Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Fedora 17 "Beefy Miracle" was released today... yes, better late than never, I guess!! Instead of going through features or anything like that, I'll let the Fedora project leaders and developers present it themselves, in this neat little video. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Since I just wrote a review about Ubuntu Studio, I thought it would be good timing to share what I am doing with it and how accurately it fits its "Linux for creative humans" slogan. In order to display just a tiny bit of what can be achieved using the amazing software included with Ubuntu Studio, I put together a video including one of my songs and a very simple demonstration of what OpenShot can do with the help of Blender (needless to say, I am as far from an expert on those two as one can be). The video includes images of my very humble studio, as well as some of the gear I use to record. I hope this provides some insight into what I do and how far you can go with this software if you let it take your creativity to new grounds. For those into Audio Production, I recorded all drum tracks directly from Hydrogen into Ardour. All other tracks are real instruments either mic'ed (mostly the acoustic tracks and some guitar solos), or recorded direct from my POD X3. All of the mixing and mastering was done in Ardour. All effects come from the pre-installed LADSPA effects. Hope you enjoy the video and the song!
Monday, May 21, 2012
Shortly after I started using Linux in late 2007, I realized one of the biggest challenges before I could leave Windows behind was to find an alternative in the open source World to record my music. After a bit of research, I found about Ardour, Hydrogen, Jack, LADSPA and so many other great apps that were already available in Linux. I also found about the need of a low latency Kernel, so I needed an easy way to get all those ingredients installed in an simple and convenient packaging, something I found Ubuntu Studio covered well. For me, it was a natural move, given that Ubuntu was the distro I started with, so since April 2009, I was a happy "Ubuntu Studio-er". One of the reasons I had not updated my Ubuntu Studio 9.04 installation was that the recent past of the project had been a turbulent one. The previous release went through lots of trouble, as could be read in the official Ubuntu Studio 11.10 RELEASE NOTES. Essentially, the team behind the distribution almost disappeared, the transition to XFCE was far from complete, a low latency Kernel was nowhere to be found... Things were upside down, leaving last October´s release in a difficult position. Surprisingly (and it was a very happy surprise, I tell you), it seems things are now better than ever (sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom...) and this new LTS release has lots to offer. Here´s a list of some highlight features:
- GUI-based installation
- lowlatency kernel installed by default
- i386 images use the lowlatency-pae kernel
- XFCE is default desktop environment
- Pulse Audio <-> JACK bridging enabled by default
- New theme, icons, and default font
- New LightDM and Desktop background/backdrop images
- Documented work flows/new application choices provide better user support
- Menu restructured for better work flow support
- ARandR included for improved multi-monitor functionality
- mudita24 replaces envycontrol24 for ice1712 chip audio interfaces
- Long Term Support release (3 years)
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Dave Edmunson, one of the lead developers behind KDE LightDM recently published an UPDATE describing some of the features (and shortcomings) already part of the first KDE LightDM release, as well as explaining a bit of what´s coming along in the next few months for the 0.2 release. Dave explained how some KDM features are still missing in KDE LightDM-0.1, but in turn, some of the screenshots he´s sharing look very promising. Among others, the benefits of using LightDM is, as its name rightly points out, its relatively low weight when compared with GDM or KDM. On top of that, there are obvious gains in terms of looks and flexibility. To give an example, changing the login screen wallpaper and/or welcome image will be very simple. Along the same lines, things like having the login screen and KSplash incorporating the same wallpaper the user has in her/his desktop should be easier. Inconsistencies between login screen and KSplash in terms of resolution and things of the like should also be out of the way thanks to the common QML thread. Here´s a picture of the Login screen control module, as it looks today. Note these are early days for this piece of functionality, so chances it may not look exactly like this come future releases: Here are some early ideas as to how the login screen could look using KDE LightDM. In my opinion, all looking gorgeous and very interesting. Kubuntu could get KDE LightDM by default come the Quantal Quetzal later this October, certainly a feature to look out for!
Friday, May 11, 2012
Most of the machines I use are laptops or tablets, but I also have a desktop that I use for recording my music. On that desktop, though, I have two different hard drives split in three (roughly 250GB) partitions, something that allows me to have different distros installed on it. Since late 2010, that machine had Ubuntu 10.10, PCLinuxOS KDE and Ubuntu Studio 9.04 spread across those three partions available. It was about time I went for a change, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Ubuntu 10.10 recently went out of support (needless to say, so did Ubuntu Studio 9.04). On top of that, PCLinuxOS had been stuck on KDE SC 4.6.5 for about a year, so I wanted a fresh update on all my partitions to get fully supported distros and up to date applications and features. The first thing that came to mind was to go for Fedora 17 GNOME and KDE on two of those partitions and then Dream Studio on the third one. However, I had doubts about that approach, mostly because of the feverish Fedora tendency to keep updating the Kernel time and again (which may lead to trouble on somewhat old hardware when planning for a 2-3 years installation). Along the same lines, the fact that Dream Studio releases happen several months after Ubuntu ones do meant that I had to wait a few more months if I wanted the LTS release. All in all, I felt it was somewhat risky to go for Fedora, plus I wasn´t willing to wait that long for Dream Studio. Moreover, Dream Studio sports Ubuntu´s Unity, and let's just say it is not what I want to see on my Audio Production setup. I recently stumbled with the latest Ubuntu Studio release announcement and it quickly grabbed my attention. The lack of a low latency kernel which had put me off in recent releases had been remediated, and a move to XFCE (as opposed to Unity) made this release all the more interesting. Not only that, but the fact that it is an LTS (Long Term