#1May 25th, 2007 · 01:35 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
Linux Studio HOWTO
Setup a free digital audio recording workstation using Linux. A guide for newbies.

By popular demand, here it is.

You could potentially mess up your computer really badly by trying to do anything that I might suggest or even imply that you try to do in this article. Please don't be a dummy and back up all your files before you attempt anything. Do this stuff at your own risk!!!

This article assumes that you don't know much about computers, however it does assume that you are smart enough to be able to do basic computer tasks like using Microsoft® Windows™ programs, browsing the world wide web, downloading stuff, installing programs, checking your email, and generally be a nuisance in other various ways with your computer. This article assumes that you know little to nothing about Linux except that it is something you might want to use.

This article also assumes a few other things such as: you can think for yourself, you are willing to do research and homework, you are willing to help yourself (following the moral story of "teach a man to fish"), you are willing to follow the links in this article and read them and most importantly you aren't afraid of programming a computer to get it working instead of just clicking buttons.

Because installing, using and maintaining Linux is such a big topic I cannot possibly cover everything about it. This article will therefor be aimed at giving you a broad overview of Linux, what it is and what is involved in setting up and using it.

Now then! On to the good stuff.

What is Linux?

Linux is free, it does not cost money. Linux is an Operating System or OS and is an alternative to the Windows and Macintosh Operating Systems that both cost money. Linux does the same thing for you as Windows: it runs your computer. Linux can do everything Windows can do and some would say more. Linux powers anywhere between 50-70% of the internet depending on who you talk to, but Apache (a web server created on and for Linux) accounts for easily over half of the web servers on the internet. Most of the web sites you visit are probably coming to you from a computer running Linux or Apache. The BandAMP website lives on a computer run by a Linux style OS running the Apache web server. Mac OS X is based on a Linux style OS, the same Linux style OS that powers the BandAMP website. Linux is Open Source Software, this means that the computer code for Linux is freely available to be both seen and or changed by anyone at any time.

Linux is a kernel. Linux is really like the engine in your car. Without gears and a body and a steering wheel and tires your engine won't go very far, nor is it appropriate to call a car an engine or an engine a car. For Linux to be useful to your average person, it requires that other programs run with it. There is a set of basic programs created by an organization called the GNU Project that run with the Linux kernel to make your computer usable. These basic programs are very basic (they are not graphical) and most people who are accustomed to Windows might not understand how powerful they can be. There are, however, still more organizations and groups of people who have created more free and open source software which runs on Linux and which gives a computer running Linux all the capabilities of a modern OS like Windows complete with graphics, sounds, web browsers, games, mp3 players, spreadsheets, photo programs and just about everything else you can think of.

Why is Linux good? Why would anyone want to use it?

Linux is free software. Some people simply can't afford to pay the average $300 for a new professional copy of Windows. Governments and large corporations are forced to pay that $300 for every computer they own! If you consider an organization with only 10 computers that's a lot of money. Now consider a government that might have 1,000 or 10,000 computers. This translates into millions of dollars.

Some people do not want to use Windows because they don't like it or the company that makes it. Some people live in countries where they cannot legally use Windows due to their local laws and or the license restrictions of Windows.

Linux is Open Source Software. Security is important to most governments and with the very real threat of computer hacking and other forms of electronic security breaking, governments often cannot take the risk of letting software run for which they do not have the code. Without access to the code that makes a computer program, no one except the creators can ever be completely sure about exactly what is happening inside the computers running that software. The code for Linux is open and freely available for all to see. Open Source Software like Linux can also benefit large corporations like Apple Computer which has based its latest OS on an open source project. This has benefited Apple because they receive the work of hundreds of developers for free.

The license that Linux comes with also allows anyone to modify or add to the code at any time to make it do anything. This is very good for governments and even good for other organizations that rely heavily on computer technology. Simply because an important organization like a government wishes to have a feature in their software does not mean that Microsoft will think that feature is worth spending the time or money to create. With Linux, the code is open and freely available for modification so anyone can add any needed feature at any time. For this reason, hundreds of thousands of people across the world can and do regularly help make Linux better in their own free time because they like to have better and more powerful computers at their disposal. Most of these changes and additions are given back to the community resulting in a direct benefit for anyone who uses this software.

Where can I get Linux?

Linux is distributed in a number of ways and most people download it from the internet and then burn it onto a CD. Downloading just the Linux kernel is not very useful to most people, so a variety of groups have been created for the purpose of packaging Linux along with the most commonly needed and wanted programs available and then distributing these packaged systems to the public. Because the primary purpose of these organizations is to distribute Linux to the public, the collection of software that each one provides has become known as a distribution. There are many different distributions of Linux and the array of choices can bewilder the new and uninitiated. Distributions almost always come with the basic set of GNU programs and for this reason there is a controversy surrounding the names Linux, GNU, and GNU/Linux. To be politically correct amongst geeks, you should refer to GNU/Linux rather than just Linux. For most people, however, the distinction is purely academic and the term Linux has persisted where most people really mean GNU/Linux.

