Software

Ubuntu Studio 16.04.3 LTS

Halloween will soon be here, so I figured I’d get with the spirit of the season and do something scary!

Yes, that’s right, venture out of my comfort zone and take the long and twisted path through the spooky digital dark woods of lonely Linux distributions.

In a world where Mac OS and Windows dominate the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) world, Linux offers some impressive potential. That said, it’s time I put a little effort into actually doing something with all that potential.

My favorite DAW has been Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro. I’ve even used it on a Mac Air with some success. I’ve never been too impressed with using a standard Windows laptop for a portable DAW, but let’s see what I can do with a somewhat low powered laptop and Linux.

To build this “Frankenstein” I chose Ubuntu Studio 16.04.3 LTS.

(Xenial Xerus) 64-bit. I’m using an old Thinkpad (Intel N2940 @ 1.83 GHz) with 4 gigs of ram. This is not a powerhouse by any means, but it might be closer to what some Linux users have available if they are on a budget.

“It’s Alive!” Well, it’s running. I installed the Distro, ran apt update & apt upgrade – then went right into LMMS 1.1.3.  For a basic DAW LMMS is pretty straightforward. The built-in samples are solid, and the Beat+Baseline Editor is easy to use with the Piano-Roll. Audacity 2.1.2 is a very good sound recorder/editor. This is probably the most useful software for what I would use. There are a lot of audio utilities and effects. As far as a software studio, Ubuntu Studio packs a lot in the audio production selection. Add these tools to the provided Graphic Design and Video production selections and you have a lot of tools to leverage with some creativity.

I’m going to try to explore as much of this Distro as I can in the coming weeks and see what I can do with all these tools. Maybe I’ll learn a few new tricks along the way. I might even treat myself to some play time on some of these software synths.

Check out our blog post on Music Production with a home studio!

 

High Sierra

macOS High Sierra Update

High Sierra

Released September 2017

The latest operating system released by Apple is High Sierra. Even though it’s technically a new OS, it’s more of just an upgrade on top of Sierra. Sierra was a very clean system that ran quite smooth so it will be interesting what this new software will bring to the table (the good or the bad).

New Features

A new file system

New video compression standard — (HEVC)

Next-gen graphics processor — (Metal 2)

Updated applications — (Safari, Photos, Mail)

 

Apple File System:

“Your data is under new management”

Apple has decided to change the way their computers store your files. Utilizing flash technology to create a more advanced file system. Available to every Mac with all-flash internal storage.

Benefits:

  • Future proof  using a new 64-bit architecture to be able to utilize the flash technology now while being ready for the next innovation
  • Responsive – Able to speed through tasks at record time
  • Security – Ability to use the built-in encryption, crash-safe protections, and simpler data backups.

 

HEVC

“The new industry standard HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding)”

“Up to 40% better compression than the current standard”

Metal 2

 

This new software allows apps to take full advantage of a systems GPU. Adding new capabilities not thought of for Mac-like, virtual reality, machine learning, and even external GPU support.

 

Is your Mac Compatible?

The following models can run the latest OS version.

MacBook Pro: 2010 and later

MacBook Air: 2010 and later

MacBook: late 2009 and later

iMac: late 2009 and later

Mac Pro: 2010 and later

Mac Mini: 2010 and later

 

 

 

Linux

Linux Rolling Releases

Linux Rolling Releases

I have come to appreciate Linux rolling releases. Particularly Arch based or related distributions. The one issue I have run into on occasion has been stability after an update/upgrade. I haven’t experienced any show stoppers lately as my current favorite Manjaro XFCE has been very solid, but why take chances. My initial approach years ago would have been to dual boot Windows 10 with Manjaro. I never really thought I was gaining anything, other than to have the ability to run Windows-only software. If you don’t, then what’s the point. I’m not going to keep Windows around just for a security blanket

Yes, I’ve done the Win/Linux dual boot in the past more for convenience than practicality. Sure I could have gone the Virtual Box route, but that seems to have more drawbacks depending on your hardware than a dual boot.  Why divide up resources on a machine that’s already limited? Why go backwards? If I have to rebuild a laptop, so what? It’s good practice and a fresh start is sometimes a good thing.

