Judgement Day: Studio Dave Tests Ubuntu Studio 9.04

I need at least one i386 installation here at Studio Dave because some production software is not yet 64-bit ready, and I happen to need that software. SuperCollider3 can run on a 64-bit system, but only after some tricky maneuvers; the label printing programs for my Lightscribe drive are 32-bit only; and VST/VSTi audio plugins still work best in a pure 32-bit system. My main production machine runs a pure 64-bit distribution (64 Studio), but an i386 box is still required for the complete Studio Dave.

The Road To Jaunty

I already have one such system here. My secondary desktop machine runs the excellent Jacklab Audio Distribution (JAD), based on the rather old OpenSUSE 10.2. However, JAD has not been updated for a while, and I need an up-to-date distro. The 64 Studio developers also make a 32-bit "legacy" version of their product, but I wanted to try a new flavor. Enter Ubuntu Studio.

I've already chronicled my recent experience with Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex). Given the overall hassles I encountered then you might wonder why I returned to any variety of Ubuntu. Well, the most recent Ubuntu Studio is based on the latest Ubuntu 9.04 (the Jaunty Jackalope), with a tested realtime kernel, so I thought it might be a good time to revisit the system.

I planned to install Ubuntu Jaunty on my notebook, an HP G60 machine with an AMD64 Turion X2 CPU, 3G memory, and a 250G hard disk. Video is handled by an integrated nVidia 8200M GPU, on-board sound is managed by an nVidia chip based on Intel's HDA codec. I had already installed Ubuntu 8.10 on the machine, but I decided to install Jaunty from a DVD. Turns out that was not such a good decision, and thus began my most recent series of trials and tribulations with Ubuntu.

I downloaded the ISO images for the i386 and x86_64 Jaunty installers, checked their md5 sums, and burned them to DVD discs. As noted, I especially wanted the i386 version so I tried installing it first. Everything went along nicely until I received an error message that stated that the installation had failed at the Select & Install Software stage. I retried that step via the installation menu, but it failed again. I then tried moving on to the next step of installing grub, but the installer failed again with the same non-specific error, only this time for the grub step. I tried to back out of that step but the error message wouldn't close. Fortunately I could still access the installation menu, so I opted to abort the installation.

I tried the installation again, this time with the x86_64 installer, and had exactly the same experience, i.e. the same errors at the same stages. At that point I was left with a hosed partition and no usable Jaunty. At least the installer didn't hose my 64 Studio partition and I could still boot into that system without problems. After some research I discovered that indeed the DVD installers are flawed in some way, though the md5checksums were correct and the media integrity checks reported no problems with the discs.

I searched Google and figured out that I would have been better off to have simply upgraded from my Intrepid installation, so I re-installed Ubuntu 8.10 and went directly to its Update Manager. I clicked on the big button that said "Upgrade to Jaunty" and let the network installer do its thing. After a while my notebook had a brand new Ubuntu Jaunty system (kernel 2.6.28-11-generic), so I rebooted, logged in, and started to organize the system for eventual use as the base system for Ubuntu Studio.

First, I installed the latest nVidia driver from the Hardware Drivers panel. I rebooted, but no nVidia splash screen appeared. The nvidia-settings utility said that the nVidia driver was not in use and advised running the nvidia-xconfig program to correctly set up X for full graphics hardware acceleration. I ran the config program, rebooted the machine, and this time the nVidia splash screen appeared signalling that all was well with the nVidia hardware. I had attained Jaunty status.

On To Ubuntu Studio

At the next stage I added all the Ubuntu Studio meta packages. These packages are simply lists of the software required by the specialized distribution. For example, the audio package includes a good selection of audio-related software, along with a 2.6.28 kernel optimized and patched for realtime performance. After these packages were installed I rebooted, selected the rt kernel from the grub menu, and soon encountered the next batch of troubles.

The first problem occurred when the system stalled at the Ubuntu Studio logo display. However, on reboot the system made it past the logo screen and I finally arrived at the login prompt, complete with an apparently working nVidia driver. I logged in, looked around for a while, then exited and restarted. Once again I made it to the login page, but after I logged in the system froze completely as soon as the Ubuntu workspace appeared. By "completely" I mean that the mouse and keyboard were unresponsive. I had to press the power switch to shut down the system. Not a good outcome.

I rebooted with the normal system kernel (non-realtime), logged in, and experienced the same problem. My first thought was to blame the closed-source nVidia driver. I did some research on Google and the Ubuntu forums, and I soon discovered that other users had reported the same tribulations on machines with non-nVidia graphics chipsets. The consensus was that the problem did not lie with the video subsystem. To verify that consensus I followed an interesting suggestion. Since I could get to the graphic login screen I could also switch to a console display where I could log in at the terminal prompt. I installed the OpenSSH server software, logged on to the machine from a desktop box, and used X forwarding to verify that the system was there and viable. Programs ran happily with their GUIs intact, so it seemed that nVidia was off the hook with regards to my basic problem.

Following suggestions found in my research I added these kernel boot options to the realtime kernel's entry in /boot/grub/menu.lst:

  nosmp acpi=off pnpbios=off

Incidentally, the acpi option required the pnpbios option. When I booted with only the nosmp and acpi options the boot loader issued a fatal error message that advised using the pnpbios=off setting, I tried it, and voila, the system was now open and available for business. I logged in without troubles with either the mouse or keyboard. At last I could start to explore Ubuntu Studio. Alas, my expectations were quickly soured when I tried running QJackCtl. It failed to connect to the JACK server, and I was pretty sure I knew why. As it turns out, I was correct. The problem was Pulseaudio.

Resolving The Pulseaudio Problem

A word or two about Pulseaudio. The normal Linux desktop wants a sound server for various purposes such as system alerts and support for regular sound applications such as media players. As with some other aspects of Linux we now have too many solutions for that purpose, and the result has been a very messy affair. Developers are faced with an embarrassment of choices, and those choices are most certainly not equal in capabilities or intended purposes. As a result, confusion reigns when it comes to Linux sound servers. Pulseaudio attempts to resolve many issues, but in doing so it has become an issue itself. Pulseaudio itself is not necessarily a bad or even problematic thing. However, its implementation can be very problematic indeed.

