Category Archives: Ubuntu Studio

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Ubuntu-Studio vs DreamStudio

update! 3/2016

DreamStudio is no longer a complete distro.  It is now a package of applications available for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu and KXStudio.  It was last updated 10 months ago and is available on Sourceforge.  Dick MacInnes has let his domain names Celeum.com and dreamstudio.com expire.  I hope Dick is doing ok, with his, and his wife’s health issues.

 

Ubuntu-Studio is a very cool Linux distribution for folks who want to do audio, video, graphics, animation or other media production using open source software.  It uses a very utilitarian XFCE user interface.  This has the advantage of simplicity and lightweight overhead on processor chips, leaving muscle for DSP processes.  Ubuntu-Studio is a derivative of Ubuntu, a distribution for regular computing based upon  Debian, but much more user friendly.  Ubuntu-Studio is dependent only upon software with the same open source licenses that are available to regular Ubuntu.  As a result there are a bunch of programs, many of which are free, but not sufficiently liberally licensed, that are not natively included in the distribution, such as an .mp3 codec.  Many of these can be easily added, but are not available in the distribution itself Ubuntu-Studio

Ubuntu-Studio has the advantage of a large user base. Its release schedule is synchronized with its bigger brother Ubuntu.

DreamStudio from Celeum Technologies is a gorgeous media suite also based on Ubuntu, but it uses regular Ubuntu’s Unity user interface, which diehard Ubuntu users complain about, but once you learn the basics is incredibly intuitive, helping to get work done.

Dreamstudio was a complete operating system distribution or “distro”.  which you would install on a blank machine or set up as a dual boot.  The last version was based upon ubuntu 12.04LTS, which is quite old.  The new version is a suite of programs that you overlay on a regular Ubuntu installation. This makes some sense, as the low latency kernel is now standard in Ubuntu 14.04 and later, so there is no need to dicker with replacing the kernel.

I have not tried the new suite yet, and will try this out when I have another machine to set up.  There are applications in the suite that can be complicated to set up properly, and I am sure that it will be a lot easier to get them all playing together using DreamStudio than trying to install them one by one.  I am not sure what happens when you install DreamStudio on UbuntuStudio instead of Regular Ubuntu.DreamStudio

Celeum Technologies is a tiny company in Saskatchewan, Canada run by musician/technical guru Dick MacInnes.  DreamStudio has no open source rules, as does Ubuntu Studio including best of the pack open source, commercial and free or limited license software where it makes for a better workstation.

DreamStudio is not updated as often as Ubuntu and is intended to be installed on  Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) releases.  Sometimes the releases are delayed a bit from the Ubuntu LTS release.  This is because DreamStudio is a labor of love for Dick, and he works on it among other demands on his time (performance, family, running a small business).  The craft he does during the long Saskatchewan winter nights may very well be worth it if you need the additional features and pretty interface.

The audio workstations in Ubuntu-Studio includes Audacity, a fine basic audio editor without the fine graphic control of levels in other editors, and ease of time dragging program elements.  Ardour, a full featured recording editor is also included.  Many people are afraid of Ardour because it won’t work until set up with jack2.  Fortunately, both  Ubuntu-Studio and DreamStudio have it already set up, so those headaches are gone.  It is still complex and powerful in the same class as Pro-Tools.

DreamStudio also comes with a demo version (upgradable to full version for $80) of Harrison MixBus 3 DAW that has full professional analog simulation with everything that a recording studio would want.  (You need a high quality multi-channel audio card to use it to full effect)  This is a SERIOUS audio editor which does not support compressed audio file formats, so have a big hard disk.  DreamStudio also comes with a host of professional video, animation, 2d and 3d graphics, film post edit, web design and other tools.  The list is amazing, and most are free, and the rest are affordably priced like MixBus 3 and Lightworks NLE award winning video editor.

If your plan is to do a Rivendell – Jack installation for a radio station and Ardour (or Audacity) is suitable for your needs, Ubuntu Studio is the obvious choice.  If you are doing a wide range of  multimedia creations, then DreamStudio is your dream.


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Network Setup for Rivendell and NetJack

The physical connections between computers running Rivendell and/or NetJack should be done with a bit of thought.  There are some special considerations in any network that carries real time audio or files that must be served on an exact schedule.  This “real time” requirement is different than most computer needs where a document or web page can be served at some time in the future, as long as it is soon.   Audio streams and playout systems need their data NOW.

Rivendell requires Internet access for its rdcatch feature, as well as to access audio files, logs, ssh management, icecast servers. ftp servers and podcast servers, etc.  A Jack server should have access to the internet for the same reasons, plus network time, printers, sending email alerts, etc.  I will call this a connection to the “Office Network” since it includes mostly non-real time traffic.