Simple Solution

A simple solution for my backup laptop setup has been to load Ubuntu Mate on a laptop first (16.04.3 LTS (Xenial) Recommended for stability and mission-critical systems. Supported until April 2019), then install Manjaro and let Calameres partition the drive and add Manjaro alongside the now reduced in occupied drive space Ubuntu OS. (MANJARO 17.0.4  “X”)

I find this sequence works better for booting into either of the Systems. The reverse install order tends to leave me with a slower boot selection. To me, this type of dual-boot “potential” daily driver could be much preferred and I have found that it works well. That is the goal. I don’t have Windows available on this laptop, and I don’t feel that I need it. If I find that I really truly need a Windows machine, I’ll just run it on a separate laptop. In fact I sometimes do, but regrettably so. I might have to actually do a new install, but that’s not such a big deal, it’s just the update times I’m not a big fan of. The basic install is usually pretty quick – not as quick as installing a lightweight Linux distro, but not too horrible.

I do like some things about Windows 10, but the point is that I don’t want to be a “Windows User” if I don’t need to be because I like working with Linux a lot more. I know I have more control over my system, but with Windows, I’m never quite sure who’s actually controlling who. Anything “*nix”ish including OSX I enjoy working with. I’ll give MS credit for developing Powershell into a decent tool, but I already have decent shells to work on both Linux and OSX.

I could use this older Lenovo dual-boot laptop for my daily driver, but I prefer to rely on my very inexpensive, lightweight IdeaPad.Using Manjaro on that laptop — half the ram, and a third the memory – perfect!  I can experiment with the backup. You might question why I don’t use Ubuntu-Mate LTS on the daily driver. The answer is – there isn’t enough space for a dual boot — but I actually sometimes do run Ubuntu-Mate only but at the moment I’m happy with what I’m using now “Manjaro 17.0.4”. If I have a problem I know I have a usable backup. There is some comfort in that. If I feel the need to do some Distro hopping – I can use either laptop to try a new build. I have Manjaro on both, so I’m set there.

The fun is in learning and trying new Linux software and operating systems. A rolling release keeps me interested in what has been improved or changed. The LTS is simply just dependable – not overly inspiring, but dependable. You have the best of both.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is as always — does your system work for you, and are you getting the most out of what you have? You may be getting all this done with Windows 10. In some ways, Windows 10 also acts like a rolling release with some of the large updates that have enhanced and added some new functions. When it comes down to having something I can depend on and know works, I prefer Linux, but I do see Windows getting better and Linux-like in some respects. Whatever you prefer – one operating system, or multiple operating systems, if it works for you – great. If you really like a system, you’ll most likely get more use out of it.

Luckily there are a variety of systems to choose from. Try them all if you can.

Chains breaking

Breaking the Chains

Lately I have become less enchanted with Windows 10 per each update. It might be the weird mood in the air this summer. Updating an Arch based spin always feels like an improvement rather than a “HotFix” for something that needs “fixing”.

I know Linux updates are intertwined with numerous fixes, but there’s something enlightening and less mysterious about updating from a repository with “Paceman“. I sense something about Windows that feels like I have less control over my computer than I do with Linux. Aside from all the privacy and system reporting tweaks when installing Windows you are allowed to do. There are still some veiled baked in settings that you get hard coded just for you. It’s like the system is telling you what is good for you “We know what’s best for you…just check yes for every question we present you Ah ha ha”. (Overly dramatic) Windows is a good operating system, I have no doubt about that since I’ve had to learn to work with it. Of course I’ve gotten some things accomplished with Windows because that is what I was “given” to work with.

I’ve duel-booted Windows and Linux out of convenience, but lately that seems unnecessary.

Windows 10 doesn’t feel anywhere near as streamlined or respond as quickly as an Arch based Linux Distro. Windows 10 is still a big improvement over 8,7, Vista, and dare I say the “Legendary” XP that some Microsoft users tend to frequently reminisce about.

