The Linux Setup – Gabriel Nordeborn, Musician

There’s a definite interest in Linux for music. One of my more consistently popular posts is about using Linux for music production. Gabbe goes way beyond that post, completely revealing a wonderful workflow that optimizes his machine for making music and shows how the flexibility of Linux really lends itself to creative endeavors. Gabbe also makes the important point that Linux makes music production possible for people who might not be able to afford expensive production software like Pro Tools.

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  1. Who are you, and what do you do?

    My name is Gabriel Nordeborn, but I’m possibly better known as “zth” on IRC and when making music. I’m a 24-year-old student currently living in Lund, Sweden, but I’m originally from just outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. My main hobby over the past three years or so has been producing my own music. I have a lot of friends who are musicians, and I’ve always played the guitar and been interested in music, but it wasn’t until just about three years ago that I attempted to record and make a track myself for the first time. Since then, I’ve been completely hooked, and have been making music actively ever since. As I’m a Linux enthusiast, it was natural for me to make music exclusively using Linux. I’ve actually never used anything but Linux for making music.

    If you’re interested, you can find my music at http://www.soundcloud.com/zthmusic or http://zthmusic.bandcamp.com, and there’s also a Facebook page. I also have a Google+ page now. I’m going to try and start posting some articles about Linux audio there.

  2. Why do you use Linux?

    I’ve been using Linux for the past seven years or so for all of my desktop needs. It started out as wanting something different from Windows, something which gave me a bit more control. As time progressed and I learned more about Linux and the ideas behind open source, it shifted from being just a technical interest to a support of open source in general. I just really believe that the open source way is right for so many things, and really sets an example of how we can, and should, share things among us. Add to this the fact that it’s beneficial for everyone involved (except perhaps the wallets of some developers…) and it’s a no-brainer to me.

    As a musician and musically-interested human being, it’s also very important to me that anyone (kids especially) can have access to good software for making music for free — software they can share freely with their friends, and teach each other how to use. I hate the thought that someone potentially musically talented would never discover his or her talent just because they couldn’t afford to buy software to try making music.

    Using Linux, and open source software in general, allows me to help spread the software I use, and at the same time do what I can (as a user) to help improve the software, via bug reports and similar activities. It’s heaven for a technically interested person like me!

  3. What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?

    I run KXStudio on my studio computer, as well as on my laptop. KXStudio is based on Ubuntu currently (shortly migrating to Debian though, if I’m not mistaken), and it’s aimed at pleasing both graphical and musical artists. KXStudio makes total sense to use for me, as I have a computer specifically dedicated to making music and doing various audio things. KXStudio allows me to easily do this, and stay up to date with current software, without having to lift a finger.
    It also more or less completely takes care of the sometimes nasty configurations you need to do to set your system up for making music. I couldn’t live without it!

  4. What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?

    I use Openbox on my studio computer. That is simply because I don’t require a lot from a desktop environment when making music, and Openbox felt flexible enough. I have most of the applications I use on autostart, and other than running my favorite applications, I occasionally compile some development versions of software. Like I said, I don’t need much, and I wanted something clean, which made Openbox a great fit.

    My computer is quite powerful so I don’t use Openbox for saving system resources, but the light weight of it is a nice benefit.

  5. What one piece of software do you depend upon with this distribution? Why is it so important?

    I could name a few here actually. I completely depend on KXStudio’s own Cadence. Cadence takes care of running everything that I need for the audio system to work as needed for making music. So, Cadence helps me configure and run JACK, which is the sound system that allows applications to speak to each other efficiently using audio. It also helps me run and setup various other necessary things for audio production, such as making any application talk to JACK through a bridge between ALSA and JACK. All of this happens automatically at startup, which again contributes to the fact that the machine is production ready from the start.

    Not distribution specific, but I also depend on Ardour. Ardour is probably the most comprehensive DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for Linux today, and I use it for all of my audio work. Worth checking out!

  6. What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?

    I run this on a self-built desktop computer, roughly made up of: an Intel i5 quadcore 3.2GHz processor, 16GB Corsair RAM, a Kingston 256GB SSD, and a pretty basic graphics card. My audio interface is an ESI Juli@ Xte PCI-express card, and I also have some outboard equipment, like a few physical mixers, and some MIDI-devices and keyboards.

    This is complemented with a set of Adam A3X studio monitors for audio, and a 24" Benq screen, as well as an older Samsung 19" for dual-screen.

  7. Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?

    One of my songs in Ardour, with a LinuxDSP equalizer and the Zita Digital Peak Limiter running.

Gabbriel Nordeborn's desktop

Interview conducted September 3, 2013


The Linux Setup is a feature where I interview people about their Linux setups. The concept is borrowed, if not outright stolen, from this site. If you’d like to participate, drop me a line.

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