As I said, I could at last boot into Ubuntu Studio. However, the alsamixer utility showed only two active audio channels (master volume and I forget what else, sorry). No other controls were present as far as I could tell. Following another bit of advice I looked into the depths of /var/log/user.log and found a stream of these errors:

  pulseaudio[3519]: alsa-util.c: Cannot find fallback mixer control "Mic" or mixer control is no combination of switch/volume
  pulseaudio[3519]: alsa-util.c: Cannot find fallback mixer control "PCM" or mixer control is no combination of switch/volume
  pulseaudio[3519]: alsa-util.c: Device plug:front:1 doesn't support 44100 Hz, changed to 48000

Ubuntu Studio employs Pulseaudio as its default sound server. Unfortunately this employment stands in the way of directly using JACK, and any Linux distribution that advertises itself as an audio production system will assuredly be using JACK for its audio server, not Pulseaudio. The typical solution would simply remove Pulseaudio, but Ubuntu doesn't let that happen without removing the GNOME desktop, a rather drastic operation. Worse, the Pulseaudio daemon is persistent, so killall pulseaudio works only until the next call to the audio system, when the daemon reloads itself and remains in the way of a successful launch of JACK. Fortunately I discovered an excellent HOWTO titled Keeping The Beast Pulseaudio At Bay by a user with the handle of idyllictux. Thanks to his instructions I safely disabled Pulseaudio, and I recommend his advice to anyone who wants to put aside Pulseaudio.

By the way, I want to emphasize that I have nothing against Pulseaudio per se. Its developers have taken on a terribly difficult task, and I believe that they are working hard to make it the system sound server of preference for the mainstream Linux distributions. However, it does not currently suit my purposes, and its current implementation in Ubuntu creates problems for me. The advice from idyllictux resolves the matter nicely. Perhaps his suggested process could be offered as a configuration option to the advanced user ? Until the problem is resolved on the distro side I'm afraid that Pulseaudio will take heat from users who are unaware that the problem may occur because of the distribution's implementation of the server, not with any particular aspect of Pulseaudio itself.

More Configuration Trickery

My experiences with Ubuntu Intrepid taught me a few other tricks that were necessary before I could be happy about this new Jaunty-based Ubuntu Studio. I removed the network manager (easily done with the Synaptic package manager) and set up the default network device (eth0) for autoconnection via dhcp at system start-up. I disabled HAL polling on /dev/sdb and /dev/sr0, neither of which were listed in /etc/fstab. The polling was causing an xrun every 2 seconds (verified with the top utility). I turned off my machine's touchpad, but only after discovering that the solutions I used for Intrepid no longer worked with Jaunty. Thankfully, the solution was this simple one-line addition to /etc/rc.local:

  modprobe -r psmouse

Shazam, no more random touchpad irritations. By the way, in case anyone was wondering why I didn't just use the administration tool for the mouse/touchpad: No tab or other dialog was present for controlling the touchpad, so I was left to manually reconfigure the thing.

A more serious problem presented itself when I discovered that JACK would not start in realtime mode. Surprisingly, Ubuntu Studio doesn't automatically create an audio group, so I had to open the dialog at System->Administration->Users and Groups, create the group, and add myself to it. I also had to edit /etc/security/limits.conf to add these instructions :

  @audio - rtprio 99
  @audio - nice -19
  @audio - memlock unlimited

I restarted the system, logged in, configured and started QJackCtl, and behold, I was in realtime heaven. Figure 1 shows the settings I use for 8 milli-seconds latency with no xruns from my Edirol UA25 USB audio/MIDI interface.

Figure 1. QJackCtl settings for the Edirol UA25

By the way, the Ubuntu Studio Preparation Web page is an indispensable resource at this stage. The information there is clearly presented and should be required reading by anyone new (or even not so new) to Ubuntu Studio.

The specified changes are recommended for every high-performance audio distrbution, the figures come straight from the JACK devs, so why is this step relegated to the user? It seems a simple enough matter to have the installer make the entries during the system configuration. Ditto for the creation of the audio group, it should be prepared by the installer and the user should be added to it automatically during configuration.

Moving On, At Last

After all that, I finally had a fully-functioning Ubuntu Studio on my HP G60 (Figure 2), complete with stable low-latency audio performance, an excellent selection of sound and music production software, and support for nVidia accelerated graphics. I like to build my own software from source packages, so I proceeded to install the necessary boatload of dev packages, the build-essential meta package, and anything else needed for the complete Linux software development environment. As previously reported, my first project was the rc2 release of MusE 1.0, and I'm very happy to write that the build finished without complaint, installation was a breeze, and MusE's performance was rock-steady during my initial tests.

Figure 2. Ubuntu Studio 9.04

The Verdict

I've only started to dip into the various goodies provided by the Ubuntu Studio meta packages. I'm eager to check out the latest LMMS and Pd, and I plan to use the machine as my main platform for working with SuperCollider3. Thanks to the currency of the system I can build and test the latest Ardour3 as well as many other applications that require up-to-date graphics and audio components.

Performance-wise this system is now a beauty. Alas, the hoops I jumped through to get it into this condition were many and formidable. The solutions to my problems were not too difficult to find or implement, but they would be extremely challenging for users unfamiliar with the inner workings of Linux. In my opinion the Ubuntu Studio installer needs to go further in its preparation of the system for pro-audio needs, perhaps offering the user a choice between a high-performance desktop media playback system, a low-latency pro-audio production environment, or some stable mixture of both. The Pulseaudio problem ought to be easily resolvable by the user, and more system probing might be able to spot and resolve problems such as needless HAL polling.

It's worth pointing out that my experiences may not be typical because of the hardware involved (it's a fairly new machine), and you should expect your mileage to vary, hopefully towards the better. I'd like to hear from other Ubuntu Studio users, so please feel free to add your opinions to the Comments section below.

In closing, I want to thank the users and developers who populate the Ubuntu Forums, I definitely needed and heeded their help and advice. Thanks also to the regulars on the Linux Audio Users mail list, from whom I continue to learn so much. I had a stretch of rocky road to traverse, but the way was made easier with such excellent company.

