Stalled Progress on Linux Switch

Since it is a slow news day, I thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve been meaning to post but have been taking a back seat to my usual blogging and podcasting.

When I made the decision to try to move my daily activities in my home office, aka The Lab, back to an all open stack I promised regular updates. Since that first weekend, though, I haven’t found much time to make actual progress. I still have a laundry list of things to look into, mostly device and driver compatibility work to be able to do more of the podcast production under Linux. Unfortunately, none of my audio gear works with the latest stock installation of Ubuntu, not even with the Ubuntu Studio meta-packages installed.

My mixer uses FireWire which seems poorly supported for anything other than mass storage. There is a dedicated driver project, ffado, that claims compatibility with a model similar to my mixer. The pre-compiled version doesn’t work, my mixer doesn’t show in my KDE system settings audio device section. I do see the ffado drivers available in Audacity and Ardour but they simply don’t work. I am hoping that compiling from the latest sources may fix this.

As an alternative, I did try to fire up Audacity with my USB portable recorder. My H4n can drive my studio mics, has decent preamps, and can be connected as a multi-channel audio interface. Hooking the recorder up worked. At least until I stop recording on a track and tried to start recording again. The error I got from the crash seems to indicate I may need to get a bleeding edge version of port audio compiled.

Both these lower level audio compiles will probably kick off a cascade of other re-compiles for the applications that make use of them. It’s hard to see how I can carve off an hour or two of this effort to pursue every odd weekend. That has held me back from even trying. I guess my fear is that if I get an hour or two in and want to stop for the day, doing so may not be possible if I’ve wrecked my system in some way. If I had another Mac on which I could try things out without fear of horking my main system, I suppose that would help. Maybe I need yet another internal hard drive to triple boot to do just that.

To be fair, talking in such detail about these obstacles doesn’t paint a representative picture of my daily use of my Linux install. All of the communications and social applications I use work beautifully and my morning routine has been smoothly re-tooled so I can enjoy my coffee and my morning catch up without any hitches. My daily writing tasks also have been undertaken almost exclusively on Linux since the switch with no hiccups or complaints. The only time I write on OS X is when I want to work on my laptop on which I haven’t even considered installing Linux because of the ensuing hassles that would arise from my aging iPod which still needs at least one Mac with which to sync.

Speaking of the iPod, I did see news this morning that Samsung may be releasing a new Android based personal media player under their Yepp brand. According to what little information I could find, the player may essentially be a Galaxy without the phone components. It certainly would be smaller than the Dell Streak, which I have been contemplating. There is no US release date or price information. The version that is out overseas lookes like it is running Android 2.1 and from the screen shots appears to have the Market icon, two huge advantages over the Streak. If Samsung releases this gadget stateside, my personal media player may be the next bit of gear to receive some Linux love.

Setting aside my qualms about Apple’s mobile platform, I am getting tired of the increasing quirks of my aging iPod and would be glad of an updated device regardless of the make. I have even been contemplating just getting a dead nuts simple media player that is Linux friendly, usually entertaining the thought when my iPod’s touch screen goes out to lunch for no apparent reason.

4 Replies to “Stalled Progress on Linux Switch”

  1. Interesting read, thanks. Audio is one of the few areas I still occasionally see Linux desktop glitches too. I’m not doing anything as complex as yourself, recording wise, but once in a while some app or other seems to not yield audio control back to the system. Admittedly, I can’t recall that that’s happened since I clean-installed 10.04.

    WRT the portable media players, I revived my wife’s iPod video (30GB I think) with an installation of Rockbox, whiich is very Linux Friendly. When I did so I inherited her old iRiver H10 (6GB) player, which I now use, also with Rockbox, although almost exclusively for podcasts. It does support FLSAC though, which is nice for the occasionaly time when I do want to do some serious music listening. It works great with gPodder on my Ubuntu desktop box.

    It may be worth having a look at Rockbox, I believe they’ve added support for a few more iPods in recent times.

  2. Rather than triple booting, I wonder if virtualizing a mac would do the trick, you could even get it set up, take a snapshot, and if things go completely pear-shaped while tinkering you can revert to snapshot in less than a minute. Not sure how the audio devices would play with virtualization, but in theory it should work…theory being a pretty wide and at times thin blanket, naturally.

  3. One thing I’ve come to really rely on with my Linux setup is use of the Software RAID to mirror my OS. Then when the time comes to upgrade, or do something potentially difficult to recover from I break the mirror, remove one of the drives, and run in degraded mode during the upgrade/whatever. If everything comes out fine, then I return the drive to the mirror and keep going. If not, I boot of the other drive, and re-mirror it.

  4. I was also going to recommend Rockbox, but a quick look at the FAQ shows it is not supported yet. Neither does it seem to be supported by Amarok, gPodder, gtkpod, etc. which is a shame. I moved my primary workstation from Windows to Ubuntu last year and have been quite happy with a modified version of bashpodder and gtkpod. I prefer my podcast syncing/listening flow better now than I did with any of the Windows tools I used (Juice and iTunes).

    I’ve been selfishly watching your progress on the ffado front as we have the same mixer and I haven’t taken the time to try it with Linux. Very sorry to see it isn’t yet working.

    I was thinking along the lines of Jonathan above, however I think that the VM abstraction will bring too many additional variables to help much. You could, however, carve off a couple gigabytes from your Linux drive and simply install another instance on it. Make that your experimental partition and leave your “stable” Linux partition alone until you have a solution you are comfortable with.

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