The safest way (I have thought of) is to have the Rivendell Workstations and Rivendell Server(s) connect to two separate networks.  One network, the “Office Network” carries all the normal traffic, connection to the internet, uploading of logs, printing reports, VoIP, etc..  The other network I call the “Music Network” carries only NetJack traffic, NFS traffic for audio files, and MySQL traffic and some network management traffic.  Rivendell also requires that the Ethernet addresses for these purposes are STATIC, meaning that they are maintained permanently and  setup manually.  The “Office Network” could be automatically assigned using DHCP, or can be STATIC, although there are good reasons that the server interface to the “Office Network” should be STATIC also.

Below is a graphic showing a possible configuration of a Rivendell – NetJack system in  a small radio station, or station cluster.  It is not set up for redundancy to provide high reliability, but later additions will permit this:

Network Layout

Rivendell – NetJack Music and Office Networks

The “Music Network” should use Gigabyte Ethernet interfaces on the computers and switch.  It should use Cat-5e or Cat-6 cables in a unique color to distinguish it from the office network.  If patch panels are used, they should be separate panels from the office network to avoid confusion.  As you can see, only the machines that have real time functions are connected to this net.  There could be a Network Attached Storage device on this network also, but it should not be used for backups, etc.; only for music and playout traffic should be on this network.

In this installation I have arbitrarily assigned the “Music Network” to a class C non-routable set of addresses:

Parameters -192.168.60.0  netmask 255.255.255.0  Gateway 192. 168.60.1 (The server) Broadcast 192.168.60.255.

This means that any device on the “Music Network” assigned an address beginning with 192.168.60. will be a member of this network.  It does not require a router, just a switch since the knowledge of the members of this network and the needed data routes will be known by each of the computers involved.  This network could possibly have 254 devices attached, but you would never want that many.

The “Office Network” is a conventional internet connected network configured to be efficient for its size.  It carries all the regular business and computer traffic of the operation, in addition to providing audio file upload services and possibly streaming sources for Internet Streaming. Conventional network design considerations are appropriate here.  A small station could possibly use the firewall – router provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), or another solution with more than one ISP and a load balancing router, a router using DD-Wrt or other open source router software, or Cisco or other “heavy iron” solution.

Not shown here, but for radio stations that need to deliver programming to remote transmitters, there may be a third ethernet interface on the Rivendell Server for a “STL Network” whose exclusive purpose is program delivery, transmitter control and communications to the station transmitters.  The traffic on this network should be separated from the other networks. This network will interconnect using dedicated microwave channels, landline T-1, and/or other methods of data transport  requiring well thought out routing protocols for high reliability.

 


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Use PulseAudio with Jack Audio Connection Kit?

Ubuntu Studio 14.04 uses Pulseaudio -> Alsa -> Jack as the connection interface for audio devices.  Pulseaudio is a very simple interface, and with it most audio cards just “show up” and play with Jack as the pulseaudio-sink and pulseaudio-source devices on the Jack patchbay.

In the olden days (Ubuntu Studio 10.04 and before) Pulseaudio was  buggy and not worth the effort to deal with the bugs.  Pulseaudio is now much more mature, and for a single sound card machine makes it much more likely that you will have Jack working right away.  If you are using Debian or regular Ubuntu, you will need a Pulseaudio plugin to hook it up with Jack.  I have not used the plugin as it is all nicely done in Ubuntu Studio.

Alsa is perfectly capable of connecting sound cards to Jack, with infinitely more flexibility, and (unfortunately) with more complexity.  Remember to turn the volume controls up in alsamixer!

There still remain some reasons to dump Pulseaudio:

  • Pulseaudio works best with a single sound card – if you have an in-computer card and a USB card and want to use both, Pulseaudio is complicated at least and may not let you use the second card. (I have not been successful, but I didn’t try very hard)
  • Pulseaudio devices want to hook up to stuff in the patchbay, and I have not figured how to keep them from automatically doing so.
  • Pulseaudio adds latency to the audio chain.  If you are just recording and playing back stuff and “real time” audio is not important, this might be insignificant.
  • Pulseaudio and Rivendell get in the way of each other.  Rivendell wants to have multiple audio inputs and multiple outputs, and that can be a problem with Pulseaudio if they are on different cards.
  • Pulseaudio devices Pulseaudio-sink and Pulseaudio-source hide the names of the actual sound devices, so they can be confusing when patching.
  • Pulseaudio hides and plays with some sound card settings in Alsa, so special configurations might just get reset to the defaults at next boot.