Outro

Coming up, a review of the Linux version of Modartt's Pianoteq. Until then, stay tuned, upright, and stable.

______________________

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

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Fedora 12 planet ccrma

tripleninez's picture

I have had my own troublesome issues with ubuntu studio, in the end i wasn't that happy with the distro, even with fixing it up and changing settings around. i have tried it a few times and every once in a while i tend to check out a new version.

personally, i enjoy Fedora 12 and planet ccrma. There is almost zero configuration
once you have enabled the planet ccrma, rpmfusion repos and install the packages.
on reboot jack and everything else works as expected.

Then I add WineAsio to the mix so i can run my retail VSTs, like Native instruments battery3, Massive and FM8.

i could stop right here, but i never do! :) there is still more performance
to gain - some of which is very noticable and adds stability as well...

once i have gauged my OS's performance, i go further....by installing Zen-kernel,
which tend to provide really good kernels. i copy my planet ccrma .config and then i go thru the kernel config and remove anything i don't need. Zen allows my Msi-X to work properly which means my soundcard and USB stop sharing IRQ - very important! the other option i have with Zen-kernel is using a kernel seed....

i end up with an rt-kernel with no extra overhead, and many drivers and kernel options not found upstream, some of which are extremely useful! i boot into gnome with 65megabyte of memory in use, and this is with compiz! another advantage is i use BFS scheduler which, for my applications, seems to work best. (i mostly use wine VSTs, sooperlooper and ardour).

lastly, when i compile my zen-kernel and many other libraries, i am using ICC instead of GCC.
there seems to be some benefits here, but can be tricky to get the optimizations right.

in the end, my OS is more responsive and when i have actually benchmarked it, the numbers always reflect this. ie: using geekbench, google's tools, etc.
this is also true when i am running lots of plugins and software.
it seems my customized kernels beats anything stock i have used in the past.

there's my two cents.

Ubuntu Studio install

georged's picture

Hi Dave,

I just tried to do an install of Ubuntu Studio 9.10.
The first attempt failed at the same place it did for you: "the Select & Install Software stage". I also tried to continue to the next stage: "Grub install", but that also failed.

I verified the DVD using the application on the DVD. It stated that the DVD was OK.

On my second attempt, I snooped around to see if any logging was going on. Sure enough, on VC4, all logging was being re-directed to the screen. When it failed the second time, I saw the reason for the failure. The installer had invoked "wget" to download files from the net even though in a previous stage, the network setup had failed.

I don't remember if there was an opportunity to configure the network during the install.

I had also enabled the installion of all the additional packages. Maybe that's why it failed.

Now, I successfully installed the newest version of apodio. I'll be testing that one.

Great reading your work!

Ubuntu 9.10 at Studio Dave

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi George,

Sorry to hear about your problems. I upgraded my laptop and my desktop test machines to 9.10 recently, had no troubles using the Update Manager to make the upgrade. I know it's a round-about solution, but perhaps you could install 9.04 and upgrade to 9.10 from there ?

And IIRC there is a network setup stage during the installation. Alas, stuff is easy to miss during the process. :(

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

VSTs and 64 bit

zuvuya's picture

Dave, could you elaborate on what you mean by VSTs working better on 32bit systems? I ask because I have over a hundred free VSTs I have collected and all my systems are 64 bit. I don't want to go back to 32bit OSs because I have 8gb memory in each machine and don't want to use an OS that can only use half of it.

Thanks.

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi zuvuya,

Most VST plugins are designed for use in a 32-bit system. They can be made to work in a 64-bit system, but it takes some effort, and of course you can't expect the same level of performance as you'll get running them in native Windows, regardless of bit-depth. Now that you've reminded me of it, I'll put some time into researching the current status of the topic, perhaps some new stuff has appeared that can do what you ask about.

Also, have you tried running Reaper with Wine/wineasio on a 64-bit machine ? IIRC I had some success using 32-bit VSTs with that combination, but I also recall that it was an effort to find a 64-bit build of Wine. As I said, I'll have to look into the whole topic again soon.

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

32 bit w/pae?

hyperion133's picture

Hi Dave,

Do you think I would have better luck running these VSTs on a 32 bit system with a RT-Kernel with PAE? Right now I am trying to get an openSUSE multimedia platform running, but since Jacklab is folding I'm seriously considering Ubuntu Studio. It's true that openSUSE repositories have many more multimedia studio apps, but it seems that a third to a half of them have trouble launching.

AMD based 64 bit studio

pedrocortez's picture

Hi Dave,

Ive been reading all your articles with great interest having made the leap from XP to Linux to run my home studio

I'm just about to upgrade from my old P4 1.8G box running UbuntuStudio rt 8.04 to an AMD based system but wondered if you had any views on my proposed hardware.....

I will be running Delta 66 Omni studio ( like one of your set ups ) with Ardour, Hydrogen and Rosegarden mainly.

I'm intending to use AMD X2 7750 CPU on an ECS GF8100 mobo, with onboard Nvidia graphics.
The only PCI card will be the M Audio delta card - running to the beakout box.

I'm interested in running 64Studio on this new system.

Any thoughts ? / Tips ?

Cheers and keep up the great features

Pete

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi Pete,

Your hardware sounds like a good fit for 64 Studio. As you probably know, I'm using nVidia's proprietary drivers for my machines, with no troubles on the 64 Studio and JAD boxes. You might want to do some background research on your mobo, just to make sure of its compatibility, and to verify that its nVidia chipset is supported by an available driver for Linux. Have fun, and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about using 64 Studio. I love it, it's a great system for audio production.

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

AMD system

pedrocortez's picture

Hi Dave -
thanks for the fast reply - and thanks for the great articles - I love reading your stuff !

I'll check out the mobo details - I can get a great deal on this bundle so looks pretty likely.

Happy 4th July !

Rgds
Pete

Stick to 8.04 (Hardy)?

