The Linux Audio Conference 2004

A report from Karlsruhe on the second annual event.

The 2nd annual Linux audio software conference took place again at the wonderful ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnology) in Karlsruhe, Germany, from April 29 through May 2. Last year's conference was successful enough to acquire greater sponsorship this year, with significant contribution from ZKM itself and SuSE. Community support was much expanded, with more than 30 presentations and workshops, four concerts, a dance and a final round-table discussion.

Given the necessary restrictions of publication, it is not possible to relate more than a superficial account of the conference, so I limit myself here to enumerating the topics and giving brief reports where applicable. If this conference suffered from any fault it had to be the sheer number of presentations. Due to the quantity of topics, it was necessary to schedule parallel presentations, so no one could attend every presentation. Of course, this was no real fault at all; if the organizers had not scheduled simultaneous presentations, the conference could have lasted for eight days instead of four. This might have been pleasing to the participants but it certainly would have exhausted even the formidable patience and resources of the conference hosts and organizers.

The quality and depth of the presentations naturally varied, and the overall tone of discourse was technical without being obscure. Presenters came from almost every European nation, and all presented in English with skills at least passable and more often quite good--better than many of my countrymen, in fact. At no time did I find myself straining to understand what was said, and I must thank all the topic presenters for their English-speaking efforts.

In addition to the officially scheduled presentations, many impromptu BOF (birds of a feather) sessions were announced. Some of those sessions were attended as heavily as the official topics, and I suspect we'll see some of them attain official status next year. Hardware manufacturers were represented by the makers of the Lionstracs Mediastation X76 and the Hartmann Neuron synthesizers. Other hardware manufacturers were present as attendees, so perhaps next year we'll see an expansion of hardware-focused presentations.

By the way, I must confess that I found it difficult to attend some presentations simply because I was meeting so many new friends and having so many interesting conversations. Often I looked at the clock only to find that I had missed a topic completely while engaged in an absorbing impromptu dialog, and I suspect I'm not the only person who had that problem.

Day 1

My own pace of activity was defined by the circumstances of my arrival in Karlsruhe. The train from the Frankfurt airport rolled into the Karlsruhe station at 10:59 AM, my keynote address was scheduled to begin at 11:00 AM, so six minutes after arriving in Karlsruhe I was in a lecture hall at ZKM, ready to deliver the kickoff speech. From that time until Sunday evening, my life was a whirlwind of presentations, meetings, workshops and lengthy late-night conversations. Like last year, I averaged about five hours of sleep per night, yet I must admit that this pace was more exhilarating than exhausting.

My kickoff speech was followed by presentations by Jaroslav Kysela and Takashi Iwai. Both developers are core ALSA programmers, so their presentations naturally focused on the advances and future of the ALSA sound system. ALSA is now the default sound system for the Linux kernel. Jaroslav provided a brief overview of ALSA's history in the past year, while Takashi's presentation focused on user-level troubleshooting techniques, illustrating many great tools for newbies and those of us who are not-so-newbies.

Paul Davis is perhaps the most widely respected Linux audio developer, both for his outstanding contributions to the software base as the chief architect of the Ardour and JACK projects and for his generosity and civility towards his colleagues. His first presentation gave us a look at his recent libfst project, a system for seamlessly integrating VST/VSTi plugins into the Linux audio software universe. VST/VSTi plugins are fundamental to the Windows/Mac audio software worlds, and their incorporation into Linux is a win for everyone. Incidentally, Paul's project builds upon work begun by Kjetil Matheussen at Norway's NoTAM and expanded by Torben Hohn, author of the gAlan system.

Developer Bob Ham revealed plans for his Linux Audio Session Handler (LASH), a system for saving and restoring the states of and connections between any number of LASH-aware audio applications. LASH is a much-needed system. As Linux audio applications continue to subscribe to the JACK bus, a means for saving and restoring their states becomes most valuable. Restoring the connections for a few applications is not particularly burdensome, but as more applications are used the LASH system becomes a necessity. LASH is still in its infancy, and interested developers are urged to contact Bob Ham through the Linux Audio Developers mail list (see Resources).

