Hiccup with My Mixer under Linux

My MixerA problem being mysteriously fixed through no clear action of my own bugs me. A problem this weekend with my mixer is just such a case. After upgrading to the latest version of my operating system, a flavor of Linux that I prefer called Kubuntu, I could not get the software driver I had been using with my mixer working. I could get close but not to the point where my audio workstation would see my mixer. Of course I discovered this right when I sat down to record. Last night, last thing, when there wasn’t time or will left for extensive research and troubleshooting left in the weekend. When else would I discover a problem resulting from upgrading my OS? Not when it would be more convenient to investigate and fix.

The break bugged me so much, especially losing an opportunity to record when I had the will to do so, that I spent some time this morning before work to see if I could get things working again. I installed the latest version of my audio workstation, Ardour 4, because I had been meaning to, anyway. Through some experimentation, I stumbled upon the fact that letting Ardour directly drive my mixer, rather than using an external software controller worked. Doing so only worked using an option I didn’t think had a chance in hell, just using the basic audio stack that comes with Linux.

I was simultaneously relieved to have my mixer back but vexed as to why something that previously did not work, suddenly did. I dislike mysterious fixes almost as much as random breakages. If I don’t understand why something suddenly starts working, I feel helpless to deal with any subsequent breakage. This situation is usually a recipe for cascading frustration.

I did a bit more searching, just now, and I think I found the explanation.

Very current versions of the Linux kernel will support most of the same devices that FFADO can support, directly via the normal ALSA audio device driver layer.

That is from Ardour’s own documentation, specifically on its requirements. FFADO is the separate driver I used to use for my mixer since it is a Firewire mixer, an increasingly less common way to connect peripherals to a computer but one still very well suited to the demands of audio. ALSA is basically the core sound handling component of Linux. As a consequence of my operating system upgrade, I indeed do have a very new kernel.

Mystery solved. Of course, I have only done several seconds worth of testing. In past versions of ALSA, it hasn’t done well with the demands of high quality audio, such as working with a prosumer mixer. It is entirely likely there are frustrations still yet ahead but at least they won’t be entirely mysterious. And I will hopefully get some new recording in soon, regardless.

Ohio Linux Fest 2014

I have only been to a couple of Linux fests and I have enjoyed every single one. Ohio Linux Fest was my first, three years ago. I was very privileged to meet a few long time listeners there, make some new friends, and meet some of the Hacker Public Radio crew for the first time. I am finally going back to Ohio Linux Fest in a couple of weeks and am very much looking forward to it, especially if it is at all like that first time.

The first day of my first OLF, I of course immediately scoped out the local beer scene. I staked out a stool at the bar of the brew pub across the street from the Columbus Convention Center. As I sipped on my first beer, waiting for my lunch order to arrive, I heard someone at the end of the bar recommending my podcast to someone else. I recognized the voice from audio comments I had received. More immodestly than I would have done if it was a complete stranger, I interrupted and introduced myself. It remains one of the more humbling and surreal moments made possible by my podcast.

I hung out with that listener a lot that weekend. We accumulated a couple of new friends, as well, who often joined us as I continued to explore the beer scene. Downtown Columbus is…well, bare may be a bit strong but right at the convention center, that brewpub is a bit of an oasis. I hope it is still there. Despite that scarcity of obvious points of interest, we found a handful of respectable beer spots.

Later in the weekend, I was wandering the small but excellent exhibit area. One table was run by a musician who had CDs out as well as some headphones to sample his wares. I was immediately struck by the sound and the story I heard when I put the headphones one. I started chatting with the artist, int 0x80 as it happens, part of the amazing rap duo, Dual Core. The song was “Painting Pictures” which tells the tale of a fan of the pair who was deaf from birth. As the song progresses, int 0x80’s rap tells the story of, as he puts it, “an amazing little girl” who through the internet makes connections she never would have otherwise and ultimately ends up researching cochlear implants. With the support of her family, the first song she finally hears is one of Dual Core’s. The track still moves me.

I interviewed int 0x80 shortly after meeting him. When I was at DEFCON this year, I happened to run into him. I was surprised because I didn’t think to look for him. I wasn’t really surprised as so much of his early work with c64 is about playing hacker conferences, just like DEFCON. He remembered me and catching up with him was one of my favorite parts of my first, and so far only, DEFCON.