Bazbo's picture

After reading this article and some of the postings on the Ubuntu Studio User list, I have to admit I'm afraid to upgrade my desktop. Hardy basically works; I somehow lost the Ubuntu Studio desktop, but I installed XFCE4 and it's good enough. I can learn to build more up to date packages from source if I have to. Is there anything to be gained by upgrading?

Correction on limits.conf...

zak89's picture

The example code for /etc/security/limits.conf is incorrect. Each entry in limits.conf is a four field entry, and if you want to leave a field blank, you have to replace it with a "-". The correct syntaxt is:


@audio - rtprio 99
@audio - nice -19
@audio - memlock unlimited

Just thought I'd mention this because it kept me hung up for a few hours trying to set realtime prorities. Great article, by the way... not quite so great Ubuntu Studio...

I just installed Ubuntu Studio/ Netbook Remix on my MSI Wind U100. It's running well now; I replaced 64Studio (my main linux audio OS) with Ubuntu because my wireless driver won't compile under 64Studio's 2.6.29 rt kernel.

ubuntu studio / netbook remix

luc's picture

Hello,
I have a MSI wind and I did not manage to compile (as you) the wireless driver. I would like to change to ubuntu studio/netbook remix.
My question is : how did you do ?
Did you install first ubuntustudio and then you got netbook remix dekstop via apt or did you install first netbook remix and got then studio module (and rt kernel) via apt ?
thanks for your answer

I tried UNR first and Ubuntu Studio added on top. Not so good.

SoundPro69's picture

Hi there,

This may not be the fault of Ubuntu Studio or Ubuntu Netbook Remix. It just may be that configuring Jack so that it even ever works seems like trying to find a cure against testicular cancer.

I've fiddled with Jack since AGNULA/DeMuDi, then Musix 1.0 then 2.0, then SuSe's short-lived "Jacklab" and now Ubuntu Studio. Different hardware... And that's all I've ever done with Jack. Fiddle with it. I have never been able to put any applications that require Jack to good use in an actual music recording. Once I got it working and then there were no drivers for linux for the hardware I wanted... The thing just doesn't work for normal people with experience in computers, in Linux and in audio. Unless you can write your own drivers and are a software developer of some magnitude I guess it's out of reach.

Anyway...

I'm not one to give up. But man I'm frustrated with Jack!

So I have a beautiful Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.4 Beta 1 on my Asus N10E-A1 netbook. It's awesome! I absolutely love it.
I added most of the packages for Ubuntu Studio, including the RT kernel except the ones that will replace the UNR desktop (like the "defaults" package). I have tried Ardour (with the Ardourino template) for small screens booting with the RT and with the normal kernels. Jack crashes. I have tried changing the priorities for audio as recommended in the Ubuntu Studio instructions (only when booting to the real time kernel) No go. Finally I just gave up on all other apps and am trying just to get Jack started without it crashing as soon as you try to open it. No luck.

So to try to answer the question:
I suppose if this ever works will be the other way around. I will have to wipe out the partition and install Ubuntu Studio first. Then add the Netbook Remix desktop... Ohhh... I will hate to wipe out all my customizations... What if Jack still never works. It wouldn't be the first time...

If someone wants to pitch in and shed some light I will appreciate it. I really dream with having this working one day. If I live long enough that is... I'm not old but this dream is quickly approaching the decade...

Thanks!

Gabe.

wireless driver

Rylan's picture

Hey zak, i'm just curious what wireless driver the wind 100 uses. I have the wind u210 and i can't get the rt3090sta to compile for a 64 bit system. What I'm really wondering is if you use the 64 bit version of ubuntu studio, or the 32bit. If you got it to compile in the 64 bit, i'll be asking you how you did it hah

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Hey zak, thanks for the correction. It's fixed in the article now. :)

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Thanks for the review

Anonymous's picture

Nice review.
I spent alot of today getting a ubuntustudio up and running to my liking. After all the fiddling I get great RT with audio apps! A few ideas for others:
I had to install the 2.6.29.4-rt17 kernel because i kept getting weird system lockups when using GUI. Lockups were usually while logging out of X or in firefox? I think it was a sound or gdm. Had no lockups since using 2.6.29

I installed the nvidia driver from nvidia source - works great.

Make sure you change the sound preferences and turn off system sounds. I had horribly sluggish gnome performance until I did this (a few seconds to open application menu).

All in all, I'm now happy with the new RT system, but it was alot of work. Don't plan on changing anything soon.

sluggish performance

CadetD's picture

Great article indeed.

I've had a weird problem with sluggish performance since Jaunty.
I wonder if it is due to the sound events being on.
Picked up quite a few pointers here. Got some some work to do tonight ;-)

Thanks all.

serious audio

alex stone's picture

I've written enough about my experiences with PA in other audio related forums, mirroring your experience, Dave, so i'll leave that one alone. No need to beat the bear to death....

Given some of the comments above, i'd say there's differing views on what constitutes a 'serious' audio production system, and maybe that's part of the linux audio confusion perception as well. Some chaps will write 4 tracks of music for their own enjoyment, and as quickly skip to youtube, or play a game. Without any offense intended. i'd call these erstwhile denizens 'domestic' audio users.
Then there's the others. Us chaps who want a 'pure' build that handles only audio and video related tasks for fulltime use. Given the near immortal flexibility of using Linux, this category is what got me, (enthusiastically prompted by yourself, Dave) into Linux in the first place, and since then, a few others i've met who want a professional setup with the intent of using it for fulltime work.

I share the view that PA has no place in a serious audio/video production system based on the second category above.

And that may well be a reason why UbuntuStudio isn't the first choice that users should consider, along with the problems that Dave experienced, which again, pretty well mirrored my own, trying the 9.0.4 build. I started on Ubuntustudio Gutsy, and had a great time. The kernel worked, and although i had to tinker with the graphics, because ATI were being.....coy with the specs of my card, i could at least see what the Linux Audio fuss was all about, and try it out. That was a great learning curve about using Linux in general, but i wanted more than just a domestic user intention... :)

Onto Fedora, with the CCRMA pack (this was cool), Jacklab, Debian, and second last of all, 64studio beta 3 64bit. (Which worked really well here, sans pulseaudio.)