Fernando Pablo Lopez-Lezcano is best known to the Linux audio software community as the developer and maintainer of the Planet CCRMA packages, a set of RPMs designed to make a simpler entry point for new users interested in learning about Linux audio software. However, Fernando is also a respected composer and teacher, and his topic presentation focused on his use of the Lisp programming language in the Common Music and Common Lisp Music music composition and synthesis environment. This presentation was successful enough to warrant a BOF workshop, a good indicator of interest in the subject and Fernando's abilities as an enthusiastic instructor.

Day 1's final presentation came from Thomas Grill. Thomas presented his flext system, which writers of external additions for the popular Max/MSP and Pd sound synthesis systems can use to write code-compatible versions of their extensions. Flext especially is valuable in light of the fact that Max/MSP is commercial while Pd is free software.

As the television commercials say, "But wait, that's not all!". Day 1 ended with the first of four scheduled concerts, presenting works by Michael Edwards, Ludger Brummer, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano and Orm Finnendahl. All the pieces were composed with the use of free software tools, and each piece had its singular attractions. The overall style could perhaps be summarized as "non-beat-oriented electroacoustic music", and while it may not be to everyone's liking I'm quite fond of such music and I greatly enjoyed this concert. I must add that all the conference concerts took place in ZKM's extraordinary Kubus, a marvelous hall designed for performance and recording.

______________________

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

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Next year's conference: video

Anonymous's picture

Please consider a video recording of next year's conference. Especially for the music-making demonstrations.

To Authors: point Lionstracs to http://www.lionstracs.com

Anonymous's picture

To authors please correct the link:
The Lionstracs Mediastation X76 link should point to
http://www.lionstracs.com , currently it points to the hartmann site which is wrong.

Lionstracs Mediastation URL correction

Anonymous's picture

Sorry, it should have been:

www.lionstracs.com

Re: The Linux Audio Conference 2004

Anonymous's picture

In the world of Linux Audio, what are the preferences for kernel version and configuration? In particular, it is better to use kernels with preemption enabled, disabled, or does it not matter? Or, when does it matter, and for what? I heard from one developer that to get 8 channels of 96 kHz audio without dropouts, low-latency is a must and preemption is a must not!

Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

At this time the 2.6 kernels are being tested for latency issues. Opinions are a bit conflicting WRT 2.6, but you can certainly do very well with a properly configured 2.4.x kernel. I strongly urge new users to try either the AGNULA Demudi or Planet CCRMA systems: they come with pre-configured kernels, ALSA drivers, and a large selection of some of the best Linux audio software. You can check out those systems at http://www.agnula.org and http://ccrma.stanford.edu/planetccrma/software/. You might also consider trying out one of the new "live" discs from Dynebolic, Apodio, or AGNULA, they seem like a good way to test the waters before diving in...

Dynebolic is at http://dynebolic.org, Apodio can be found at http://www.apodio.org.

Best,

dp

Re: Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

APODIO-3.0.8 available!

APODIO is a live bootable cd, containing major audio tools (under Gnu/Linux) and a whole operating system (based on Mandrake 10.1) working from boot, without the need to install or change anything on the hard disk. You can try it out very easily and if you like it you can simply install it directly on your harddisk and run it locally. And if you whish, you can make your own apodio version.

website : http://www.apodio.org
forum : http://www.apo33.org/forum/

We resolve our mirrors problems, now APODIO is downloadable faster than before and on different servers :

ibiblio.org
surfet.nl
nluug.nl

and soon available on

sourceforge.net
globenet.org
and others...

you could have any informations on APODIO download mirrors at http://www.apo33.org/apodio/wakka.php?wiki=DownLoad

basic rpm lists : http://www.apo33.org/pub/Installedpkgs.list
http://www.apo33.org/apodio/wakka.php?wiki=SoftsListe

(coming soon docs, helps & tutorials on audio software available on APODIO 3.0.8)

Re: Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the informative article. I'm all excited to try some of this stuff now!

