Thanks to Vladimir Sadovnikov (aka Nightly Code), and to Stefano Tronci (aka CrocoDuck)

Yesterday I praised Chris Johnson for one of his Airwindows plugins, and yes, the man is clearly a genius. But so are both Vladimir Sadovnikov and also Stefano Tronci who together are the main (or sole?) developers of the LSP Plugins. And these also sound amazing and have almost entirely replaced the Calf Plugins I’ve used before.

I have thanked CrocoDuck before after he tested a Behringer interface and compared it to his former Focusrite one – and then I went and bought said Behringer for my brother. And Vladimir – much like Geoffrey Bennett – seems to be constantly working on the device drivers for Focusrite interfaces in the Linux kernel, so thanks for that as well.

I totally understood this as well – greetings to my Russian friend over there! Invited him to Wikiloops where music brings us all together…

As always, thanks for reading.

Which Linux version(s) would I recommend? (And which one(s) am I using myself?)

I often was asked this question, mostly by (now former) colleagues, and sometimes also by family and friends. And since my journey through the different versions and flavours of Linux and Unix (mostly Solaris and the BSDs) was quite a curvy one, and I arrived at my current state and choice through recommendations/suggestions/encouragements myself, I thought I should probably write about it.

First, you have to decide whether you’re a total beginner, and what your reasons and preferences to thinking about switching to Linux are, or to anything else than the big mainstream operating systems like Windows and/or MacOS. And since the question about which Linux to choose is mostly asked by beginners, let me give kind of a quick & dirty (which is a joke! It doesn’t tell anything about the quality of the following!) advice first:

  • Beginners:

Use Ubuntu, full stop.

There are many reasons why you should start with a simple solution and choice like Ubuntu, but the first and maybe most important one is the sheer size of it, the numbers of people who download, try, and give advice and tips about this free operating system. Don’t get me wrong, there’s also criticism about it, but that’s mostly by people who already have seen and used other distributions. As a beginner, you can’t go wrong with Ubuntu, and you will always find help in case you’ll encounter some problem which you can’t find handled in the help files already.

Ubuntu looks very different from other operating systems, both commercial and free ones – it is now based on Gnome 3 but still applies its own look & feel onto it. There’s another distribution which is based upon Ubuntu (which in turn is based upon Debian, but more to that later), and which has a certain degree of eye candy and might appeal to people who like the look of MacOS, and that is

Elementary OS.

I myself had only a brief encounter with it so far, but a friend from Paris uses and seems to like it a lot. My first impression (of only minutes, so maybe not very valuable) was that it indeed is pretty like MacOS, but to me it seemed to be similarly restricted in a way that I’d have had to find out how to use other tools and programs than the ones which are delivered with it out of the box. Too much effort for me for just a bit of eye candy, so I gave up quickly, but if you like it, give it a try, YMMD…

By the way, about this “give it a try“: you can download so-called “Live Images” of most of the distributions I’ll mention here, with the exception of just one. That means that if you download the offered live image and put it onto a bootable medium like a CD or DVD or a USB stick (search for “Rufus” if you are on Windows), you can boot from these media and try any of these distributions (except one) without even touching your already installed system – so there’s no harm done if you decide that you do not like what you see. Go and try the next one, or give up – it’s all about choice.

So what is my first choice, and the system I’m using since about 20 years and counting? I’ll cover that under a new chapter like:

  • Intermediate users:

I’m using Debian GNU/Linux since before my youngest was born. I’ve had it on servers and on my own desktop and notebook machines since a former colleague from Austria suggested to have a look (Thanks Peter!), I first got the feeling and urge to give something back with using this distribution – which is what I did – and now even some relatives like my brother are running it (although my wife and daughter are both still on Ubuntu, see my recommendation above).

Debian comes in three different versions, called “stable”, “testing”, and “unstable” (plus some additional ones like “experimental”, but that is beyond this article). I’m using “stable” because that is what I want – a stable operating system which never breaks, and which lets me concentrate on what I want or need to do, instead of dealing with my OS.