I'm on a custom built Gentoo build now, with a self configured fluxbox wm that really works well, and reliably. At last i have a serious audio/video production system without all the fancy graphics, and unwanted packages or apps that are forced on one in other distros by dependency, and again, without PA.

I sympathize to a degree with the Ubuntustudio team, as by necessity, they're tied to the Ubuntu project, so leaving out stuff is more problematic, especially since pulseaudio install is compulsory. I don't think they can do much about that, but that also begs the question: is UbuntuStudio really a full time audio/video production distro model? Or perhaps more correctly, an 'enhanced' branch of Ubuntu main for domestic users? (And i mean no offense here at all.)

I know as a full time user, having to tweak and retweak just to keep things running, or kill off unwanted apps and daemons is what i used to have to put up with in windows, and i don't think we're doing linux, or linux audio, any favours by repeating the experience, unless this is deliberately designed to make win and mac users 'feel more at home.' :)

I respectfully suggest that when we're encouraging new users to join us, or when devs label their app,distro, or branch, they keep this in mind, and carefully word what their project does, and the pros and cons, including telling users who want to write music using the Jack server, what sort of challenges they might face.

Good to hear about the Jack and Pulse automatic switch, making it easier for new users, but i'd say here that giving the user the option to have PA, or not, at install time, would be even more intuitive.

Having a great time with Gentoo. It might take some more thought to setup, but conversely, there's less tweaking and dependency drama when it's done.
It just works. (and a big thanks to the pro-audio overlay team. Nice work fellas.)

Alex.

p.s. Dave, perhaps you might consider profiling Gentoo, with the pro-audio overlay, in the future? You get to choose the apps you want, without the wholesale dependency pillage and plunder, including yes or no to PA.

Gentoo DAW

Scribe63's picture

Kudos to Gentoo.
Category: I want a professional setup with the intent of using it for fulltime work. I don't want to have to turn it into a development system. LOL
Motivation: Promotion of GNU/Linux AV/DAWs and avoid having to find $150 for WinXP Prof and $250 + cost for plugins, for a M-Audio version of Pro Tools.

My original concepts about GNU/Linux DAWs revolved around having to eventually brew your own systems. So then, i did a Gentoo system based on 2006.0 and a MIDI system for a laptop based on Debian, i think Etch was testing at the time.
The only drawback i had with the Gentoo system then, which is still similar with today's DAW distros, has to do with keeping up with the latest really stable versions of Ardour, at one time i called it crash 'dour'.

Hence dependency drama.

The best thing i found with that old Gentoo system was that it worked with my Motu Fastlane 2 port MIDI interface, which doesn't work on newer distros.
I would consider a Gentoo system again with that new "pro-audio overlay feature" you mentioned.

The only thing i like about Ubuntu Studio, which enticed me to use it, is that it has a near to the latest version of Ardour in it's repos, which saves time from having to build/compile the latest version myself and dependency drama. I see that CCRMA has a similar version, so i am also considering a CentOS 5/CCRMA system.

I still have the Gentoo 2006.0 and a JackLab JAD 1.0 system on hard drives as backup when i have issues with other systems.

Ububtu Studio 8.04 LTS worked great, it help me complete projects, when Ardour on 64 Studio 1.0 crashed constantly. But, i overwrote it with US 9.04. I will wait and see how 64 Studio 3.0 works out, according to the time frame of there final release. Shocks, it is going to be partly based on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS anyway.

At the end of the day it's all good, i am learning a lot, and Nuff Respect to the FOSS and GNU/Linux Audio Developers Community.

Gentoo and Ardour

alex stone's picture

Scribe,
I've been installing audio apps from source for a while now, and ardour was no different. On my Gentoo build, i'm using Ardour 2.8.1, and it's the most stable i've ever had, and that includes a comparison with apps i used in a previous professional life, on Win and Mac. (gigastudio anyone?)

My Gentoo build is, using an automotive analogy, a sports car. No windows, no bucket seats, no power windows, no gps, no tv, nothing but power under the hood, and me driving it where i want it to go.
Add to that source builds of linuxsampler, jconv, jack, ingen, patchage, jackmixdesk, a2jmidid, and some lv2 and laddspa stuff for adding EQ, etc..and you'll see it's a barebones build. The Gentoo OS is skinny, only using fluxbox as the WM, as i mentioned before. (A big hand for the fluxbox team. The most user configurable wm i've ever used.)

So the OS is slim, tuned for RT use, and does what it says on the tin, without running like a 12 seat people carrier, with multiple powered coffee cup holders, etc..

As a note here, i could never get to this level of user definability with win and mac, so i think it's important to keep this in context.

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi Alex, thanks for weighing in on the topic. I agree, I think there's a fundamental disconnect between the expectations of professional users and the designs of the media-optimized distributions. Mark Knecht has also suggested that I look into setting up a Gentoo system, and I must say that your experience is the tipping point. If you're happy with it then I should definitely look into it. Meanwhile I plan to continue the present topic (UStudio) in another article in which I'll answer and address the comments I've received here. One thing is clear: Experiences with UStudio differ widely, so I hope the Ubuntu/UStudio devs are reading these comments.

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Building

alex stone's picture

Dave,
I'm sure Mark's way ahead of me in Gentoo building, so i've little doubt he'd help you out if neccessary. It took me a bit of time to figure it out, but the Gentoo handbook is the best linux documentation i've seen since i started this journey, and i had some help with mine from a couple of very decent chaps, who added some extra tweaks i wasn't aware of. (Thanks Chris, and Andrew.)

I'm fairly sure Marc, over at Jack HQ, is an ebuild admin for the pro-overlay, so he might be able to shed some light on the current Ardour build, as i remember him mentioning he was working on it.

And given the experiment you've just conducted, and the results, you have me thinking back to my own adventures. I'm wondering here if the idea of building a Gentoo pro audio box is made harder than it looks from the outside because of the perception of a greater degree of user intervention in the install process, or if it's actually easier after the dust has settled.

Hmmmm....food for thought......

Regards,

Alex.