The link to Apodio in the article didnt work but this latter one is fine.

availability of photos and recordings

Anonymous's picture

there have been problems during the conference with the proper splitting of the recordings. as a consequence, we have to dig through several gigabytes of ogg files and splice them by hand, which takes some time.
please check http://linuxaudiodev.org/eventszkm2004.php3 frequently or browse the /contrib/zkm_meeting_2004 directory - the recordings will be uploaded one by one as we finish them.

photos will become available as people send them to me (hint, hint :).

best,

j

Re: The Linux Audio Conference 2004

Anonymous's picture

Just a few notes...

Some of the audio files for the conference are already online:
http://www.linuxdj.com/audio/lad/contrib/zkm_meeting_2004/recordings/

Dave didn't mention it, but the slides for most of the presentations were available during the conference for those attending virtually. They are still there for anyone else to view:
http://www.linuxdj.com/audio/lad/contrib/zkm_meeting_2004/slides/

A few other treats:
http://www.linuxdj.com/audio/lad/contrib/zkm_meeting_2004/

Frank Neumann announced on #lad on irc.freenode.net today the dates for next year's conference:
(14:39:28) AudioFranky: Oh, btw..everyone: 3rd Linux Audio Conference will be @ZKM, Karlsruhe, April 21st-24th, 2005

Lastly, I can't thank Joern Nettingsmeier enough, not only for the live audio feed, but also for the 0.1fps webcams and for being eyes, ears and voice for those of us attending virtually on irc. I think many of us actually had a pretty good time hanging out in the conference chats.

It was indeed an inspirational event for me and I wasn't even there. I'm already looking forward to next year.

-Eric Rz.

Neuron

florin's picture

Wow, the Neuron is based on Linux! That's surprising. After reading the reviews in magazines and stuff, i thought it was based on Windows or something. :-)
Great article, thanks.

Re: Neuron

Anonymous's picture

In their presentation they said the system inside is an install of
Gentoo gnu/linux. Apparantly their own synthesis software and exactly
what hardware is inside it are trade secrets they weren't willing to
divulge. Some sort of x86 something or other, I think. It sounded really
cool, even over the merely stereo ogg vorbis stream. Those who were
there in person got to hear it in surround sound (5.1?).

-Eric Rz.

Re: The Linux Audio Conference 2004

Anonymous's picture

In the interests of accuracy, my Ardour demo crashed not because of an errant plugin but because I was hacking the software on the flight across the Atlantic and didn't realize a nasty side effect of my changes. I had tested the demo a few times after I arrived in Karlsruhe, but I got lucky and did not run into the problem I myself had created ... until the demo itself. Sigh.

Paul "post-facto truth in advertising" Davis

Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the clarification, Paul.

Ja, my laptop worked fine until moments before I had to use it for my presentation. There must be some sort of "demo voodoo vibe" that gets to those machines at just that moment you really need them to work...

Best,

dp

Re: The Linux Audio Conference 2004

torbenh's picture

hi dave.
i did not read through the article yet.
have to post some corrections first:

- i am not THE author of gAlan.
gAlan 0.2.2 was written by Tony Garnock Jones.
(now that galan is 0.3.0 and 0.2 went to 0.2.14 i have touched almost
every piece of code, but the core engine was written by tony)
i am not sure how to phrase this fact correctly.

- and i would consider libfst as a joint effort of paul and me, which is based on Kjetils work.

Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

Hi Torben:

Thanks for the clarifications, I apologize for the confusion.

To column readers: A new release of gAlan has appeared, with support for libfst. gAlan is very cool Linux audio software, check it out !

Best,

dp

Re: The Linux Audio Conference 2004

Anonymous's picture

Hello,

The JAAA link in this article goes to the American Academy of Audiology. I'd be honored to know they use my software, but
AFAIK they have nothing to do with it !!!

Fons Adriaensen

Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

Hi Fons:

Ja, that's my bad. I was looking for the appropriate URL and I think I've confused JAAAs. Where should I look for "JAAA" as regards your presentation on audio measurement ? Please post a correction ! :)

Best,
dp

Re: Author's reply

Anonymous's picture

This is Fons' page:

http://users.skynet.be/solaris/linuxaudio/

-Eric Rz.

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