The disadvantage about being stable is that Debian never has the newest stuff. There are some exceptions, so core applications like web browsers or mail clients (Firefox-ESR and Thunderbird in my case) follow the “upstream” development and they do get updates, but in case you always want the latest and greatest, then Debian stable might not be the right choice for you. The release cycles of Debian are quite long – their release team members are proud of their choice to “release when we’re ready” – so if you want or need anything more current, you probably need to look elsewhere. Or try Debian “testing” or even “unstable”, don’t be afraid of these names because Ubuntu and others are based on them (but they still take out some headaches you might get when simply choosing one of these without being able to deal with problems yourselves).

So for something newer and more current, I’d suggest to look at some distributions which use a so-called rolling release model. That’s a bit like Debian “unstable” (also called “Sid” because that is the boy from the neighbourhood in the film “Toy Story” who always breaks toys), but some of these rolling release distros are still a bit polished, and you’ll get some kind of hand-holding. Like for instance with

Manjaro Linux. Manjaro is based upon Arch Linux, and like it it follows a rolling release path, using its own repositories, which is why you might compare the relations of Manjaro and Arch to the ones of Ubuntu and Debian – think of it just as a more beginner-friendly version of Arch. There are others like for instance EndeavourOS who don’t even use own repositories (I think, only tried it briefly as well), but the closer you’ll get to Arch itself, the more you might ask yourself if you really need some kind of friendly installer and polish, or if you’d rather learn – and that brings me to the

  • “Pro” users,

and to:

Arch Linux itself, which is my second choice, and my “testbed” for newer stuff like pipewire, new kernels, and so on. Arch is the only mentioned distribution which does not provide any live image, so what you boot into is the installer (text based), and although Arch now has an arch-installer script, this one is very rudimentary at this moment, so in case you’d like to keep other operating systems which you already have on your hard disk / SSD, you’ll have to go through the very well documented manual installation, and to put in stops and detours in case you’d like to have a dual or triple boot system like I do.

Arch was first mentioned to me by my son Jeremy, and I’m glad he did (thanks son!). It is really nice if you can just reboot into some fresh OS to try out things for which you might need another kernel or architecture or whatever. But it will also teach you about how little you know, so you’ll have to bring the urge to learn something new, or else this won’t be much fun. The package manager still is – for me – not as intuitive as “apt”, Debian/Ubuntu’s “Advanced Packaging Tool”, but it’s still far better IMO than Red Hat’s notoriously well-known “RPM hell” (and yes I know, both Fedora and Red Hat plus others like Suse now have programs and tools to resolve dependencies, good for them, but I prefer to avoid commercial stuff, thank you very much) – but hey, did I say something about learning new stuff? And for that you can’t have much more than Arch’s Wiki which is one of the best I’ve seen so far.

  • Conclusion

So there you have it. On my current boot drive (a 1TB SSD) I have a triple boot setup where I started with an Arch image to create an UEFI partition big enough to hold boot loaders for three systems (and I’ve learnt about that from Arch as well), then installed Windows 10 Pro, Arch, and Debian onto it, so when I now switch on my machine it will boot into Debian if I don’t interrupt that to select something else. In the future, Windows will be wiped off of my drive (won’t install something like Win11), but I’ll probably keep both Arch and Debian because these are my choices. Debian for its stability and for “daily work”, Arch to learn, and to try out new things.

No spyware. Like I wrote, Linux is about choice. But so would be any of the BSDs if you’d want something even more “exotic”.

Hope that helped answering some question(s), and as always, thanks for reading. Oh, and by the way, of course I have written this on one of the mentioned systems, which in this case was Arch Linux.

P.S., from Monday March 21st, 2022: in case you want Debian stable but still need some newer package(s), have a look at its backports pages, and follow the instructions.

P.P.S, from Monday March 28th, 2022: the new and upcoming Arch Installer script looks pretty neat, see https://github.com/archlinux/archinstall/releases/tag/v2.4.0.rc1 – that should/could probably help those who would like to use plain Arch without going the manual way…

Focusrite on Linux

I’m using my Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd generation audio interface under Linux since years, it was and is USB class compliant, so no worries there.

In case you want to know how to set up a newer 3rd generation interface, look at Unfa’s video review of the Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen. on LINUX (Tutorial and Review)

And on LinuxMusicians, Geoffrey Bennett just announced his new control panel gui for these interfaces, see also his github pages.

