Category Archives: Software

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Upgrading the New LTS version of Ubuntu-Studio

Ubuntu, has a versioning release sytem that accommodates bleeding edge users and users that are seeking stability.  Ubuntu-Studio follows this scheme.

The various releases are kept track of by a Major release number – the latest being 16, a minor release number, and a point release number in the format:  16.04.1  The major releases have a code name, 16. is Xenial Xerus, often just referred to Xenial.

There are generally substantial changes between major releases.  All the new stuff gets beta tested and tossed out into the world.  A release like 16.01.0 will likely have some hiccups because there are many things that have changed, and the changes do not always play nice with each other.

Because users who have production systems cannot track the “latest and greatest”, Ubuntu has established a “Long Term Release” based upon even major release numbers.  Major release 16 contains a Long Term Release.  Because the first several point releases are cleaning up incompatibilities, bugs and mistakes, it would be inadvisable to make an early major release with a low point release the LTS.  The Ubuntu folks have figured that by the fourth point release the new version has settled down enough to be stable.  So version 16.04  (and every .04 release of an even major release will become an LTS)  To see the support status of the Ubuntu-Studio operating system and applications simply enter
$ ubuntu-support-status at the comand line.  The end of life status for Ubuntu releases determines when they no longer get updates.

When Ubuntu and Ubuntu-Studio 16.04 (without the.1) was released, it was very cool, but as all sofware, it still had bugs that had not been found or completely squashed.  It may not have had the user interface completely resolved.  Only when  Ubuntu-Studio 16.04.1 came out does it become the LTS edition – Ubuntu-Studio 16.04.1 LTS.  Ubuntu-Studio 16.04.1 LTS was released July 21, 2016.  Updates to this version are intended to be focused on bug fixes, substantial performance improvements, etc.  There are rarely new applications or significant changes to the way it operates updated.  LTS versions are supported for five years, and other versions for only nine months.

LTS releases are what you build production machines from.  You want to turn off  automatic updates because you really don’t want to come in in the morning to find your workstation no longer works with the program you need to use because it was “updated” overnight. To update an LTS release, simply issue $ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade.

There are two other versions of “apt-get upgrade“,  the “dist-upgrade”, which is pretty safe in that it tries to upgrade every package in the package list, but will avoid any upgrades which require deleting a library or other possible dependency for another program.  There is also “full upgrade” which takes a more aggressive stance, and updates as many packages as possible without breaking dependencies.  In a production machine, I recommend only doing upgrades when you are physically at the machine where you can reboot it or fix whatever might stop working.

As I mentioned before, an LTS release will not get any new packages, but will upgrade all those that have been installed.  There is one notable exception.  This exception is “backports”.  Backports come in at least two groups.  Ubuntu backports are pretty well tested and you might consider using them to fix a broken or buggy driver, or to get something you really need working better.  By enabling the Ubuntu Backports repository (enabled by default) and installing from there opens you to some risk in a production environment, but it will probably work.

There are also manual backports where you build a package from a later edition of Ubuntu Studio to get some additional functionality.  Manual backports are for the daring and not for a production environment.

There are many different use conditions for Ubuntu-Studio, so you should plan carefully to determine what upgrade strategy to follow.  Do you want an appliance that will keep doing the same thing, year after year?  Is it your toolbox that needs to keep sharp?  It is a machine that lives on the internet and needs the latest security patches?  Is it on a closed network that is pretty safe from intrusion.  (Don’t forget flash drives, at my station we had a virus travel through several unconnected machines by the flashdrives in our “sneaker net”)

For anything you do with Rivendell, it is essential that you maintain a stable working environment.  Starting with a Ubuntu-Studio LTS distribution is an important place to start.  Locking down the upgrade process is one way to do that.  Opening it up only when prepared for a failure is a good strategy.  You really don’t want to have Rivendell go down without a plan to stay on the air.  Working out a plan to include security updates on a regular basis is also important.


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Nice demo of Rivendell with StereoTool

StereoTool is a very competent Jack enabled Audio Processor / FM stereo / RDS  Generator that runs on a decent 64Bit PC with a 192 kHz sample rate sound card.  Here is a YouTube demo of Rivendell feeding StereoTool through Jack. You can see the components working, and then the setup in KXstudio Catia patchbay.

RIVENDELL + STEREO TOOL

Nice! Where else can you get a complete radio station in a box?  Just add transmitter and antenna.


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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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Jack2 Audio Connection Kit

Jack2 is the connector for audio within and between computers.  It connects your audio soundcard to the guts of your computer using a simple to visualize jackfield, where you connect audio paths from one output to any number of inputs.  You can also connect several computers’ audio together over ethernet!  It is available for Linux (Ubuntu Studio), MacOS, and Windows!  It does not know multi-channel audio natively, so you have to hook up the left and the right ‘cables’ independently.

Jack Logo

 

 

My first exposure to Jack was back in Ubuntu 10.04 where I installed it manually in a system that had ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) and an early version of Pulseaudio  installed.  It drove me crazy, no audio or audio that had dropouts.  Dozens of settings poorly documented.  AARRRRGH!

No longer! Ubuntu Studio comes with Jack2 already installed so all that grief is mostly behind you.  Many web sources tell you to get rid of Pulseaudio, but the case is not so compelling as it once was, but if low latency or several sound cards are in your plan, dump it.  Check out my article “Use Pulseaudio with Jack Audio Connection Kit?”

You should have your final soundcard(s) installed when you install Ubuntu-Studio so that it can pick up the cards automatically.  Jack comes with a little utility called qjackctl that lets you set all the necessary configuration that lets you correct much of what might not work right away.  No audio can usually be fixed with a command line utility called alsamixer because some sound card drivers set the volume to “0” not “11”.

There are packages from a site called KXStudio that make using Jack2 on Linux beautiful.  If you dive into KXStudio, you will not most of the Jack2 utilities like Patchage, qjackctl, etc.  I will have a script on this site soon that automates installing all these Uber Cool features.

Once you can hook up an audio editor like Audacity to the audio outputs and connect a parametric equalizer to the microphone inputs and the equalizer to Audacity inputs, along a  Jack meterbridge or spectrum analyzer you can see the power of this system. Jack can hook up Lapsda and .vst plugins for a multitude of effects.

NetJack is a way to hook up several computers’ audio  together via ethernetwith one master computer connecting to another, or several others.  This can work over a typical quiet office network, but the NetJack audio should be on its own network with no competing uses of the bandwidth.  If there is too much audio flying around even a 1 GB network can get overloaded.

So, the possibility of shipping audio around between workstations and a server is a real possibility, getting rid of lots of conventional cabling, and removing hundreds or thousands of places where the audio can get degraded.

 


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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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