Sunday, September 5, 2010

Advocacy Revisited

In an earlier post I discussed advocacy. It is past time that I further that discourse with additional anecdotes, examples, repercussions, and prognostications. All without winning an Emmy.

Experiences Past
The previous advocacy meeting did not go as well as expected; only one person attended of the various co-workers and friends that had been invited.  Granted, I have no one to blame but myself since I failed to remind them properly.

However, this yielded an unexpected benefit of minimizing pressure and I viewed this meeting as a practice. You can view the video here.

Additionally, after post meeting reflections I decided to make adjustments to the presentation and slides to improve the experience. The updated slides can be found here.

I now felt better prepared for the following meeting.

Expectations, Both Big and Small
Obviously, one of the goals of the advocacy presentation is to introduce Ubuntu Studio to an unfamiliar audience. But this goal only illustrates just how available and powerful the operating system and applications are.  Only.

But a secondary, and almost equally important, goal is to show just how accessible Ubuntu Studio is.

Huh?  You just said it was available, isn't accessible the same thing?

No, not at all and to address this point let's discuss the computer used in the presentation.

I purchased a very select and specific computer for this advocacy project for two reasons.  Firstly, from a logistical standpoint I wanted a machine that I could transport without having to disassemble my recording setup.  This aspect isn't necessarily pertinent to the project other than as a practicality however.

The second reason, and arguably more important one, addresses the accessibility aspect mentioned above.  This robust and vitalic Dell machine boasted a P4 2.8 GHz processor with 512 MB of memory (later appended with an additional 1 gig) and on-board sound.  Such a beast!

And this beast successfully handles recording and multitracking audio, including significant digital signal processing with Rakarrack.

I used a computer with such low specs that you cannot buy it new but yet contains more technology than the Beatles used to create most of their albums.  Additionally, most people already have computers more powerful and I purchased this one for less than $150 including shipping.

How is this anything but accessible?

Experiencing the Meeting
This time the meeting experienced a significantly larger audience.

I made a flier to give them as a tangible reminder and I reminded them in person in a timely manner.  While I tried to avoid being a nuisance I made sure that the date was in their collective consciousness.

By the way, the flier isn't terribly pretty (I've never considered myself a graphic artists either) but it was made with Inkscape (which inescapably rocks) and you can see the .pdf file here.  To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed by it (although I learned loads about using the Open Clip Art Library) but I want transparency in what I did.  If other see what I did then I hope to encourage others to do the same, especially considering how low I set the bar :P

The meeting went swimmingly and I even had a additional and unexpected attendant; Peter, the thirteen year old brother of one of my co-workers.

Brother Can You Spare A Computer?
I mentioned that I had two reasons for purchasing a computer, but I also had two purposes as well.  The first purpose, coincided with the first reason; I needed an easily transported computer for the presentation.

The second purpose had far more import; to demonstratively till and sow the field of advocacy I would be giving this computer away.

Originally, I had been deliberating between two of my coworkers, but young Peter was chosen to receive the prize computer.

He is younger (and I expect less biased and more likely to attach himself to this), of limited budget, and a member of two bands.  I believe I would have been hard pressed to find more fertile soil to plant a seed for germination.


Future Enterprise
The following week in the office there was significant talk about the advocacy presentation, enough that two additional computers were donated to me. These computers will therefore go to the two coworkers that I had first considered.

The first computer should be completed this weekend and after testing I should deliver it next week.  The second should follow shortly thereafter.

After the second computer I don't know that I will continue this advocacy at this time.  Although, I do have an idea or two for the future.

For some time I have seriously considered trying to form a LoCo in my area.  The Houston LoCo [1] [2] is pretty active but meets usually on the south side of town.  There are many other smaller cities to the north to draw from and I think a LoCo north of Houston has a good chance to be successful.

Also, I have considered setting up a demonstration booth at some of the local music stores.  I believe seeing a live showcase of both Ubuntu Studio's power and accessibility would extremely powerful to introduce Ubuntu Studio to new potential users.  Especially when it can operate on what many affluent Americans would consider a "throw away" computer.

