I wrote about the viability of music production on Linux a while back. I’ve gravitated away from it myself, though, because I’m just not comfortable with the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) concept, in general (I came up on cassette-based four-tracks). So now, I just use a separate digital recorder and multi-effect pedal, which somehow makes more sense to me. I sought out Jeremy, though, because I know people are doing great music production using Linux. Jeremy’s wonderfully detailed interview should give anyone interested in Linux-based audio a great starting point for concepts and software.
On a non-music note (sorry about that), it’s nice to see LXDE getting some love. It’s a great environment that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Jeremy Jongepier from The Netherlands. I am a Linux Specialist and Server Administrator for a small VoIP company. Besides Linux, my other passion is music. I’ve been making music for over 20 years, mostly in bands but also as a solo artist. I’ve released a couple of albums and played hundreds of shows with my bands. It all felt very natural when those two passions finally merged into a combined passion: Linux audio. Not only do I make music with Linux, I also try to contribute to the Linux audio community by maintaining the Yoshimi project, moderating for LinuxMusicians.com, packaging for the KXStudio repositories, keeping an eye on the linuxaudio.org network and helping out fellow Linux audio users.
- What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, the Lubuntu flavor, optimized for audio. I’ve used some other distributions in the past (Mandriva, Fedora, SuSE, Slackware) but somehow ended up with Ubuntu LTS. There are more reasons why I should start using another distribution (which would be Debian) than reasons why I should stick with Ubuntu. But then I would quickly start missing the PPA (Personal Package Archives) system. I guess that PPAs are the main reason why I stick with Ubuntu. And the fact that in my experience, LTS versions always just work and solutions for most issues are almost always available.
I also use a stock Ubuntu 12.04 install on my notebook. My girlfriend uses that too. She totally digs Unity.
I tried Arch and Debian Sid for a short while but those distributions drove me crazy and seriously affected my productivity in a negative way.
- What software do you depend upon with this distribution?
For making music I mainly use Qtractor (DAW), seq24 (sequencer), Hydrogen (sampler), Yoshimi (softsynth), guitarix (amp simulator), JACK, QjackCtl, FFADO (driver stack/library for my FireWire audio interface) and a whole lot of plug-ins (LV2, DSSI, LADSPA, LinuxVST). The desktop environment I use is LXDE. It’s light, fast and I’ve really come to appreciate Openbox, the window manager of the LXDE desktop environment. It allows me to create key bindings easily and to place windows wherever I want. Real-time kernels have proven indispensable for use with my FireWire audio interfaces.
At work I couldn’t do without Vim, OpenSSH, Remmina, URxvt, screen and the necessary softphone applications like SFLphone and Linphone. Less critical software includes LibreOffice, Firefox, Empathy and Aqualung. For troubleshooting VoIP issues I use ngrep, tcpdump and Wireshark.
- What kind of hardware do you run it on?
The main machine that I use to make my music is a Dell Optiplex Intel Core 2 quad core machine with two 24" screens. For day-to-day things, I use a HP dv7-1040 notebook with an Intel Core 2 dual core CPU. I always carry a battered Packard Bell netbook around with an AMD L110 CPU. And then there’s the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi. That one one runs Arch for the moment, even though I like Raspbian more. But the JACK packages of Raspbian have some issues so until those get resolved I’m using Arch. I use a SheevaPlug with Debian Squeeze on it as an NAS device.
- What is your ideal Linux setup?
A compatible machine. So a machine I know will work with Linux beforehand. And a machine that performs well with enough CPU, enough RAM, enough disk space, an SSD, a FireWire card with a recommended chipset, Nvidia or Intel GPU and two or more big screens. And it has to be as quiet as possible and fit in a 19" rack. It would run a highly customized Ubuntu using packages from a dedicated PPA or local repository that only has packages optimized for this specific setup. Audio and MIDI would flow in and out through an RME Fireface 800 hooked up to a couple of Adam Audio A7X. User input would be accepted through a Das Keyboard with Linux key caps.
- Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
Will do! This is showing Qtractor, seq24, three instances of Yoshimi, Calf Gate LV2 plug-in, and terminal to run my session scripts.
Interview conducted November 7, 2012