The reasons to keep Pulseaudio:

  • Alsa can be tricky to get all your audio devices working right unless you are happy to use the command line.
  • Ubuntu Studio comes with Pulseaudio installed and working, and dumping it can cause your installation to stop working until you figure out what Alsa settings for your sound card are undone.
  • There are some tricks to getting Pulseaudio to uninstall or to disable it. (It keeps coming back)
  • Pulseaudio now keeps a simple setup simple (except for those crazy patchbay devices)

Assuming you want to remove Pulseaudio, here is what you do:

From hecticgeek.com:

1. First let’s remove PulseAudio from your Ubuntu OS. I don’t remember since when Ubuntu used to come installed it by default, but for the recent versions such as: 12.04 Precise Pangolin, 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, 11.04 Natty Narwhal, 10.10 and 10.04 the below command should remove it.

sudo apt-get -y autoremove pulseaudio

2. Now do a reboot since PulseAudio daemon (system service) is also running from the background. So it’s better to let the OS update everything.

3. You need the package alsa-tools, but that is already installed in Ubuntu-Studio, but not in regular Ubuntu.

4.  The script I will be publishing later will do this all automagically.

If you just want to just disable PulseAudio, you can edit the config file

1.   Copy /etc/pulseaudio/client.conf for a backup

sudo cp /etc/pulseaudio/client.conf /etc/pulseaudio/client.conf.orig

2.  Modify /etc/pulse/client.conf  the line   ; autospawn = yes to autospawn=np

sudo sed  s/; autospawn = yes/autospawn = no/ /etc/pulseaudio/client.conf

3.  Reboot or kill the pulseaudio job.


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Where to get Ubuntu Studio

Ubuntu Studio 14.04.x is a distribution of Ubuntu that is available for download as a .iso file, which is a DVD image file.  You need to download the torrent or .iso from the UbuntuStudio.org download page.  A .iso is directly downloaded using Firefox, Chrome or IE.  A torrent will download a lot faster but you have to install and run a torrent client like uTorrent.  You can get uTorrent for Windows here.  There are two versions of Ubuntu Studio, the “i386” 32 bit processor version which will probably work ok, but I don’t recommend it, but if you have a 64 bit machine you REALLY want to load the  “amd64” 64 bit version.  (Yes it works on Intel processors)

Ubuntu Studio 14.04.x (at this time x is 2) is a Long Term Support (LTS) version.  This means that this version will have security and bug fixes coming out for a few years, but no new bells and whistles.  You want to use a LTS version because a high priority in a radio automation system is STABILITY.  The other releases of Ubuntu Studio have new stuff added (and subtracted) with each version coming out every nine months or so.  The way that a system that “used to work” could change, no longer providing the same controls and the people who use it can be confused.  You don’t want your everyday tool to break.

Ubuntu Studio 14.04 is designed as a workstation for audio, video, presentations, graphics, etc.  It has the bare bones of what you need for audio, the special part is that it has properly installed ALSA and Jack and mostly configured them.

Because it has Xfce (a very lightweight Graphical Interface) it also is a very good candidate as a server.  Many people don’t want any graphical interface on a server, but some of the things that are needed for an audio server (Like Jack and KXStudio) run in graphical mode only, so Ubuntu Server is not a good candidate because you would have to install a GUI that needs a lot of setup, and Ubuntu Desktop has just too many pretty gizmos clogging things up to hammer out audio production and automation.

As a server, you will have some work to do – putting in a webserver, samba file sharing, routing, etc., but that has to be set up for your configuration no matter what.  The installation part is simple.

After you download or torrent the file to your computer, it needs to burned to a bootable DVD or a 4 Gig or larger Flash Drive.  For DVDs, Windows 7 has this ability built in to Explorer, and for Ubuntu the instructions are here.  For flash drives, you can’t just copy the file over, it needs to be written as a bootable image.  There are lots of free programs out there to burn iso files to flash drives, but Google searching will bring up many listings for the utility that can only write Windows 7 or Windows 8 iso files.  Avoid that utility.

Some motherboards will not boot from a flash drive, and you need to play with the bios to get a DVD or Flash Drive to boot when there is an old operating system on the hard drive.  You will be making the machine a  Ubuntu Studio ONLY machine.  No dual boots or Virtual machines for audio!  You want to lock this machine into one mode only so it will be reliable and simple. Yes you can play with a virtual machine, but it will never be a real “workstation”, as would be the case with regular Ubuntu.

When the DVD or Flash Drive boots, make sure you check the disk before installing.  That is one of the selections on the first menu.  It would be really a shame to spend an hour or so setting up a Ubuntu Studio system only to find that half the stuff doesn’t work.

You will need to babysit the installation for a few minutes.  The machine needs to be connected to the Internet and a DHCP server.  I don’t install the photo finishing, graphics and presentations application installation, and you could drop the video apps if you are sure you will not be needing them.  If you are not going to use my script, let the system update all the files on installation.  You can walk away for a cup of coffee after the initial entries quiet down, then check back later when it is installing MySql for passwords and stuff.  It will stop and wait for the password entry.  When it is done –

Take out the DVD or Flashdrive and reboot – voila!  A fresh Ubuntu Studio installation.

 


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