Ubuntu Studio 9.10 - First Look
So when I got my new (used) Dell Inspiron B130, I was anxious to try out Studio on it. I had wiped the drive and did an OEM install of XP Home via the recovery partion, so I had a nice, clean drive to work with, 20gig bigger than the Acer.
Since I didn't have any DVD-RWs around, and I am notoriously impatient, I dowloaded the ISO image of Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) Live CD. Install was a snap. It ran quickly and easily, using it's own easy-to-use partitioning software. I gave it a 25gig slice, and soon it was humming along with it's sleek new Gnome 2.28 desktop. The Dell (unfortunatly) has the same klunky Broadcom 4318 wireless card as the Acer (at least I have a spare) so I had to add the BC43 driver (on the CD) and the fw-cutter driver (download). I knew this from the Acer, and was ready, having already downloaded them to a flashdrive. I didn't have to jump through any hoops, though, like with Hardy and Intrepid. Install the packages and boom - working ever since. (on Intrepid it would work sometimes, not work sometimes) A run of the Upgrade Manager to get the latest and greatest, and we're all set.
Surprise #1 - Grub2 - Since my wife uses my laptop from time to time, I like to make Windows the default OS. In the past this was done by editing a small text file called menu.lst in the GRUB directory. Except Karmic ships with Grub2, and there is no menu.lst file. There is a grub.cfg file, which you are warned everywhere in BIG RED LETTERS never to edit. Ever. Seems Grub2 dynamically configures the config file when you make changes. There are a couple of ways to make the change. One involves downloading the Startup Manager package, which gives you a nice, pretty GUI to do it. Very un-Linuxy. The other is to edit etc/default/grub and change the number in Default=O. You have to figure out which number to put by counting your entries on the startup menu. Mine was 5.
That done, I wanted to get right to work. Installing Ubuntu Studio was a snap: open the Synaptic Package Manager > Repositories window and enabling the additional repositories. Reload. Search for "studio". Click on ubuntustudio-desktop, ubuntustudio-audio, ubuntustudio-graphics, ubuntustudio-video. Click "Mark." Click "Apply." Watch Criminal Minds while it does it's thing.
So, how does it do it's thing? Excellent. I had some guitar parts to record for the record, so I started with Ardour, the awesome DAW program. First, launch JACK to connect to the soundcard, then Ardour. Once I had started a project, imported a soundfile and set up the JACK connections, it was time to go. The system worked flawlessly for recording and editing. I didn't have to change any setting on the soundcard mixer to duplex, and multitracking worked perfectly. (was was working off an imported wav file produced in Audacity.) I was able to easily save the new track as a wav. Ardour did hang while exporting it as an mp3, but I think that was more a processor-heat thing. (the Dell gets pretty warm) I let it cool for awhile and was able to complete that export.
Audacity. Although Audacity uses a lot less processor and memory overhead than Ardour, I would be working with projects that had 10-15 tracks running at once while recording. Time to plug in the portable and load a project. (I had been working in Audacity all along because of the Acer issues; there is no Ardour port for Windows)
Surprise #2 - Native NTFS read/write support. I didn't have to tweak Karmic at all to use the portable. (Previous versions required an additional package. Take that, Apple.) Audacity easily opened the project files that I had created in a Windows installation without skipping a beat.
I was able to load up a project and import the wav I had made in Ardour easily. A little mixing, and then export it to mp3. Done.
Next was a song I needed a new acoustic track for. I use a Behringer Xenex 802 into the mic-in on the computer. One limitation of Audacity is that it doesn't duplex very well, so you usually can't hear what you're recording. I was tracking acoustic, so I really didn't care, but that's something they need to work on.
The system performed well, however - no latency even with 11 tracks going out and 1 coming in, and TweetDeck running in the background.
Conclusion: All in all a great experience so far. I know there have been issues with 9.10 on a lot of boxes, mainly with upgrades from Jaunty and with certain video cards. So far I've had only one minor hiccup, and I've worked the system pretty well. Multitrack recording on a three-year-old budget laptop is pretty intensive stuff. The only thing left to do is see how the video editors fare.