You will most likely need to download and burn a CD of the distribution you wish to install. This is something which is too subjective and in depth for me to describe here. You can also get Linux CDs sent to you in the mail for little to no cost, usually just the cost of postage.

Which distribution should I use? Which distribution is recommended?

This is a hard question to answer because there are so many distributions and they all were created for different reasons. Regardless of distribution choice, it should be possible to set up a recording studio on just about any distribution providing you know what you are doing. We are assuming however that you do not know what you are doing and so I recommend Ubuntu.

There is a version of Ubuntu known as Ubuntu Studio for creative and multi-media enthusiasts. I have installed and used most of the major distributions including Ubuntu but I have never tried to install or use Ubuntu Studio. It does however look very promising and I recommend giving it a try.

There is a site dedicated to providing tutorials and information about installing Ubuntu Studio.
#2May 25th, 2007 · 01:35 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
Part II
Can I run Linux and Windows?

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it to, but you can only eat one cake at a time. In other words you can have both Windows and Ubuntu on your computer, but you can only run one or the other while your computer is turned on, you can't run both at the same time.

The main problem with installing Linux on a computer that already has Windows is that you have to make room on your hard drive for Linux. Linux and Windows store their files in very different ways, so different in fact that Linux cannot not be installed on a Windows hard drive. The way in which a computer system stores it's files on your hard drive is called a file system. Linux uses Ext3 (the Extended File System Version 3) and Windows uses NTFS (the Network Technology Edition of Windows File System). Old versions of Windows use a file system called Fat32 (the File Allocation Table 32 Bit File System).

Why do Linux and Windows refuse to play nice together?

Imagine two grown men, both these adult men are construction workers but they are fighting over a children's' sandbox. Both construction workers disagree on what kind of sand to use and how to stack each grain of sand, each one has his preference on how to do it but neither one can make sense of how the other one organizes his sand box. So instead of playing nice, they simply divide the sandbox in half and build a wall between the two halves. That way they can each do as they please with their half of the sand box and not be bothered by the other guy. For all practical purposes it appears to each man as if he has his very own sandbox and that the other sandbox does not exist.

Though most dedicated computer nerds will tell you that this is a bad analogy, it's close enough to what is actually going on for you to understand what is happening inside your computer. Your hard drive is the sand box and Linux and Windows are the two grown men who are fighting over how to organize the sand box. You have to step in and give each side it's own space in which to play.

How do I setup my hard drive for all this sand box nonsense?

Well there are a few things you need to know. First of all, when you split your hard drive into multiple parts each part is known as a partition and each partition appears to your computer as if it were a completely separate hard drive even though they are only parts of the same hard drive. The Ubuntu installer comes with a special program for messing about with the partitions on your hard drive. You will need to use this program to resize your Windows partition and create the appropriate Linux partitions. That's right, Linux needs more than one partition.

Actually it's not that bad, Linux only needs exactly two partitions, a main partition that is as big as you like, and then a very special tiny partition which Linux uses as extra memory for the system. This extra special tiny partition is known as the swap partition because data is constantly swapped in and out of it while the system is running. The size of your swap partition should be about the same amount as the size of your RAM, or between 250MB and 500MB. More than 500MB is probably more than you need and less than 250MB might not be enough. Most people have about this much RAM these days anyway although many people have over 1GB of RAM, so a safe bet is to make your swap partition 500MB large.

The Ubuntu website has a good tutorial on how to setup a dual boot system with Linux and Windows.

Here is an article with good information and suggestions on how to partition your hard drive.

How do I install Ubuntu?

There are full articles explaining how to install Ubuntu and how to install Ubuntu Studio on the Ubuntu website, but the general instructions are as follows:

Download the latest version of Ubuntu or Ubuntu Studio. The download is an ISO file which is essentially an exact copy of a CD, but in file form. Burn the ISO image onto a CD, I recommend CDBurnerXP Pro because it comes with an easy and obvious way to burn ISO images but there is also a tutorial for burning ISO images on the Ubuntu website that uses a different program and exact instructions for burning an ISO will vary depending on the CD burning program you choose to use.

Place your freshly burned CD into your computer and reboot your system. Allow the system to boot all the way from the CD. The normal Ubuntu CD is a Live CD meaning you can test out what it is like to use Linux without actually having to install it on your computer, however unlike a real Linux installation the Live CD is very slow. When the Live CD has fully booted there should be an icon of a hard drive with an arrow pointing to it on the desktop labeled "Install" or something similar. Double click this icon to begin the installation process.