But there are other project and efforts to be surmounted first.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The State of Ubuntu Studio 2010

This blog post is going to be little different from others in my blog.

Normally, I like to discuss positive changes and how things are improving within Ubuntu Studio.  However, due to recent experiences and to address some issues I would like to share with you some of Ubuntu Studio's deficiencies.  And more importantly, ask for help to fix them.

All in less than 1100111110101 characters or less.

But first I would like to explain some history and clear up at least one misconception.  And if you don't want to read the wall-o-text below, just skip the the Summation below for bullet points.

Explaining Why I Ask
When I started helping the Ubuntu Studio developers I had no previous developer experience (this is an important point).  However, Ubuntu Studio was without active leadership and within a year I decided that I would provide that leadership.  Ubuntu Studio was too important to me to stand by idly as it decayed and slowly died.

The lack of leadership did not preclude others' involvement including some who have had long associations with the project.   Although Ubuntu Studio is not necessarily their priority they are still improving the systems and foundations upon which Ubuntu Studio is built.  Examples, oversimplified as they are, include crimsun and TheMuso working on the audio stack among other areas.

Recent contributions that have greatly helped including packaging of new multimedia applications for the archives (quadrispro) and invaluable ISO testing for quality assurance (rlameiro and holstein).  However, there are fewer new (not to mention inexperienced) contributers that are joining the project than the older (and more experienced) ones that have left the group recently.

Therefore, the current state of Ubuntu Studio could be described as losing momentum characterized by limited development in contrast to its substantial potential.

Lastly, I hope this brief explanation helps our users understand that when we receive user feedback (e.g. about wallpapers or Plymouth themes) we are not arrogantly deciding to ignore it.  On the contrary, we are struggling to adequately maintaining the functional necessities (e.g. bug reports and ISO testing) with the resources available at the current time.

Can You Help?
But you may be asking yourself, "How can I help?  I'm not a developer!"  Or you may say, "This all sounds WAY too complicated, involved, and time consuming!"

Or possibly, you may ask yourself, "What is that beautiful house?"

To answer the first question, of the ways I'll mention only a select subset require more than a modicum of experience and/or knowledge.  The threshold is really quite low since most will only require a few simple and easily taught additions to your existing skill set. Also, remember that I had no prior developer experience when I started.

In response to the statement, transitory assistance is quite welcome and appreciated; a full commitment to the team is not required.  Find something that interests you and fix it.  That's it.  Simple as that.

My answer to the second question would be to stop making sense.

When considering if you can help keep in mind that currently there are many tasks that are simply not being done. And as such, any help is an improvement and therefore most appreciated and welcome!

How You Can Help
Now that I've convinced you that it's ridiculously simple to help, let me count the ways (in no particular order).

Website - Ideally we would like a complete update of the website since it has not changed in years, other than the slight disrepair that has occurred.  If you have suggestions for a new layout we would love to see them and are extremely flexible in regards to design requirements.

Alternately, we would also simply appreciate anyone with Drupal experience that could fix a few things if nothing else.

Do you have audio, video, or graphics you would like to showcase? It's something we would like to incorporate into our new website.

Art - An art director with experience creating themes and a vision would be preferable. We are open to explore your vision and have but a few requirements.

We also readily welcome art submissions for GDM, wallpaper, Plymouth themes, et al from all artistic types. We highly encourage you to send it to us. How cool would it be to have your creation as the wallpaper for a Long Term Support release?

Emailed links to art created by others would be appreciated as well. See an image you like, send us the link!

Testing - Willing to download and test install ISO's? Then we have a job for you. Flexible hours!  Make your own schedule!

Also if you would like to help develop testing procedures we could probably find something for you as well. No one else is doing it, be the first.

Documentation - All the cool kids are a Documentation Lead, you should be one too! Help coordinate, develop, update, and review new and existing documentation.

But we would also really like it if you just updated or created one thing in the wiki. Find a great tutorial on YouTube? Post a link in our documentation.

Programming - This is done probably a lot less expansively than most would expect since the Ubuntu Studio team does not write the majority of the applications included.