UbuntuStudio installs perfectly

Viktor's picture

The main reason I use UbuntuStudio is that it's the only audio-distro that works out-of-the-box for me.
When I was switching from Windows last year, I downloaded some 5-6 iso's from all the well known audio-distro's. Installation would almost never finish. something would happen and ruin the joy, especially on Studio64.
I also tried the same a month ago, with the same results.
While with UbuntuStudio, be it 8.04 or 9.04 - all works perfectly. Short, quick installation and I can start recording straight away. Pulse just gets auto-disabled when I run jack. Otherwise, I like Pulse as it allows music to be played from a few players (one doesn't have to close one player to be able to hear another). Also, without Pusle, Audacity almost never produced a sound, but with Pulse (no Jack) audacity is really happy.
I would say, well done to the UbuntuStudio packagers!

Freeze solution

Jarlath's picture

Someone compiled a new RT kernel. Once I installed this I had no problems. Before that, my system would lock up minutes if not seconds after logging in. I forget who made these available but I'm hosting them here:

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/464104/linux-headers-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom_2.6....

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/464104/linux-image-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom_2.6.29...

just run: dpkg -i *.deb and reboot to make them available

Getting an error

DJVladn8r's picture

I get an error when I install these. Is there a .deb of the sources available?

I get:
initrd.img(/boot/initrd.img-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom
) points to /boot/initrd.img-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom
(/boot/initrd.img-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom) -- doing nothing at /var/lib/dpkg/info/linux-image-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom.postinst line 588.
vmlinuz(/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom
) points to /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom
(/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom) -- doing nothing at /var/lib/dpkg/info/linux-image-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom.postinst line 588.
Examining /etc/kernel/postinst.d.
run-parts: executing /etc/kernel/postinst.d/dkms
run-parts: executing /etc/kernel/postinst.d/nvidia-common
run-parts: /etc/kernel/postinst.d/nvidia-common exited with return code 20
Failed to process /etc/kernel/postinst.d at /var/lib/dpkg/info/linux-image-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom.postinst line 1186.
dpkg: error processing linux-image-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom (--configure):
subprocess post-installation script returned error exit status 2
Processing triggers for libc6 ...
ldconfig deferred processing now taking place
Errors were encountered while processing:
linux-image-2.6.29.1-rt8-custom
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Since writing this article I've installed UStudio 9.04 on one of my desktop boxes. I'll cut to the chase and say that I ran into similar problems with UStudio on that machine too, thanks to the rt kernel. I installed the kernel you've linked, and so far I've had no troubles, but I haven't stressed that system yet. I've also been advised to use the 64 Studio rt kernel for i386. I have it, but installation requires a few items not in the system yet. I intend to test it too as soon as possible.

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Ubuntu Studio Install vs Upgrade/Install

Scott Lavender's picture

Dave,

I'm surprised you chose to install vanilla Ubuntu and then installed the meta-packages for Ubuntu Studio.

If you had installed from a Ubuntu Studio disc you probably would have eliminated many of the trouble you had.

I'm using Ubuntu Studio 8.04 LTS and I haven't had any of the problems you mention. And I'm getting 2.3 ms latency.

Regards.

I had just toyed with Ubuntu Studio

C. Whitman's picture

I recently toyed with Ubuntu Studio 9.04 64 bit, but was not that determined to get it running smoothly. I had the problem with it freezing for no apparent reason when it had been up for a while (usually while browsing the net). Incidentally, the system is an MSI notebook based on a quad core Intel mobile chip. I never tried the kernel options, but I wouldn't be surprised if some combination would have worked. However, I would consider it completely unacceptable to turn off smp, and fairly unacceptable to turn off acpi. I also fiddled with 64 Studio 3.0 Beta and it seemed to have no such stability issues on the hardware. A normal Ubuntu kernel (not real time) also has no issues on this machine. To me, this issue seems too widespread to blame hardware.

I suspect the issue with the DVD installs is a burning issue. Did you happen to use a laptop DVD burner to create the discs? Laptop DVD burners generally don't work that well. A few, short years ago, laptop CD burners created lots of CDs that only worked right in the burner they were written in, if that. This has gotten a lot better, but now the DVD burners act similarly. I have a laptop that has a combination CD/DVD burner and it seems fine for CDs, but creates a lot of only 'almost' working DVD discs. I just hook up an external burner on the same machine and get flawlessly burned discs. The weird installation errors you experienced fit in perfectly with this phenomenon.

On both 64 Studio 3.0 Beta and Ubuntu Studio 9.04 64 bit I had issues with the wireless LAN card on this laptop. The driver for the card was loaded, but no networks were detected. I didn't feel like bothering to try to straighten this out, since in Xubuntu 9.04 64 bit, the card just works. I suspect that the issues are related to the wireless chipset still being pretty new, and support of it not being completely stable yet, but I may be entirely off base with that thought. It is an Atheros chipset, so I expect future support for it to be good. In 64 Studio 3.0 Beta I also had some small issues with the video, but I think it was related to the ATI video driver and could have been resolved by updating it to the newest version.

pulseaudio interoperability

JonE's picture

There are plenty of alternatives, but I find a simple way to bypass pulse is to use the startup/shutdown scripts in qJackCtl.

pacmd "suspend 1" as the startup script will tell pulse to let go of all the audio devices, pacmd "suspend 0" as the shutdown script will put it back in control. You can also be more specific with the devices you want to suspend/resume..

Gnome without PulseAudio

Chunkey Munkey's picture

Hi there,

You can use Ubuntu with Gnome without installing pulse audio. The ubuntu-desktop thing that it told you it would have to remove is just a metapackage, you can safely remove it. I current run Ubuntu 9.04 with Gnome and a custom set of packages, and I don't use PulseAudio either.

not really ubuntu studio's fault

shuste73's picture

I installed Ubuntu Studio 9.04 and I didn't have nearly the issues you had. I think Pulse wasn't your problem, I think it was the permissions and audio group. You should have tried sudo before assuming Pulse was the problem. Pulse and JACK coexist nicely on my system.