The Ubuntu Studio disk is a DVD and there is only one DVD image to download but the image's name has the word "alternate" in it, implying that there is a "non alternate" version. There is not a "non alternate" version of the Ubuntu Studio installation disk. The Ubuntu Studio disk is not a Live DVD and so it does not have a fancy graphical installer like the regular Ubuntu CD. The Ubuntu Studio DVD should boot directly into the text-based installer without you having to do much. Once you have the installer running, wait for a while and follow any instructions that are given to you either by the DVD or the web site. If you do things right and if you're lucky (it's really not that hard to figure out) the Ubuntu installer should begin running. Select the appropriate options for you and keep selecting next or continue until the installer tells you that you are finished. You will need to reboot when you are done.

If you have kept your Windows system then at some point while your computer is booting you should get a menu where you can select between Windows or Ubuntu as your OS. You can keep both on your computer but you cannot really run both at the same time, you must select one or the other.

Will my computer audio hardware work with Linux?

Hardware is important on Linux because not all hardware was created equal and for various technical and political reasons (see below) not all hardware will work with Linux. Before you go jumping into Linux as your recording studio make sure that the recording hardware you have will work with Linux. Linux uses ALSA, The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture, to deal with audio and your sound card needs to work with ALSA if you want Linux to be useful as an audio recording workstation. The ALSA folks have a nice list of sound cards that work with ALSA and from personal experience I can tell you that the best cards to get for multi-track audio recording on Linux are made by RME and M-Audio.

If you have just a plain sound card, as long as it works with ALSA you can still record but you will not be able to do multi-track recording unless you get one of the fancy RME or M-Audio cards. I recommend using the M-Audio Delta 10/10 or the RME Hammerfall DSP 9632. Both of these cards should be similar in price range and quality. At the time of this writing many external USB and Firewire recording interfaces are not yet well supported by Linux. There is some support for various Firewire audio recording interfaces under Linux through the FreeBoB project, now known as FFAD The Free Firewire Aduio Driver project. Ubuntu Studio should have support for some common Firewire interfaces. Hopefully better and more universal Firewire audio interface support will occur soon but one of the things you must accept if you are going to use Linux is that the latest hardware often will not work with Linux until months or years after it is released.
#3May 25th, 2007 · 01:35 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
Part III
Will my other computer hardware work with Linux?

Computer audio hardware isn't the only hardware you need to care about when it comes to Linux. If you are going to use Linux as your main OS you need to do your research before you buy any piece of new hardware. A lot of the stuff you can find on the shelf at your local computer store won't work with Linux because it was specifically designed for Windows. It is often cheaper for a company to make their hardware low quality and then compensate for the missing features by adding those missing features to the driver software that they ship with their product. These kinds of products are called winware because they only work with Windows. Modems and other pieces of network hardware like wireless cards have been historically the most notorious culprits of this problem and the term winmodem has been coined to describe a modem which compensates for poor quality hardware that relies on a Windows only driver to operate.

Most companies that create winware do not take the time to create Linux drivers because of the small size of the Linux market. Not only that, but because they have built the functionality of the hardware into the driver, if they released the details of their hardware to the public, they would not be able to sell the hardware for the hefty price they charge because anyone could write a driver for it and so the hardware would only be worth its actual value, rather than the inflated price that these companies charge for their "vaporware." The creators of Linux rely on companies providing the details of their hardware in order to write the appropriate drivers for Linux. The unfortunate reality is that a lot of companies never release this information for one reason or another and so a lot of hardware is not usable on Linux. To make a long story short, because computer hardware manufacturers are greedy bastards, everyone has to be careful to do their research before buying any hardware for use with Linux, be it a sound card or a printer or just about anything else.

What are some other Linux audio resources?

There are still some odds and ends left hanging. Most of the audio resources listed below can be found from the Linux Sound web site which has a large list of resources regarding Linux audio software. It doesn't seem to be particularly informative or tutorial oriented but it is a good resource.

Some of the more notable and important music production programs for Linux include:

Ardour is a professional multi-track recording program that was created specifically for Linux and is similar to Pro-Tools.

Rosegarden is a multi-track audio workstation created specifically for Linux and is similar to Cubase.

Audacity is a free and open source multi-track recording program available for Linux and Windows.

Talend is yet another multi-track-recording program with Linux and Windows versions.

FST is a piece of software built to run VST plugins on GNU/Linux. There are already a wide range of VST plugins available including effects and instruments. Being able to make use of these plugins is very valuable.

Hydrogen and Jackbeat are drum machines for Linux.

Freebirth is a bass synthesizer that should be included and available for install with Ubuntu Studio. Their home page looks like it is down at the moment.