However, we really could use someone with Python experience to tidy up a few bugs for us in a few of the applications we do maintain.

Tech and/or Bug Lead - This is one of those categories that requires a slight bit of experiences, but not necessarily. Someone of quick wit and perseverance could do quite well actually.

Like to track bugs and fix them? Or perhaps enjoy solving why a certain application does not build or install correctly?  Then inquire within!

Summation
Okay, if you skipped down from the top or you need a refresher about the points I made, here is the Cliff's Notes version:

  • Several experienced people within the project have left recently and not enough new people have replaced them
  • Many things are not accomplished because of limited resources (i.e. people)
  • Even without prior developer experience you too can contribute to Ubuntu Studio
  • Long term commitment is unnecessary, just fix one thing or a couple
  • If you are not helping then it probably is not getting done
I believe that about sums it up.

If you would like to help change the State of Ubuntu Studio there are several methods to do so including commenting at this blog, emailing the ubuntustudio-devel mailing list, or talking to us on IRC at #ubuntustudio-devel.


Hopefully I have great tidings the next time we discuss the State of Ubuntu Studio.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Greetings and Salutations

My name is Scott Lavender and I am currently the project lead for Ubuntu Studio and this is my obligatory "Hello Planet Ubuntu" first post.  Cheers!

Beyond the ubiquitous self-gratification, I am syndicating my blog to Planet Ubuntu for education and information about Ubuntu Studio.

Education
On the whole I believe most Ubuntu users are rather unaware of Ubuntu Studio.

Hopefully this blog will now reach a wider audience, one that is less familiar with Ubuntu Studio, and permeate the collective consciousness by demonstrating what Ubuntu Studio is and what is has to offer.  Perhaps this might even entice some to become Ubuntu Studio users, contributors, and/or developers.

Information
For those who are already familiar with or perhaps using and contributing to Ubuntu Studio, this blog presents information on important updates, current news, testing underway, and insights/musings on possible upcoming features.

A recent example is my post about JACK and Pulse Audio integration improvements where I tested device negotiation between JACK and Pulse Audio using D-BUS in the upcoming Maverick Meerkat release.  Good stuff.

Visit Us
If anyone has any questions or comments about Ubuntu Studio please visit us on IRC at #ubuntustudio-devel and #ubuntustudio.

Additionally user and developer mailing lists are available for those who prefer email at ubuntu-studio-users@lists.ubuntu.com and ubuntu-studio-devel@lists.ubuntu.com, respectively.

And lastly I also welcome anyone that desires it to contact me directly at scottalavender@gmail.com, especially if you are considering contributing to Ubuntu Studio.  Documentation, testing or contributing art are entry level ways to improve Ubuntu Studio; I should point out that I started with documentation myself :)

Warmest Regards,
ScottL

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wisely and Slow; They Stumble That Run Fast

Linguistic sojourns into unbuilding builds and uninstallable binaries, anecdotes of aural acquiescence, and predilections for portentous prognostication abound in this chapter of Tales of Maverick Testing and Listening with the Alpha 1 ISO.


Taming of the Meerkat
I have found myself surrogating several roles this cycle, including technical lead after the previous lead stepped down last cycle due to other commitments.  It is a fortuitous state that he remains an agreeable and amenable person to assist me during this transition.  It should also be mentioned that I remain extremely thankful and grateful for said fortuitous state.

While serving in this capacity several items required investigation that prevent an installable Alpha ISO and numerous daily builds.

The first issue was an uninstallable binary.  I knew this because the recurring email from Colin Watson told me so.

I believe this uninstallable binary was apparently preventing the ubuntustudio-audio metapackage from installing.  This apparently resulted with the termination of the entire installation process.  And even a bad technical lead knows this is Not Good.  Yes, I used capital letters...this means I really mean it!

So, I liberally applied Occam's Razor while wearing my genuine imitation Sherlock Holmes sleuthing hat and found something interesting about bitmeter, the package that produced uninstallable binary.