I am sure these experiences set unrealistic expectations. The quality of the programming means it doesn’t matter. I will have a good time attending the talks. Even though my podcast has been a bit quiet lately, I trust I will still bump into people I recognize. Better yet, I hope to meet some new people, make some new friends. If going to Linux fests has taught me anything, it is to be entirely open to that.

TCLP 2012-02-12 Switching My Wife Back to Linux

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

If you are going to be in the North Eastern part of the US in March, check out North East Linux Fest and LibrePlanet. Thanks, Jonathan, for pointing these out to me.

Listener feedback this week is from Lachlan and Steve both of whom wrote in response to my feature on hackish assumptions. Lachlan also questioned why hackers should cultivate some awareness of public policy. Steve is in favor of my proposed talk for Ohio Linux Fest. I hope to have a beta of the talk at Balticon in May.

The hacker word of the week this week is footprint.

The feature this week is the story of how and why I switched my wife back to use Linux full time..


View the detailed show notes online. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.u

Ohio Linux Fest 2011

Traveling to far flung Budapest for Transfabric followed by a jaunt to Columbus, Ohio to attend the Ohio Linux Fest may seem like an odd juxtaposition. In some ways it is, mostly in the obvious differences in the logistics of traveling to each. In other ways these two events are about many of the same kinds of themes. The funny thing is that I think the experiences I had in Eastern Europe may help me see the overlap, the familiar aspects of the coming event with some greater awareness.

I don’t expect Ohio Linux Fest to be as diverse as Transfabric but I am sure I will meet people coming to Linux from many different backgrounds and for many different reasons. One of the key personal lessons for me from Transfabric was realizing the extent and important of the differences around a common focus where it is often too easy to take for granted what motivates people to Make. At a Linux fest, focusing on a tool I use every single day of my life, it would be even easier to unknowingly have a blind spot filled in with my own assumptions and biases.

I count myself rather fortunate for being able to experience these two events back to back. The fact that I am now much more keenly aware of how short a short flight it will be to travel just a couple of states away, that I won’t have to carry my passport or exchange currency already puts me into a different state of mind approaching what would otherwise be a familiar, even a comfortable experience. Hopefully the much simpler nature of the trip itself will allow me to focus on paying more attention to those things I take for granted in the Linux community.

I have no set schedule for the fest, just following my interest. I hope to be able to maybe capture an interview or two but haven’t had time to approach anyone ahead of time. At a minimum I expect to be able to do some networking that will bear fruit as future interviews and segments for the podcast.

Last but probably most important I know that some listeners and readers will be in attendance at Ohio Linux Fest. If you haven’t already, send me an email. I will be getting in Thursday night and leaving Sunday night so there should be plenty of time to meet with anyone interested in doing so. I haven’t signed up for any of the goings on Sunday and don’t have to be at the airport until later so maybe if there is enough interest we can pull together an ad hoc meet up over lunch.

Boot Linux in Your Browser

One of my co-workers sent me the link to this story at Slashdot even before I had a chance to come across it in my feeds. Linux, or at least some subset, has been directly ported to JavaScript but this story is a bit different. The author is the original initiator of the QEMU project and brings that expertise to this effort.

Fabrice Bellard, the initiator of the QEMU emulator, wrote a PC emulator in JavaScript. You can now boot Linux in your browser, provided it is recent enough (Firefox 4 and Google Chrome 11 are reported to work).

Reading through the comments, Fabrice’s other accomplishments are equally astounding.

Given that this is an emulator, the possibilities are quite a bit more interesting than a direct port. Other less resource intensive operating systems could likely be made to work. I’ve been having a lively discussion with @codeshaman and @choochus on Twitter about the possibilities of coupling this with some sort of JavaScript accessible storage to make a lightweight working environment. I especially like the idea of doing so with a portable version of Firefox on a thumb drive.

The H Open has quite a few more details on the project.

French hacker Fabrice Bellard has demonstrated how JavaScript can do much more than simply animate web sites and process server data by creating a PC emulator written in the scripting language. JS/Linux emulates a 32-bit x86 compatible CPU, a programmable interrupt controller, a programmable interrupt timer and a serial port – taking just over 90 KB to do so. It lacks a mathematical co-processor and MMX commands, making it roughly on a par with a 486-compatible x86 CPU without FPU. It can, however, be used to run older Linux kernels (2.6.20), as they include an FPU emulator.

They also list more of Bellard’s considerable litany of clever hacks.