CCRMA is The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University is an organization that has a collection of music software for RPM based Linux distributions (Ubuntu is not RPM based), most notably the Red Hat Fedora distribution.

Lilypond is a music notation program for Linux useful for creating sheet music.

Where can I get Linux help?

The Ubuntu chat channel, forums and wiki pages are all a great places to get help with Linux. If you don't find your answer on one, try the others. Search engines like Google are also a great place to look for your answers.

Internet Relay Chat or IRC is a great resource because feedback can happen in real time. Install X-Chat, log onto the FreeNode network and join the #ubuntu channel to get more help. Ubuntu comes with X-Chat either available and or pre-installed. If you are having trouble getting Linux installed and you want to get help from your Windows system use one of the pre-built versions of X-Chat, I recommend the one built by Silver-X.

What are some general Linux resources?

Wikipedia on Linux
Wikipedia on Unix
Wikipedia on BSD
The Linux Documentation Project
Just Linux
The Linux Newbie Guide
#4May 25th, 2007 · 02:07 AM
37 threads / 19 songs
618 posts
United States of America
I am not a linux user, but considered
it at one time.. I held on to cbm amiga
computers with cbm dos and two older
versions of C languages till the amiga's
last breath was taken in the computing
world!! The similarities in linux, xenyx
and all of that type of command structured
languages in that era was very close..
Now I hear even linux and Unix has
graphic interfaces that were even similar
to the Amiga's...  I also passed on Mac's..
but after what I've been through with
MicroSux and it's reign of terror, I
wish I would have went ahead and
signed on for that big class action they
had on it a few years ago.. a friend of
mine told me he did get $500 back when
they settled... go figure..  to bad C.B.M.
didn't have the first stitch of marketing
brains putting all of the companies together
in one big vat and warming them up real
good.. that was the truth of what killed
them.. I was there from the first commodore
calculator all the way to the A4000...  but
when all the smoke cleared I kept about five
thousand disks with different programs and
my A2000's with the motorolla 68030 chips,
two of them maxed out almost as far as
they could go, two a500's one with a few
extras, hard drive and such..  then maybe
a dozen composite monitors which I used
for video editing bay monitors and then
a couple for the game machines that span
the years too... 
  well I at least appreciate the effort you
brought to the amp in helping the linux
users, as I will say thanks to all those
that have shared their knowledge and
training with the users that want it and
need it!!

Blessings Gang,

#5May 25th, 2007 · 03:24 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
for the record
I have used all the major consumer OS offerings including Mac OS Classic, Mac OS X, Windows 3.x, Windows 9x, Windows NT/XP, Slackware, Debian, Mandriva (formerly Mandrake), Fedora, Gentoo, Ubuntu and FreeBSD.

Currently however, due to the poor state of Firewire hardware support I use Windows for my recording workstation. If I had my 'druthers I would probably use Ubuntu or Ubuntu Studio, but alas, not everything is as it should be in this world and we must compromise.

In my personal experience, maintaining a dual boot system (one with Linux and Windows) is not worth the effort it requires and so I recommend going one way or the other, Linux or Windows, rather than attempting to keep both on the same machine. You effectively end up with half the space and twice the maintenance.

Some people have a viable reason to need or want to use Linux as a recording studio and all I can say is more power to ya! Fight da man! Be free! Part of the problem is consumer market share. If everyone began to boycott Windows as a recording studio operating system then things might change... mabye... 
#6May 25th, 2007 · 04:23 AM
340 threads / 59 songs
4,344 posts
United Kingdom
entheon : Thanks a lot, will report back if/when I get it sorted.
I've been advised by a 'good advice' friend to get into Linux.
I've got the CDs burnt but never understood how to boot. I kept on getting a long German ReadMe that didn't really help even when I translated it!
It did cause me to create a whole partition with XP as OS only for music, thinking it would be less cluttered and more processor friendly, but the reality is that I end up needing so many different programs that I end up using my intuitive, complete Main Windows set up to do everything!
#7May 29th, 2007 · 04:26 AM
6 threads
138 posts
awesome, finally your linux howto is here.......in mean while, during the wait i got my hands on ubuntu. i installed ubuntu as a single OS on the pc and was thinking of doing a dual boot.....and that's when your article came in.

ubuntu is great, loved every aspect of it, the best part being...its free:evil:

your article has good efforts put into it, explaining lunix from scratch and that too in a contemporary understandable language.

ubuntu studio sure looks good, will have to try it.

enjoyed the how to.......... thanks man

Sorry, you do not have access to post...
Wanna post? Join Today!

Server Time: April 16th, 2021 · 3:08 AM
© 2002-2012 BandAMP. All Rights Reserved.