Keeping In Touch: A Guide To Linux Audio Comm Channels
Recently I asked readers for suggestions regarding Linux audio topics they'd like to read about in my articles. One response suggested a survey of the various Internet communications channels for Linux-based musicians. I liked the idea, so I considered my traditionally preferred channels, searched for and found interesting new connections, and wrote this guide to lead you on a tour of notable communications channels focused on Linux sound and music topics.
The mail list is alive and well for the Linux audio community. The Linux Audio Developers (LAD) site links to the LAD list as well as to the lists for the Linux Audio Users (LAU) group and the Linux Audio Announce (LAA) service. The LAD and LAU lists are typically active and cover a broad range of Linux sound-related topics. The LAA list is an announcement-only list with relatively lighter traffic. These lists are all open to the public and have searchable archives of past traffic. A very broad range of topics comes under discussion on the lists, and I advise searching those archives for answers to common audio-related problems.
Nathan R. Hale's LinuxMusicians.com tops my short list of engaging Linux audio forums. The character of the site tends towards music production, as does the Ardour forum. Other Linux sound applications maintain similar forums for users and developers. The users forum for the LinuxSampler is a typical example, with a variety of sections for general and specific discussion topics.
While looking for help during my recent experiences with Ubuntu Studio I found Ubuntu's Multimedia Production and Multimedia & Video forums. The Multimedia Production forum has a focus similar to LinuxMusicians.com, with a wider scope, while the Multimedia & Video forum primarily addresses non-production performance issues. I haven't checked, but it's likely that most mainstream Linux distributions include some discussion regarding their audio implementations.
The developers at 4Front Technologies maintain an interesting forum. As the programmers of the original OSS sound system for Linux they have their own view on the world of Linux audio, and given their development talents and accomplishments their POV is definitely worth reading about (and occasionally controversial). See also the relevant threads on the Phoronix forums for more user-contributed views regarding the audio components of the normal user's Linux desktop.
Some commercial sound & music forums maintain space for Linux-based musicians. Notable examples include the Reaper on Linux threads on the Cockos Software site, the dedicated Linux forum on the Web site of the prestigious Sound On Sound magazine, and the forums at KVRaudio. The KVR forums include many threads about Linux audio applications and issues. KVR also announces new and updated software, commercial and free, for Linux musicians.
And of course I must make a shameless plug for the audio-related coverage by the Linux Journal in both the hard-copy and on-line editions. The editors at LJ deserve special mention for their continuing support of articles dealing with Linux audio, particularly since the breadth of the audio domain is usually ignored by most other Linux publications.
Internet relay chat (IRC) is also still alive and kicking. Many projects keep a dedicated chat line open for developer discussions and/or realtime help for users, e.g. #ardour or #64studio. See the home page of your favorite application for leads to the available comm channels for help and development discussion. Most Linux audio projects connect to IRC via FreeNode (irc.freenode.net), so just open your chat client, point it to FreeNode, and join the party (or parties, if you like multiple conversations).
The wiki has become a popular format for information hosts. The Linux audio domain holds many such sites, among which I especially note the wikis for the ALSA and linuxaudio.org groups. Again, see the Web sites for your applications of interest for current information regarding wikis and other available comm channels.
The blogosphere is hot for discussion and opinion regarding Linux audio topics. The following list is a selection from the many sites located by Google, I've chosen them simply because they're the ones I like best. Hopefully you'll enjoy them too.
- Linux Audio Blog - An account of the "common obstacles and breakthroughs in the daily Linux music production work".
- Create Digital Music - Frequent coverage of Linux audio topics by Peter Kirn.
- Linux Audio and Music - Stephen Irwin's blog "All about Linux, computers, music and sound".
- Eugene's Blog - Classical guitar and Linux musings from Eugene Cormier.
- Ken's blog - Commentary and music from überkeysman Ken Restivo.
- Musings On Maintaining Ubuntu - Ubuntu developer Daniel Chen has some things to say regarding Linux sound and music matters.
- Pau Arumi's blog - Commentary from one of the lead developers for the superb CLAM project.
- Banana In Manu Habeo - A home for the musings of Lennart Poettering, chief architect of the PulseAudio project.
- rob.log - Thoughts and opinions from Linux multimedia developer Robin Gareus.
- Hannu's Blog - Linux audio issues as considered by Hannu Savolainen, one of the developers of the Open Sound System (OSS).
- Grey Rock Studio - "Thoughts, techniques, and working methods in open source audio".
- JUCETICE - Notes on Linux audio and noize development by Lucio Asnaghi.
- Brian's Bedroom - "A blog related to audio recording and playing music with Ardour, Hydrogen, Ubuntu Studio and other freeware."
- msound - "Free software, open source, audio music blog" from a user named becks.
- Making Linux Music Useful tips and advice from Christopher Van Dan, a.k.a. Airlynx.
I encourage readers to put their own favorites in the list by adding a note in the Comments section below. Blogs come and go, and Linux audio blogs are not exempt from the Web's ruthless selection of the fittest.
MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Esa Linna has created a Linux Audio Group on MySpace. That page includes a link to Esa's personal page, and I suspect that MySpace personal pages exist for other Linux-based music-makers. If you happen to be one of them, let us know in the Comments section below.
Searching YouTube for linux audio, linux sound, and linux music yielded a sizable total number of hits. I did not check them all, nor do I deny that the quality varies wildly, but it's worth your while to check out Randy White's demonstrations of his work with LinuxSampler, some of the LMMS demos, or the Ardour tutorials,
A Linux audio developer once referred to the Linux development scene as an "anarchic meritocracy", an appelation I consider accurate and honest. However, there is an umbrella organization for Linux audio matters at linuxaudio.org. The organization's aims and goals are spelled out completely on the site, but this quote should yield some sense of the group's intentions :
Linuxaudio.org is a not-for-profit consortium of libre software projects and artists, companies, institutions, organizations, and hardware vendors using Linux kernel-based systems and allied libre software for audio-related work, with an emphasis on professional tools for the music, production, recording, and broadcast industries. The consortium aims to co-ordinate joint projects between members, collaborate on the promotion of Linux based systems for audio tasks, offer programs beneficial to members and subsequently its mission, and provide a single point of contact for prospective industry partners.
Music Sites And Applications Lists
Last (but most certainly not least) we have some sites dedicated to music and sound created with free software. Many application-specific sites include forum sections devoted to music made by users, but the Linux Audio Music (LAM) and Free SS sites are strictly dedicated to music made with software libre. Free SS is primarily devoted to noise-based and other contemporary styles, the LAM site has a broader selection of styles, and both are sites worth visiting.
The software used for those productions is probably listed on one or both of the main sites that list Linux sound and music applications. The linuxaudio.org apps list and my own linux-sound.org will guide you to the programs you need, and they are likely to surprise you with some audio applications you had no idea existed for Linux.
I hope you'll check out some of the links and sites presented here. Much important activity goes on in the Linux audio world that is not covered by the high-profile journalists, but hopefully the sites mentioned in this article will help keep you up to date. I'll be back with more Linux audio-related news in this column in about two weeks. Meanwhile you can surf the sites mentioned in this article and let me know what you think should be added to my lists. Above all, breathe, stay vertical, and keep yourself open to communication.