Cool stuff. I’m using his drivers already, but the gui needs gtk4 and a kernel 5.14 or newer, so this should work on my Arch but not yet on my Debian partition. Doesn’t matter since I can also change the interface settings using qasmixer, even if that isn’t as nice as his one.

Cool stuff! Thanks Geoffrey and Unfa and the kernel team and everyone 🙂 Did I say that free software rocks?

Please update your kernels

See the article about it in ArsTechnica and elsewhere – Golem for instance, in case you want to read about it in German. And then update your kernels, please. I cannot speak for all distros, but both Debian and Arch provide kernels which aren’t vulnerable against ‘DirtyPipe’. So don’t get bitten by this please.

Thank you.

Thanks for this new kernel, guys…

I’m glad that when I last bought a new SSD for my machine (in August 2021 I think) I set up that boot SSD as a triple boot system, with Win10 just for a few programs (Olympus/OM System, looking at you), my usual workhorse Debian GNU/Linux, but also Arch Linux which is a “rolling release” type Linux distribution, so you’ll always have the latest and greatest software within days or even hours – a bit like Debian “Sid”/unstable.

So yesterday I updated Arch again, and got a new kernel – and after a reboot, the sensors were all working:

Screenshot from 2022-03-08 09-41-08
Arch Linux with kernel 5.16.12-arch1-1

That was a bit of a surprise since there was this bug concerning sensord in conjunction with some chips which are used on Asus mainboards such as mine or Mitchie’s (I’m always using Asus when building machines). So finally, after 8 or 9 years I can see the rotation speed of the CPU and case fans again, plus some other things.

This doesn’t show up on Debian of course:

Screenshot from 2022-03-08 09-34-31
Debian GNU/Linux 11 (Bullseye) with kernel 5.10.0-11-amd64

There’s a reason to run Debian stable on your desktop. While I enjoy seeing all the progress with pipewire and other programs on Arch, I’m also not afraid to break something with these updates, because I still have my trusty old Debian which serves me well since I first used it (in 2008 or even earlier? Would have to dig the internet archive for my articles about this)…

So it will take a while (I think even “Sid” is still at linux-image-5.15, and so are derivates like Ubuntu & Co), but sooner or later this kernel version will also be available in Debian. And that’s why I wanted to send a “thank you” to all the kernel developers, and of course also the Arch team. Great work, everyone. 🙂

In Time – Wikiloops track #168792 (but with some BBC images and footage)

Can’t make this public on YT due to negotiations with the BBC – but I can still use it on my private blog as they confirmed…

…so thanks go out to Dr.Whom for his awesome composition, to Shi for the lyrics and for her sweet vocals, and to the BBC Cymru for providing us with such great shows.

The video mainly shows my desktop with the free and open source Ardour DAW (digital audio workstation) running, but also provides some images and videos by the BBC:

In Time – Wikiloops track #168792 (but with some BBC images and footage)

Original audio is on Wikiloops. Enjoy, and thanks for reading, and for listening and viewing.

(Another four and a half billion years, as “Clara” says here, and I will still love this song. “Love is eternal”, as Shi sings…) 🙂 <3

Ten years (and one day) ago…

Ten years and one day ago, Cathy, a good friend, wrote this on her blog while or after she was going out for dinner with her husband. In 2008 I had the honour to join them, and so I opened the European / German headquarters of ZaReason. Great days indeed. Building desktops and notebooks / laptops with Linux pre-installed (so you didn’t have to) was fun.

I left them again in 2009 to work for IBM, the European ZaReason branch first went to the Netherlands and then was shut down, and sadly in the end of 2020 they went out of business. And since some giant companies like Dell or even Lenovo started selling pre-installed Linux laptops, I’m not sure if they could have survived much longer.

But see – we knew that there was a point to it, and today Linux is really running everywhere. Even on the ISS, and on Mars. And still on my desktop and on our servers, and last time I asked Zuleikha (now 17), she didn’t want anything else as well. Why should we?

And since I built a new computer for my wife in the beginning of February, we gave her old one – the European ZaReason machine #1 which is still working like a charm btw – to my brother in Cologne. Looks like this (in an Antec Sonata Designer case):

As always, thanks for reading. And greetings to Cathy and to her whole family.