Boot Linux In Your Browser, Slashdot

Ubuntu Versions Reaching End of Life

Part of Canonical’s predictable versioning scheme includes an expectation of how long any given release will be supported. Support here means updates to the various software packages, increasingly just critical security fixes as versions reach the end of their projected span. The company behind Unbuntu has two different time scales when it comes to that span of providing updates.

Ubuntu 8.04 (released in April of 2008) is a long time support release which means Canonical has committed to keeping it patched for three years. The H Security notes that the clock is about to expire for this release, code named Hardy Heron. If you have any aging systems still using this ultra stable release, it is time to finally upgrade it to a newer LTS release. Come May, Heron will no longer receive updates.

Ubuntu Desktop 8.04 LTS approaches end of life, The H Security

Regular, non-LTS releases are supported for 18 months, half as long as the long term cycle. Canonical has another version, according to Linux Journal, 9.10 that is come up on its end of life. According to the article, the recommended upgrade target is the current LTS version, 10.4.

Canonical To Drop Support For Ubuntu 9.10, Linux Journal

Since Ubuntu hits a new version every 6 months, it is possible to stay ahead of obsolescence without always having to run the latest and greatest which for many software packages, let alone full Linux distros, often require a bit of shakedown before proving trustworthy.

Quick Security Alerts for the Week Ending 11/7/2010

feeds | grep links > Holographic Video Displays, Univac’s Electoral Prediction, Patent Database is Up and Running, and More

  • First glimmerings of holographic video displays
    John Timmer at Ars Technica discusses some pretty impressive research considering how little holography has advanced for anything other than trivial applications. The system these researchers are building may seem crude but most of the equipment being used, including the network connection, are pretty close to consumer grade. The potential is enormous though I have to imagine free standing holography is a further horizon beyond these re-writing but otherwise fairly constrained displays.
  • History of computing and elections from 1952
    Wired has re-printed an article from around the time of the last US elections by Randy Alfred. In it, he explains how Univac, one of the earliest computers, was tasked with predicting the presidential election in 1952. The forecast put together by the machines and its operators was remarkably accurate but the TV folks they initially approached were too skeptical to air it at the time, only admitting to discounting the computer’s results well after they were obviously correct.
  • Patent database is up and running
    Rogue archivist, Carl Malamud, has the good news at O’Reilly Radar. The joint effort between the USPTO, the White House and Jon Orwant at Google has resulted in a new, open database that supplants feeds that formerly required substantial subscription feeds. As Carl explains, this was no easy chore given vested interests in the revenue streams from the old, closed system. A huge win for restoring a critical piece of our informational commons here in the US.
  • Five years of Linux kernel benchmarks, Slashdot
  • Group trying to get back scatter airport scanners banned, Techdirt
  • Google and Facebook to face tougher EU privacy rules, Reuters, via Groklaw
  • New beta of Firefox 4 mobile released, Mozilla, via Hacker News

feeds | grep links > Microsoft Charging Linux Royalties (Again), Aussie Kids Foil Fingerprint Readers, Adobe’s Flash-to-HTML5 Demo, and More

  • Microsoft charging PC makers royalties for installing Linux
    Slashdot links to a DigalTimes piece with the details, namely that the vendors in question are minority players in the handset and netbook spaces, Acer and Asustek. Given the low volume of units they ship, this is a deterrence move, not for generating any kind of real revenue. Pretty sleazy but also consistent with Microsoft’s patent dealings in other spaces.
  • Aussie kids foil fingerprint readers
    Slashdot links to a ZDNet piece describing students using the already well know ability of gelatin, the main ingredient in readily accessible gummy candies, to bypass not just the pattern matching of scanners but also capacitance sensors. I wonder if card scanners and fingerprint readers really save the schools in question all that much versus a manual taking of attendance, one of the reasons for using these systems.
  • Adobe demos Flash-to-HTML5 tool
    In a post to both Ars Technica and Wired, Scott Gilbertson discusses a demo from Adobe of a tool that really is pretty consistent with past efforts, if you think about its support for exporting from its design tools to static HTML pages. The quality of output in the past has been pretty miserable, apparent to anyone with the intestinal fortitude to wade through View Source on resulting page. From what little can be seen in the embedded video, it looks like the markup generated by the latest offering continues that dubious tradition.
  • China may have built the new number one super computer, InformationWeek
  • Citizen Lab collaborates with users to map Blackberry servers, The Register
  • Chrome web store delayed until December, ReadWriteWeb