The package bitmeter included a binary called bitscope...that was not the interesting bit.  This is the interesting part; bitscope's control file said it conflicted with itself and this prevented bitscope from installing.

The correct Conflicts: entry was identified and Alessio, one of the more adept packaging individuals on the team and a recent Debian Developer(!), verified and made the changes.  Score one for the good guys and thanks Alessio.

Next up was a similar situation: an uninstallable binary for the -preempt kernel.  However, this time I knew enough to know that I didn't know enough and emailed the expert, (another) Alessio.  Yes, that's right if one is good, then two should be exponentially better!

Apparently this is true (i.e. exponentially better) because I shortly received an email back saying that the problem was fixed and should be built correctly the next day.  Bravo, says I, and thanks to another Alessio.

The last problem I observed was an apparent failure of the daily builds to actually build.  For several days the daily build directory was empty of ISO's.  Strange (I believe it to be) but true (as I am assured it was).

In short order, I learned from the #ubuntu-release IRC channel that apparently this problem afflicted all alternative install ISO's and thankfully was already being addressed and daily builds should once again be built daily.  The only item remiss is that I do not know who to thank this time.  Thank you, o' nameless fixerer of non-daily building daily builds.

This soliloquy documents the detractions that prevented my testing JACK and Pulse Audio a week and a half after my intended date to begin.  But now that we have lain those barriers low, let us go forth and explore the unexplored, barrier-less frontiers.


Can You Hear Me Now?
I should explain my computer's audio card setup before progressing with further explanation or documentation.

I have three audio interfaces in my computer; onboard, a SoundBlaster Live, and an M-Audio Delta 44. Typically the onboard audio is ignored, the SBLive is used for normal desktop use, and the Delta 44 is used for audio recording, mixing, et al.  I should also note that the SBLive card is connected to typical computer speakers while the Delta 44 is connected to large studio monitors.

Also of note, I typically do not start JACK from the command line, I prefer to use qjackctl as I can also make connections to all applications involved.

For my testing purposes I used a simplistic test: play audio through JACK as audio was concurrently playing through Pulse Audio.  I decided to use prerecorded audio in Ardour to be played back in JACK and an Slipknot song from YouTube to be played back in Pulse Audio.

The purpose was to demonstrate that JACK and Pulse Audio were successfully negotiating audio devices via D-BUS.

First Test
I started JACK using the Delta 44 sound card and started playback of previously recorded audio (guitar).  Next I opened Firefox, located the appropriate YouTube video, and began playback through the SBLive card.

Success!  JACK continued to play audio through the Delta 44 while Pulse Audio streamed audio through the Sound Blaster Live.

Second Test
Next I started JACK using the SBLive card and started playback of the previously recorded audio.  This time when I started Firefox and the YouTube video no sound was streamed through Pulse Audio.

However, when I stopped JACK, Pulse Audio dutifully streamed audio from the YouTube video.

This can be considered a success as well.  It would appear that JACK and Pulse Audio are properly negotiating access to the sound card without unnecessarily stepping on each other's virtual toes.


Prognostication
This is a considerable milestone for Pulse Audio and JACK integration.

I'm not an expert on the Linux audio stack or JACK or Pulse Audio.  Really, I'm not sure I'm an expert on any particular matter.  However, I've been told that during Maverick+1 we can expect continued work on bridging JACK and Pulse Audio so that they can share audio streams.

I believe additional work is required upstream for Pulse Audio however which Ubuntu cannot necessarily control.

However, progress is progress.  Capital!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Network Bug Update

The network bug is still active and on my mind.  It even lives in a Firefox bookmark folder for active Launchpad bugs.

I've been in touch with the person who appears to be most responsible for the patch that disables the interface in gnome-network-admin.  Unfortunately he has been too busy to attend to this situation but I'm going to keep following up with him though.

However, I consider user's experience as one of the top priorities for Ubuntu Studio.  As such, the inability to configure an internet connection, especially for those on wifi or without routers, should be viewed as a major regression in my opinion.

Therefore, I am considering switching gnome-network-admin to network-manager which should give access to network interface configuration and also bring Ubuntu Studio closer in line to what Ubuntu desktop are doing as well.