Your ACPI issue was a hardware issue. Better hardware = fewer issues. Sure, your issues were valid, but not ubuntu studio's fault. I run an Asus board with an Intel chipset and Intel cpu. Don't want to start a holy war but there's a reason amd is cheaper.

I think you made this harder than it had to be, but your point is taken about making it easier for novices. Why the installer doesn't fix the basic stuff is beyond me.

problems with desktop/ubuntu studio

Eugene's picture

Hey Dave, sorry to hear about your problems with trying to get ubuntu studio running....I would say 2 things to keep in mind for the future (I use Ubuntu for my recording machine with no problems):

1) I have never had a successful installation of any distro from a downloaded DVD...in all honesty I haven't tried it that many times, but everytime I did it had errors and never completed the installation....now I just download the cd iso and install the rest from the repos

2) I don't use Ubuntu Studio exactly...I use Ubuntu itself and tailor it.....I find comfort in the fact that (I assume) most packages are the same anyways and there are a lot more users (read: bug testers/squashers) using Ubuntu....

I have the realtime kernel running and have never had a problem with pulseaudio/jack....although it could just be my hardware too....

anyways, thanks for a great article....I've been meaning to fool around with 64studio.....maybe this weekend...cheers

Ubuntu Studio 9.04 Freeze Ups

scribe63's picture

System:
Processor: 2.0 Ghz Dual Xeon
Memory: 2 GB
Display Card: Matrox P650

I feel like such a fool right now. I had a near perfect Linux Based audio system based on Ubuntu Studio 8.04 LTS. It had it's kinks but it worked.
I blew it away overwriting that installation with this Ubuntu Studio 9.04 Jaunty crap. I was totally misled by their hype about their new realtime kernel, more or less wanted to get an up2date packaged version of Ardour, and to avoid a 8.04 to 8.10 to 9.04 upgrade.

My first issue started with no X window access after installation. So i rebooted the system into recovery mode.
While installing updates, the system would lock up with a "CPU 61s error" when deleting files. In my first installation i used ext4 for the file system. After research, got the impression it had to do with this known issue with ext4 and kernel 2.6.28.
I re-installed and used ext3, but still had the no X window access issue. The vesa driver usually worked to initially get one of my monitors working. With jaunty no such joy. I had to compile and install the matrox mtx driver and use my old xorg.conf file to get X window to work. The HAL/FDI approach did not work with this graphic card.

Now after being able to log into X window, the freeze up started while installing applications, if i place a dvdrom into the optical drive, etc....
Trying to fix that issue, i came across this article, which has some very good pointers.
But, the nosmp acpi=off pnpbios=off kernel boot options are not working on my system which also has hyperthreading disabled.
When i apply those kernel options, the system boots and craps out when it comes to loading the X windows system. Without those option it loads up fine.

IMHO to have to disable those features makes having an up to date and powerful workstation seem useless. DAW/AV systems are built with dual CPUs to serve the purpose as a DAW/Video workstation with a DAW/Video optimized operating system.

I then did the disabling of pulseaudio to see if that would make a difference, and that seem to be helpful for a while.
But the system still freezes up, which makes it totally Unreliable for Professional work.

So i am stuck until this issue is absolutely resolved in Ububtu Studio, when 64 Studio 3.0 is released, or if i decide to give Fedora or CentOS/CCRMA a try. Also, basically right now i can't afford a Windows or MAC based DAW with Pro Tools and it's other expenses.

The Ubuntu Studio developers seem to have put their best efforts into fancy splash screen, as oppose to a basic stable and reliable realtime audio system.


I do very much appreciate the time, effort, and hard work that goes into making these FOSS systems readily available, but it does them a Dis-Service when they do not function as advertised.

Hype/Frustration = Vaporware

The ideal is to initially optimize your Hardware/OS/Applications and have FUN being CREATIVE and Promoting Gnu/Linux FOSS DAWs.

NOTE: I did upgrade another system from intrepid to jaunty using a non realtime kernel and i have not experienced any freeze ups.

Really? I didn't have any problem.

A Nonny Mous's picture

I use Linux for professional audio and try most major releases for audio work. I installed Ubuntu Studio for Jaunty Jackalop with no problems, except I needed to add some packages from regular Jaunty and from Debian.

As a general rule, it is a good idea to test your hardware with a live distribution (in this case regular Jaunty) first to see if there is going to be problems due to nonstandard hardware.

Non Standard Hardware

Scribe63's picture

Update:
I eventually installed the 2.6.28-11-generic kernel and the system work's fine. There are no freeze ups while installing applications, using optical drives, the terminal, etc........ I did not have to specify the nosmp, acpi=off and pnpbios=off kernel boot options.
So something is definitely up with the 2.6.28-3-rt kernel on my system.

I don't think my hardware is that non standard.
Form Factor: ATX
Motherboard: Tyan Tiger i7505, S2668 ANR Rev.2C
Processors: Dual 2.0 Ghz Xeon
Chipset: E7505
Memory: 2 Gb DDR
SATA: Promise PDC20378 SATA RAID controller

Peripherals
Firewire: Adaptec FireConnect AFW-4300A
USB: Edirol UM-33 MIDI Interface.
PCI: M-Audio Delta 66 Audio card.

All other Linux Live CDs and systems (Gentoo, OpenSuse JAD 1.0, 64 Studio 2.1, Ubuntu Studio 8.04 LTS, Windows XP Prof.) work fine without any constant freeze ups using standard and rt kernels.
There is no native linux driver for the P650 display, but the vesa driver usually work, but the mga driver doesn't.
The only issue i had was with hyperthreading, and it is disabled in the BIOS.

Going to try it myself

John K.'s picture

Excellent article!

I was just at the brink of trying out Ubuntu studio myself, and your remarks will come in handy. Thanks!

Now for other distro's: I agree Jacklab is a bit outdated. Unfortunately the number of developers is small for the SuSe scene, so I do not think a new version is coming out soon. I know however they are working on it. I also tried 64 Studio, but that did not work out too good. It still has some rough ends. The best distro I have used until now is ArtistX. They also came out with a new version that I going to test after my Ubuntu Studio try.

