* Ardour.

There are many reasons to have them both – first Ardour, since it is open source, runs on Linux, Windows, and Macs, and because a download of a compiled version for Windows or Macintosh machines start at 1$ (or now 1€? Forgot…) – but if you’re fair, and can afford it, you can pay more of course. Ardour is wonderful.

But Reaper has a few things which really save you some time, or which can’t be done at all in Ardour. Take video as an example – yes, in Ardour you can have a video timeline in case you’re making some music for it, but in Reaper you can actually *edit* video. See one of Kenny Gioia’s videos (and he has lots which is another reason to use Reaper) about that:

This is REAPER 6 – Video Editing (13/15)

So you don’t really have to go and to use kdenlive or other programs for simple editing like this, which is cool. And that is just one of many things.

Adam Steel tells us a bit more (but his mentioning of Sonarworks on the monitoring only is what I’m also using in Ardour since I have it):

Why I Love Reaper with Adam Steel!

So no matter if its free or commercial plugins, or any of the tricks Reaper can do but which are difficult to impossible to realise on other DAWs (even ProTools), there’s a reason to try it. Some of my friends over at Wikiloops also use and love Reaper, so in case you can’t or you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars or euros on programs like Cubase or ProTools, you should have a look at these two – Ardour, and Reaper. Best would be a combination of both of them.

As always, thanks for reading.