Support) release and the huge array of Multimedia production tools available in the DVD made it the perfect candidate for me (expect an Ubuntu Studio 12.04 review soon!.) I had had very little experience with XFCE, though, so before installing Ubuntu Studio, I wanted to use the opportunity of the recent Xubuntu release to give it a go and learn more about it. Long story short, the experience was so positive that I decided to use it as a replacement for Ubuntu 10.10 on my desktop, which is saying a lot. Kubuntu 12.04, which continues the improvement pace from recent releases, was the perfect candidate to close the circle, taking over PCLinuxOS as the KDE "representative" on my desktop (I will post a Kubuntu 12.04 review in the next few days as well!.) ...SO HOW ABOUT XUBUNTU? As I was considering Xubuntu, trying to get an understanding of what XFCE could do, I started trying things on the LiveCD, checking configuration options and learning more about its flexibility and power by researching on the Internet. All I found was positive, including immediate, complete and correct hardware recognition and configuration out of the box. It didn´t take long before I made up my mind and went for the installation. As can be expected, installing Xubuntu is very similar to installing any other X-buntu distro. The installation process is great, smooth, and if running in a system connected to the Internet, it can provide a fully up to date desktop right off the bat (albeit with a significantly slower installation time). Aesthetically (and I know this is very personal), the default Xubuntu setup is, well... not beautiful. However, the good news is that most of the good old customization that was very easy in "classic" Ubuntu, still is in Xubuntu. Icons, window decorations, fonts, rendering, wallpapers, even Conky, Compiz and Emerald are easily set up and customized. In other words, don´t get too caught up by the initial impression, because it does not take much to make Xubuntu look stunning, as hopefully the screenshots in this article show. Click on image to enlarge. (Just to provide some background on what I changed, I added the Faenza icon set, the Ambience theme and window decoration and then changed fonts from Android to Ubuntu. Cairo Dock, Conky and a fitting wallpaper complete the list of changes.) From a functionality stand point, as could be expected from a lightweight DE like XFCE, Xubuntu is very responsive, but also simple and intuitive. The System Settings application is clear and easy to grasp, but in general I would say Xubuntu just makes sense. Click on image to enlarge. Common settings are right there where most users would expect them to be. For instance, I know it is a small and probably meaningless detail, but I was happy to see window controls (minimize, maximize, close) on the right. Similarly, right clicking on the desktop brings back most of the relevant options one would expect to see. Click on image to enlarge. Thunar, a fast and no-nonsense file manager is consistent with this simplistic approach. It does lack some features that other more powerful alternatives like Dolphin offer, but it should satisfy most regular users needs. Click on image to enlarge. DEFAULT APPS Xubuntu is great in itself, but it obviously helps if the default applications of choice are just as good. In that sense, I have to admit that the preinstalled applications list is full of good and interesting choices, some of which surprised me very positively. Firefox, Thunderbird and Pidgin take Internet browsing, email and instant messaging duties respectively. Music is managed by the impressive GmusicBrowser, which surprisingly loaded my entire music collection without complaining one bit. Click on image to enlarge. Image viewing is handled by Ristretto. Click on image to enlarge. Parole is in charge for video playback. Click on image to enlarge. Office productivity apps Abiword (text processor) and Gnumeric (spreadsheet) are simple and lack some of the features available in more popular alternatives, but in turn they are simpler and more responsive. If, like me, all you use them for is to open a spreadsheet every once in a while, they probably suffice. If not, a quick visit to the Ubuntu Software Center should fix the issue in a few seconds. Click on image to enlarge. All in all, the set of applications accompanying Xubuntu is consistent with its spirit, sporting somewhat modest yet powerful features, fast and easy to use. If the default set of apps does not fit your needs, though, installing other apps is easier than ever with the latest version of the Ubuntu Software Center, which works great, but I will save my speech for my soon to come Ubuntu 12.04 review. Click on image to enlarge. NOTHING IS PERFECT Xubuntu is no exception to the rule, it is not perfect, and I did find my share of minor issues here and there. Here's a short list of the issues I have found so far:
- Double clicking on the window bar does not maximize windows, even if the window management settings say it should. Not sure if this is a Xubuntu or an XFCE issue.
- Thunar is lightning fast once it's been run for the first time, but the first run takes longer than I was expecting from such a lightweight file manager. On the same hardware, Dolphin needs less time for that first run under Kubuntu.
- When booting the system, once I enter my credentials on the Xubuntu login screen, the time to load the desktop is a bit slower than usual with other distros/DEs.
- Configuring automounting external drives on startup is not possible through the UI (at least I didn't find how), so I had to do a bit of
- Loading Conky scripts as I ran them in Ubuntu didn't bring the expected results. The Conky window was not below nor transparent, so I had to do a bit of research before I found the right parameters to make it work correctly.
Friday, May 4, 2012
The may bugfix release for KDE SC 4.8 series was just announced today. I know Kubuntu users already have it available in the update PPA, but I am sure other distros will be making it available in the next few days. According to the OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, this bugfix release brings "...significant bugfixes (that) include improvements to the Kontact Suite, bugfixes in Dolphin and many more corrections and performance improvements all over the place..." As is the case with most bugfix releases in KDE SC, it is recommended as it will not incorporate new features, but only further performance and stability benefits. I am wondering, though... Will the Dolphin animations that got lost in KDE SC 4.8.1 be back with this bugfix release? Let's wait and see. EDIT (May 7th, 2012): I have now received the KDE SC 4.8.3 updates on my Chakra machine and I can still reproduce the Dolphin animations bug, they are still missing. I have been trying to find information about this and why the animations disappeared, but can't find anything... Anyone knows why they got lost after KDE SC 4.8.0?