onsdag 29 december 2010

Jack MIDI vs. ALSA

The crackling issue in Zynaddsubfx that I described earlier is supposed to be solved in Yoshimi, a Zynaddsubfx fork/derivative. There is even a package for it in the Ubuntu repositories, so I gave it a try.

However, I could not connect my MIDI controller (the AKAI MPK mini) to it. Why? Because the controller shows up in Qjackctl's ALSA tab, while Yoshimi is in the MIDI tab. Patchage and a2jmidid don't help, either. Apparantly the exact same problem goes for Bristol, simulator of classic organs and synths.

My MIDI controller is connected through USB, my audio interface is connected through Firewire. Thus I use the firewire driver in jack. I wonder if there is any way of making the controller work with Jack MIDI clients. I mean, OK, Jack MIDI is the new thing and ALSA midi may become obsolete. In any case it would be nice to still be able to use my USB MIDI controller, and I figure there has to be a solution.

EDIT: Starting Bristol with the "-midi alsa" option, or Yoshimi with the "-a" option does the trick. The apps will then show up in Qjackctl's ALSA tab.

tisdag 28 december 2010

Follow-up - Midi controllers!

Of course, I didn't quite do what I planned to do. This is what I have done, though:
  • I've recorded song ideas using Hydrogen, Ardour and Qsynth. Nothing new or exciting here, except maybe for some LV2 plugins that I've tried. I might get back to them in another blog post.
  • I've tried Rakarrack a bit. There are some horrid presets on there, but there are also some nice ones and I think this app might come in handy later on.
  • I have bought an AKAI MPK mini!
  • I've learned how to map MIDI control signals to seq24, to toggle loops (with the help of this thread and this chart of MIDI status codes). I've also learned how to map midi signals in Sooperlooper, which is considerably easier.
  • I've learned how to route my "vintage" Nobels MF-2 midi foot controller to seq24 and Sooperlooper using a2jmidid and Patchage (see this page). One step closer to using my PC as a loop station!
  • I have finally donated some money to the Ardour project. I'll donate to Hydrogen as well.
I might write in more detail later about my midi controllers and how to map them to seq24, Sooperlooper and so on.

I am also trying out Ableton Live again (in Windows, although it reportedly works with Wine). At this point, I need to figure out a workflow that works for me, no matter what platform - and although I think Live is fantastic, perhaps Linux will still be my primary choice. After all effort I've put into it, I feel quite at home with it and I know my preferred applications quite well. Setting things up is happily no longer such an issue. We'll see where it goes...

P.S. One thing I'd like to investigate is how Zynaddsubfx actually works (ie. how to customize instruments in detail) and why it makes noise that sounds like xruns when there are none (it was discussed in this old thread, also here with what looks like a possible solution - OK, so maybe there are still things that need to be tinkered with).

tisdag 3 augusti 2010

What's next

You have your ups and downs I guess. Right now I'm on the up side, planning my next steps. I've started using this repository for fresh versions of music apps: https://launchpad.net/~philip5/+archive/extra - which among other things means that Qtractor and Traverso works.

Here is some of the things I'm planning to do as soon as I get more time:

Also, I've ran into an "audio loop slicer" called Smasher. It looks promising!

I'm still very impressed by the number and diversity of music applications for Linux and I would like to contribute more to this community. However, am still frustrated that it's not easier to set it all up than it is...

måndag 26 juli 2010

Complaints and a little hope

DISCLAIMER: This post is an exaggerated rant fueled by fatigue, disappointment and a little bit of jealousy, not really an objective description of the state of affairs in Linux audio.

Whenever my good friend Rikard comes around with his laptop, I get both inspired and a bit put off. Why? Well, Rikard is an Apple user, and frankly, seeing him operating software like Ableton Live and VDMX almost makes me regret all those hours I've spent setting up JACK and Ardour. There is simply no software to match that stuff for Linux. Not in simplicity, nor stability, nor GUI design - simply put, in all-round awesomeness. For music making in Linux, there are a few decent options depending on what you want to do, but most of it feels quite old fashioned, especially considering all the command line tinkering it (still) takes to make it all work. As for VJing software, I haven't seen anything that looks even remotely up-to-date.