On the other hand Ubuntu, and Fedora based Distros also feel a bit soggy and often somewhat lethargic. (This is just my opinion of course) I know a lot of people who love both of those Distros and won’t stop talking about them. It’s almost as bad as Mac users who stare me down and wonder why I spend so much time working on my system instead of just using it. (I would think Mac users must eventually get bored having their systems continuously work all the time.)

A lot is also dependent on the hardware you’re using, but running the same systems on the same machine duel booted and single OS boot over time is very useful if only for an eye opener.

Don’t remind me that I could run virtual machines with different operating systems instead regular drive installs.

I’m not a fan of Virtual Box

Mostly because of the resource limitations of your memory and processors. I guess if I were to use a much more powerful machine as a daily driver I would have a slightly more tempered opinion, but I use what I have, and usually it’s adequate for what I need. I just prefer to get the most out of my OS as do many other Linux users. I’ve worked with Unix, and Mac OSX. Both very stable and solid operating systems, but neither fit well as a daily driver.

I just have a hard time totally eliminating my reliance on Windows. It’s like a habit that’s hard to give up. Every time I think I can totally eliminate Windows from my life, something inevitably comes up and once again I’m drawn back into the Microsoft universe. A little voice in the back of my head whispers: “buy yourself a fully loaded new computer and maybe you’ll appreciate Windows 10 more” but I already have a nice wimpy under powered computer that works fine with Linux. I don’t want to buy a new computer every year. I just want to get stuff done.

why don’t you use your Mac?

That’s a Good question. I don’t know, no wait a minute, I know; it was very expensive and I don’t want to drop it and break it. Is that a good answer? No, it’s because I live to fix things and there’s not much to fix on the Mac. I’m probably just procrastinating from actually doing anything productive by continuously changing operating systems.

I think it would be much easier for me to go 100% Linux if I could convince the rest of the world to run Linux, but that isn’t going to happen. Let’s face it, Windows runs the world. I’m just so tired of being told not shut off my computer because Windows is updating…, and updating….. and updating.

Manjaro Linux

Quest for Distro

We may never find the one “perfect” laptop/OS combination that works best for everyone, but sometimes I think I get close. Yes, I reluctantly dual boot Windows 10 and a Linux distro, but it’s because it’s sometimes practical to have both operating systems on one machine.

Trying out different distros on underpowered laptops is very therapeutic in a way. Yes, it takes a little time, and may often seem bewildering to the uninitiated, but it’s sort of a hobby of mine. Of course there are many I haven’t tried, and some that I knew immediately were a waste of time. I’ve tried many of the “Standard Distros” and found the majority useful, but the perfect one still eludes me. Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the work of the developers and most of the Linux community.

Admittedly, I still find that Windows 10 is quite handy to have available. I feel somewhat defeated when I find myself logging into Windows more than my other Operating System on my laptop. The only Distro that I really think could alloManjaro Linuxw me to completely abandon my dual-boot philosophy would have to be Manjaro.

 

I like it a lot more than Debian, Ubuntu, or Red Hat based distributions. It just works, and it seems to be fast, although that’s possibly not a very scientific analysis on my part. I thought I would stick with Mint a while back, and then I started to use Ubuntu Mate, and I thought, “Yeah this is the one”. Then I tried “Arch based” Manjaro and really liked it at first, but then thought maybe I should start using Antergos since it actually has “Arch” in the system description.

You get into that Distro hopping groove and feel like you’re on a quest or something. All the while I’m still dragging my Windows Operating system around – because I might need it for something. Someone might want me to work on a project that requires “.Net”. Use Wine you say? I’m not a fan, if you need to work in Windows, then work in Windows.

The trick is to not have to work in Windows and do everything in Linux. Unfortunately I’m not quite there yet. As a matter of fact I think I may just go back to using a Mac. In the end I will continue to use Windows 10, Linux in one form or another, and of course OSX. The quest will continue for the perfect Linux Distro. Not everyone will agree on what that is, but for now I’ll stick with Manjaro for a while. I’ll keep checking other Distros out, stability is always important, and rolling releases can be problematic sometimes. LTS releases are more practical, and Ubuntu has just updated their current LTS, so there is that to consider. If Manjaro continues to work for me, then I guess that’s the deciding factor I’ll go with.