But I give up. Between proprietary hardware drivers and slow software release cycles for the things that matter most to me, I’m done.
I just spent two hours to accomplish the following: Download a new album that we paid for and play it back on my television. That’s it!
Two. Fucking. Hours. And still no music playing. So, I rebooted to my Windows 7 partition:
- Boot to desktop screen: 30 seconds
- Launch Google Chrome, load and login to GMail, click on e-mail link: 10 seconds
- Download new album: 60 seconds
- Plug in the HDMI cable, launch VLC: 10 seconds
- Total time: less than two minutes and now we’re listening to Metric‘s new album Synthetica.
Loving the album by the way. They struck out on their own from their record label for the last album Fantasies and this is their second independent release.
I’ve been trying for the last couple years to move my music composition and podcasting away from Mac and Windows to Linux with mixed success. Podcasting under Linux is simple as long as you have basic hardware that is supported: class compliant USB devices, or a reasonably mainstream sound card.
I can internally route Skype streams, web clips, other sources and record it all to independent tracks to Ardour for later editing. There’s some great info about this aspect from the Balticon panel about open source podcasting.
Where things break down for podcasting is if you need to use advanced audio hardware like Firewire or USB2 mixers and interfaces. Driver support is minimal, flaky, or (more likely) non-existent.
This isn’t a shortcoming of Linux, or the community of thousands of passionate hackers that make it all work as well as it does – this is because big companies refuse to open source their drivers, and don’t have a profit motivation to make their software available on Linux.
In fact, none of my issues have to do with Linux itself. It’s just that, due to the way the world works, it takes awhile to get things fully functioning. I’ve got another blog post in the works that delves into this a bit more in reviewing my latest laptop. The device is so new (it was a warrantly replacement) that there are even huge issues in Windows – they’re just not as frustrating as they are under Linux.
Music composition and production is an entirely other matter. Aside from hardware issues, the software is still far from where it needs to be to get out of your way and let you make music.
Ardour and Audacity are solid, but they’re still butt ugly. Appearances shouldn’t matter but the hard edges, jagged fonts and buttons take your attention away from the waveforms you are making dance.
Hydrogen is a decent drum machine, and there are some good sounding drum kits for it, but it is still far less flexible than it needs to be to create something other than a demo and there are many features still lacking to make it a professional contender.
Then there are the plugins.. oh, the plugins. This boggles my mind as there are some really awesome open source plugins out there. But there are holes that have been waiting to be filled for years and years (real time noise reduction anyone?) and even though the pieces are there, nobody has had the time to scratch that particular itch and pull them together.
Again, nobody’s fault – they are pouring their time and energy into making this great free stuff that we all benefit from – but frustrating none the less. I contribute bug reports and money where able, but it doesn’t get songs written any faster.
Another glaring hole is virtual instruments, particularly software synthesizers. Not important to all musicians, but something I use a lot. Again, there are some solid contenders out there, but the offerings on Windows and Mac are far superior either in their audio engines, interfaces, or presets.
As I said, I’m going to write a post on the new computer, but in short; using Linux on it is a near daily struggle with one aspect or another for many interactions. I’m fighting the sound card, video driver, or struggling to get my mouse to work.
Rant over.. I feel better getting that off my chest. Thanks for sticking around!
I may not walk away from Linux on the desktop entirely (it will certainly remain my server platform of choice) but for the next few days at least I’m going to ignore it, cool down, then sort out my currently broken configurations and decide whether to keep putting energy into it or not.
Update 4/8/2013: I did make the move to 100% Windows 7 on my primary workstation. Overall it’s been a good move and has greatly increased my creative output. I never did write that laptop review.. I need to get on that as well as updating my Toolbox page since a lot has changed.