Don't get me wrong. I'm quite proud of what the FLOSS community has done, even though I haven't contributed a lot to it myself. Having witnessed the distros get more user friendly (whithout sacrificing robustness and freedom) and also the evolution of Hydrogen, Ardour et al has been a thrill. I'm very happy with Linux in everyday use (surfing the web, listening to music, editing documents, managing photos and so on) and as a working environment (for web development). I prefer its openness, its community-based development and the philosophy behind it to any proprietary system.

But whereas nowadays most of the system works quite painlessly out of the box, JACK and his friends still need more expertise, or at least a lot of time and patience (as in my case), to set up: sifting through countless forum threads and HOWTO:s, waiting around for answers in chatrooms, learning ever more BASH commands takes time. Yes, the community support is quite remarkable but its reach is still limited. It can't eliminate all the effort needed to get a working music making environment.

Rikard fires up Ableton Live and it just works, even when he uses it with his integrated sound card. After having changed permissions to /dev/raw1394, started the JACK daemon with the appropriate parameters and fired up Ardour, I might demonstrate to him that it doesn't even crash so often nowadays! And my latest finding, the more light-weight audio sequencer Qtractor, can handle an audio sample library, but it habitually crashes upon opening its own project files. I probably couldn't convince him to switch systems.

Yes, I'm aware that I might be doing something wrong. Maybe I could make JACK, Ardour and Hydrogen work like a happy family. But then I haven't yet touched upon issues of functionality, intuitiveness or GUI:s. Ardour and Hydrogen are pretty good in this field, even though they don't fill all my needs, but many other applications are either unfinished, unfit for my purposes or just a pure mess. And the hands-on creativity of Live (or even Sony Acid, which was a favorite of mine when I still used Windows) is nowhere to be found.

So where am I going with this? I would like to support those who work hard on making music and audio apps for Linux better. It just feels like I spend a lot more time setting up the system than actually making music. Maybe in five, ten or fifteen years things will have changed. But what to do until then? I constantly feel I am missing out on actual creativity.

I have decided to give music making with Linux a fair chance - I will try to set aside some time after summer just to tweak JACK and try out more programs. I will try to enlist the help of more Linux savvy friends and really get into it. And if I am still dissatisfied after that, I will consider the options.

fredag 8 januari 2010

Spotify for Linux; huge .xession-errors

My ~/.xsession-errors is a monster that eats my disk space, and it's Spotify's fault. It grows up to 20 GB with error messages from Spotify. Always the same line:

fixme:ntdll:NtQueryInformationProcess (process=0xffffffff) Unimplemented information class: ProcessDebugFlags

I saw a solution online: symlink .xsession-errors to /dev/null! I might do that. But there's still a bug somewhere that I hope will be fixed.

In other Spotify-related news, I just bought a premium account to get rid of the annoying ads. A happy side-effect is that I could use Despotify or Jotify (which looks better) instead of running Spotify through Wine. Too bad Jotify doesn't even have the most basic documentation, so I have no idea how to run the program.

måndag 4 januari 2010

Intermission 3: Bluetooth remote control

With the help of this page I can now control Rhythmbox and Gnome with my Sony Ericsson T700 through bluetooth! Nifty. My phone is not listed on the page, but it still works, so yours might too even if it isn't on there.

söndag 3 januari 2010

Intermission 2: Rhythmbox / Gstreamer bug

Rhythmbox keeps going silent or freezing for no apparent reason, after playing a few songs. After a restart it works again. I've had a similar problem with Spotify (through Wine) for some time, but Rhythmbox has only done this after I installed Ubuntu 9.10.

So I've filed a bug (possibly for the first time!)
Edit: Here's the bug in Bugzilla - filed by someone with the same issue.

Here's the error thrown by Rhythmbox:

(rhythmbox:3886): GStreamer-WARNING **: Element bin2 already has parent

(rhythmbox:3886): GLib-CRITICAL **: g_str_has_prefix: assertion `str != NULL' failed

Maybe it's supposed to be a Gstreamer bug, I hope some friendly developers can help me sort it out.


When Spotify goes silent, this is the message in the console (repeated endlessly):

err:wave:wodPlayer_WriteMaxFrags Error in writing wavehdr. Reason: Input/output error

Googling it doesn't give much insight... Maybe another bug to file? The question is what package to file it for.