June 24, 2007

Here's what I don't understand...

by Chris Randall

Now, I'm no whiz with Linux. I _can_ navigate my way around a typical Linux system, using my OS X chops (ironic, that) but quite frankly I find it to be rather tedious.

But that's neither here nor there. Here's what I'm curious about: Ardour, much beloved in the Linux audio circle and the recipient (from my lofty vantage point at least) of a more-or-less unending stream of kudos, is roughly equivalent in both operation and appearance to ProTools 2. Even with the MIDI, natch. Whereas EnergyXT is a far more advanced creature, both better looking and much more feature-laden, and assuming the Linux version and the Windows version are more or less the same, eminently usable. Why is it that I didn't know EnergyXT was available for Linux until I went to download the damned thing last week?

This is what I don't get about the Linux community. I mean, I'm not trying to be an asshole here, but if a DAW came out in 2007 for PC or Mac with Ardour's capabilities (or rather, the utter lack thereof) it wouldn't even make it out of the starting gate. I don't mean to offend, but what the fuck is it with you people? Is the fact that something is _FREE_ so important? I hate to say it, but I believe that to be the case. Ardour is free (as in b33r) while EnergyXT costs a whopping $75.



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Jun.24.2007 @ 1:34 PM
EnergyXT has only really been available for Linux since last week. Well, there were pre-release betas of version 2, but they were missing stuff from the final build. V1 didn't work on Linux. So it hasn't been that long for things to catch on. I've seen a few Linux-centric web/blog mentions about it, but nothing big yet.

My experience with Linux people is that they tend to hold all things open source in higher esteem than things not open source, regardless of quality. Maybe money is the issue, but it struck me more as a political thing.


Jun.24.2007 @ 1:46 PM
I sense a lot of backlash from linux nerds cause the program isnt open source. Ill take a rad and prolific developer like jorgen over a 100 open source devs, who code when they feel like it. Id like to switch away from windows eventually, so at least on my composition lappy, ext linux may be finding a new home.

Jun.24.2007 @ 3:11 PM
Chris Randall
I feel like I should qualify my comments slightly. As Steve surmised, I wasn't aware it had been out such a short time, and that would explain for a large part the silence on the subject.

What set me off was, in my morning reading, I came across several posts by people that said they wouldn't buy it simply because it wasn't GPL'd. I just thought that was utterly ridiculous, and speaks to herrprof's point, I think. As I said in my post, no offense to the Ardour people, but it has been in development for years and is still barely more than a glorified tapedeck. (And not even that glorified.) Whereas e-xt, the work-for-commerce of a single person, is perfectly capable, far more capable when compared.

In my experience, and believe me when I say I at least _try_ every operating system, and attempt to make music on all of them, two things are true about Linux:

1) The software generally available (for free) falls somewhere between "really fucking bad" and "unusable." When an OS has been out for a year or two, it is understandable, but Linux is _well_ in to its second decade on this planet. I call bullshit.

2) This thread will no doubt engender responses that both agree with me and violently disagree with me. The latter will take the form of "yeah, but you forgot about Software X, that does Y." Well, do that, and I abso-fucking-lutely guarantee I'll come up with a commercial equivalent on the Windows or OS X platforms that does the job far better. Again, I call bullshit.

This entire thing is odd, inasmuch as people that use Linux are generally _in_ the computer or academic industries, and one would think they'd be quite crafty with the programming and such. Is the OS that hobbled?



Jun.24.2007 @ 4:03 PM
Solipsist Nation
Okay, as a long-time linux administrator (running heavily-used web sites and stuff), it seems like one of the biggest problems is that the OS is designed to be a _server_ OS. Unix in general is a server OS, and its methods of multitasking and handling stuff that requires quick responses is very different from a general-purpose or user-stuff-centered OS...

The thing is, you on your web browser aren't likely to notice hiccups in the data stream from a linux server. Even if you were on the console doing things, having your interactive session swap out for a fraction of a second isn't going to slow you down any, and you'll still be able to type and edit things and so on.

Also, the GUI system used by linux, the X Windowing system, has a weird client-server thing going on behind it because it was designed to totally abstract the screen away from the programs using it. So, you can very easily run X programs on one system and have them display on another, but you don't always get zippy responses like you do from, say, Windows, which can talk directly to the hardware but which is more of a pain for doing remote application stuff. Apple didn't ditch X as the primary graphics system when they moved to Mac OS X just to annoy people-- Quartz is far more responsive since it leaves out all those layers of abstraction between the software and the actual video hardware.

The only reason we're seeing useable real-time audio stuff show up now on linux is that CPUs have gotten fast enough and big memory is cheap enough that things like having your DAW software swap out is less likely to happen and faster if it does, so your audio keeps playing. And CPUs and video hardware are now fast enough (and usually supported through some kind of accelerated X drivers that take care of some of the problems of using generic VESA or VGA drivers to talk to your video card) that you can do reasonable GUIs without making your audio all choppy.