As I do not have the top-of-the-range hardware (E-MU 0404 pci and E-MU Xboard49 - not too bad either), hardware support is available and not that critical.

I was however interested in a few things:

Does wine has ASIO support? I mean - I know how to set it up, but is that setup already done in a standard Ubuntu Studio install? Second question - how is VST support? I like to use some free intruments and effects in Rosegarden (don't know how good VST support is in LMMS or MusE using wine).

Keep this good artcles coming.. ;-)

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

Hi John,

Thank you for reading and commenting.

As far as I can tell, UStudio does not provide special provision for Wine/wineasio, though it should be simple add the needed components. Of course VST support in Linux still depends on libwine, although the Steinberg SDK is no longer required, thanks to the Vestige headers.

I hope that answers your question. Maybe it's time to do another update to the perennial topic of "VST/VSTi support in Linux" ? :)

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

Hmm.. a topic about

John K.'s picture

Hmm.. a topic about "VST/VSTi support in Linux" would be a great idea I think. It can be difficult to get a decent "how-to". I got my knowledge about it by scraping together bits and pieces scattered around on several websites. It would be nice if this could be bundled in one article...

About Jacklab again: following the link leads me to the shocking announcement Jacklab is to be discontinued. No JAD 3.0, because development has stopped. Really a shame.. :-(

Well - Ubuntu Studio did not work on my "music" computer. After a while everything get locked up. No mouse mnovement, no reaction to key strokes. I cannot even switch into a terminal (Alt+F"n"). I will investigate this, but it's not a good sign.. The latest ArtistX (also based on Ubuntu) however runs fine.

John.

Disabling HAL polling

Anonymous's picture

Great article. One thing I am wondering is how did you

"disable[d] HAL polling on /dev/sdb and /dev/sr0..."

?

Author's reply

Dave Phillips's picture

A simple one-time command does the trick:

sudo hal-disable-polling --device /dev/whatever

See the command man page for more information. :)

Best,

dp

Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.

So what's the best studio distro?

HarryLeBlanc's picture

I was dismayed to read your review of Ubuntu Studio. I plan to build a desktop machine for use as a linux audio studio, and I'd been thinking that Ubuntu Studio was the way to go.
I'm pretty much completely new to the linux audio world, though I can navigate around linux as a moderately skilled user.
What I want is an easy install to a stable, feature-rich system centered around Ardour. What's the best option for this goal?
I recognize this may be as much opinion as fact, but I want to avoid the kind of install hell Dave just described here.
Thanks,
H

"What's the best option for

derChef's picture

"What's the best option for this goal?"

Using Windows or OSX, which have stable audio ABI's and actual recording software. You can spend your time actually recording rather than trying to "fix" PulseAudio, ALSA, OSS, Jack, etc.

Not Real Time

C. Whitman's picture

Windows and OSX do not have real time kernels (not even pseudo real time). If you don't care about the occasional skips/pauses during playback or recording, then sure, go ahead and use Windows (I would imagine OSX also has some issues with this, although I have never really used that operating system).

In my experience, a run of the mill Linux distribution with its default sound server will work better for audio than Windows, so I suspect that OSX would also be better than Windows. I can't even play music files on my Windows XP desktop at work without annoying pauses, so I do it through the non real time Linux box I also have set up in my office when I want music. It pauses very occasionally when it's busy, but not not nearly as much as Windows XP.

If you keep getting pauses

derChef's picture

If you keep getting pauses while playing music in XP, that's a problem with your particular system, mate. Works for me©

Also ASIO, since you brought it up

C. Whitman's picture

I just wanted to also mention, since it has been brought up, that Windows users can get improvement by using ASIO, which is designed to do for Windows what using JACK with ALSA does for Linux. It bypasses the Windows sound server to work directly with the hardware (well, with the WDM drivers, anyway), like JACK bypasses Linux sound servers such as PulseAudio. This improves latency, like using JACK does. It also has the advantage of improving sound quality, since the Windows sound server is not very high fidelity (which explains why music played in Linux generally sounds better than in a stock Windows machine).

"which explains why music

derChef's picture

"which explains why music played in Linux generally sounds better than in a stock Windows machine"

!!??!?

Ok, I'm out of here...

It's not my fault the Windows sound server isn't very good.

C. Whitman's picture

It's not my fault that the Windows sound server is not very high fidelity. It's not like there's no way around it. I just pointed out how to get around at least that problem in Windows and get better sounding music playback. Of course, there are other problems in Windows that aren't so easy to get around. Oh, wait. I forgot that installing and setting up ASIO on Windows isn't "intuitive" so it must not be worth doing.

You don't have to take my word about the poorer playback quality through the Windows sound server. Blind tests with good listening equipment on the same computer hardware will reflect this. Test stock Windows against either a fairly typical Linux install or Windows with ASIO properly set up and people can hear the difference. (There may be some sound cards that are not good enough to reflect the difference.)

No, it's a general problem.

C. Whitman's picture

No, it's a general problem. How bad it is depends on a number of factors, and a lot of Windows users just live with it because they expect it to be that way. If you are playing CDs, no problem, because that is handled entirely by the player. If you are playing MP3 or WMA files and doing nothing else, then it won't be too bad. If you are playing other types of files, you are more likely to experience it, and if you are running other programs at the same time, you will have the issue. As I said, a lot of people live with it because they think that's just the way it is.

People who do a lot of recording in Windows go to a lot of trouble to try to make the latency as low as possible. There are some things that you can do, but you can't tweak the kernel. There is an article here about some steps you can take to help with Windows. Some of them are also valid to some degree or another with other operating systems.

Or purchase a Linux Audio Workstation with everything setup

Anonymous's picture

One can always purchase a complete Linux Audio Workstation with everything preinstalled, setup, and ready to go. It will cost less than buying the software for a Microsoft or Apple box and will include the appropriate hardware - e.g. multichannel professional audio interface, quiet drives and cooling, carrying case, ... the 'whole ball of wax'.

These are available from a range of manufacturers, of which the company I work for is only one.

okay, I'll bite...

HarryLeBlanc's picture

...what company do you work for? And who else does pre-installed linux audio workshops?

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