It's not that nobody has been working on this stuff, and it's not that the OS is _hobbled_, it's just that it wasn't designed for any of the things DAW software requires of it. Think of using Windows XP as a web server-- it'll run like crap unless you throw a ton of CPU at it, and even then it'll be pretty iffy compared to using a real server OS.

The stuff that people _have_ been working on for years _is_ good-- it just hasn't been audio.


Jun.24.2007 @ 4:15 PM
Chris Randall
Thanks for that post. I hadn't really thought about it like that. I mean, Apache and MySQL are certainly fine.



Jun.24.2007 @ 6:36 PM
Yeah, solipstnation, that was totally enlightening. I will never, ever again indulge in wishful, what-if thinking regarding audio and Linux. It has been removed from my equation. Thanks for the house cleaning.

Jun.24.2007 @ 6:54 PM
Great post Solipstnation. Very informative.

Jun.24.2007 @ 9:43 PM
I'll take the bait.

First of all, a correction. Ardour is free as in speech, not beer.

You can complain about the lack of features or quality in an open source project, but the blame rests solely at your feet. You, me, everyone who reads and comments on this post has 100% total control over Ardour. If there is something about it you don't like, you have power to change it, and you don't even have to be a programmer.

You're doing the right thing. Complaining about open source projects helps them find direction, but it would be more supportive in the form of bug reports and feature requests, and even more so in code patches or financial support.

As a linux nerd, or more aptly, FOSS nerd, I'm not opposed to products like EnergyXT. Software developers need to eat, too. And it certainly isn't about cost. I could afford to buy commercial versions of the software I use. In fact I do buy PalmOS software where FOSS alternatives are not available.

I don't know that a project being free or open automatically makes it better. But in my opinion, it gives the project more potential, potential that I as a user have direct influence over. A closed source, for profit project has more limitations than potential. As a non-free project matures, its direction is governed by the narrow mindset of a singular development team. If the direction differs from your wishes you have no recourse but to abandon that project for another or wait for your ideas to become commercially advantageous. With FOSS, you have a direct conduit to have your ideas entertained and explored by the project's community, and if still your ideas are refused, you can fork the code and start a different version. See XFree86 vs. xorg.

You seem to be focusing on the monetary cost of the product whereas I would assign value to the availability of source materials, freedom to distribute, as well as the monetary cost or lack there of.

If it makes you feel better, you could donate $75 to the Ardour project.


Jun.24.2007 @ 10:11 PM
OK. Now i will take the bait.

are you suggesting it would be preferable to donate $75 to the Ardour project and HOPE that it would someday do what the end user wants rather than pay $75 now for something that does what the end user wants NOW?

In my day gig i run 12 linux servers and all is super swell. Going back to the Sun SPARCs i started on, Unix/Linux has always been a great server OS for me.

Once or twice i have thown together a Linux workstation and have immediately reformatted. There is always someone around to tell you that you can do everything with FOSS but can you? My favorite is the "use THE GIMP instead of PHOTOSHOP" tip. Have the people that recommend this ever used PHOTOSHOP. Come on.

To me, it is a little like the electric car/hybrid thing. For years we heard about how we should using alternate transportation, electric cars etc. were coming. As long is you didn't need to actually be anywhere in any kind of reasonable time and as long as you didn't need to travel more than 20 miles and didn't mind looking like a dork, unable to meet the minimum speed requirements to travel on the freeway, you were golden. It took an expensive, mass market vehicle to get it happening for the mainstream.

I really don't want to offend anyone here, and firmly believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion but i think that Linux fans want to believe so that their chosen OS is THE OS that they forgive (or justify) almost anything.


Jun.24.2007 @ 11:17 PM
Chris Randall
While I agree with your post's sentiment in general, myrnaloy, it kind of misses the mark. If oil suddenly stopped flowing, you could absolutely guarantee that we would have fuel cell vehicles inside a year that performed at or beyond current expectations. The market moves when it has to.

Which brings up another point: a paycheck and a person in charge are much more powerful motivators than groupthink. Bugs get fixed a lot faster when it's "fix this or you're fired." If AD made plugins for donations, we wouldn't make plugins, plain and simple, because I have other skills that can pay the rent and don't have to rely on the largess of musicians. (Being one, I can state for the record that musicians and largess are two concepts with only passing familiarity to each other.)

In short, the 1000 Monkeys Writing Shakespeare model applies. Yes, the 1000 monkeys would _eventually_ write all of Shakespeare's plays. However, Shakespeare wrote them first, and he wrote them because he was paid to. The GIMP is a Photoshop placebo. But the only reason it has something to copy is because someone paid a lot of people a lot of money to invent something that was worth being copied. Ardour sort of does what ProTools used to do back in the day. That's interesting. See above.

Basically, it's a dumb fucking business model. (Or anti-business model, whatever...) And a terrible way to get things done. But all of this seems moot now that solipstnation has given me an epiphany, and made it feel kind of sexy to not care about Linux audio.



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