This is not a definitive decision at this point, but I would consider a flawed solution better than a broken solution at this point.  However imperfect the situation may be, we simply need to find the most optimal solution to improve usability.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Binomial Belonging...And Other Short Stories!

A quick update on a matter of import or two.

Ubuntu Membership
For over a month I had been preparing my application* for Ubuntu Membership.  Two days ago I attended the membership hearing and was accepted.  Yay!

Several people whose suggestions and opinions I value had prompted me to seek membership.  But I also have another motive, as a Ubuntu Member I can get this blog syndicated to Planet Ubuntu.

I'm not into posting at Planet Ubuntu for the money, fame, or companionship.  No, no, no, it's not about me.  I'm looking to reach a wider audience to educate them about Ubuntu Studio.  Additionally, this wider audience probably isn't already being informed about Ubuntu Studio.  If we were playing Scrabble this would be a triple word score and I would have used two X's and one Z!

Hopefully by next weekend I will have finished the requisite machinations and my first post to Planet Ubuntu will occur.  Or maybe not, perhaps flesh eating bacteria or ruthless aliens might get me first (I'm not worried about zombies; head shots)!

The Fridge Interview
I have a scheduled interview with The Fridge.

This is a Big Deal, and in a rare twist, I'm at a loss of words to describe this.  Well, not really, a few words are available:

Dumbfounded.

Nervousness.

Unworthy.

Antidisestablishmentarianism.

Well, the last word really is not applicable to The Fridge interview, but that word is almost always available to me when I'm wordsmithing.

But seriously, some crazy things have been happening lately to me in regards to Ubuntu Studio, which some may describe as serendipitous, and this is just another typifying occurrence.

Nonetheless, I believe questions should be emailed to me third week of July.  Given my nature of loquaciousness and verbosity I hope there aren't many questions.  Just kidding; bring 'em on!

Hopefully we can transcend the typical interview paradigm into a shout out for Ubuntu Studio and get some new people interested into helping.

Art(work)
For several months I had considered making an "I Use Ubuntu Studio" button so people can add them to their blogs and web pages.  I felt this was a great way for people to express their passion for Ubuntu Studio.  And it is free advertising.

Huh?  You don't really know what kind of button I am talking about?  Oh, well, it looks like this:


An email came through the ubuntustudio-users mail list asking about this which galvanized me into action.  So I made several.  The work involved was minimal really, maybe around three hours for the lot.

And the time spent researching ('cause I've used Inkscape three times now!) the mechanics vs. actually doing the work was almost at unity.  So, my larger point at this moment is the Inkscape is superlatively powerful and silly easy.

The real weak link is me because I'm not a graphics artist type guy.  While I have a modicum of creativity with audio and real instruments, the same cannot be said with art and design.  So I'm rather open to suggestions or ideas since the ultimate goal is to create some design work for Ubuntu Studio.

Et Al.
Ubuntu Studio Maverick is rolling around pretty good as we have some good improvements coming soon.  I would like to post about it pretty soon time permitting.

One particular to mention, as a teaser to the next post, is JACK and Pulse Audio's behavior in Maverick.  Remember, one of the goals of Maverick was to improve how they work together.

My intention is to write the next post within the week, perhaps it can be sooner if my attention is not diverted by other issues, like uninstallable binaries and ISO builds that don't actually, erm, build.

Until next time.


* Maco commented that he liked my icons that I used.  Heh.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

15 Seconds of Fame...14...13...12...

I had been wanting to donate and email the Linux Outlaws for some time and so with a confluence of influences I finally did.

While it's more like six seconds of fame, my email and donation are mentioned in Linux Outlaws Episode 153.

Incidentally, this started a nice dialogue with Dan beginning with me asking him for suggestion on how we could improve Ubuntu Studio.*

After he shared his thoughts about Ubuntu Studio I also mentioned that I mislead him slightly by mentioning that I was "working with the Ubuntu Studio developers" which is not untrue, just not thoroughly complete.  I really don't want to wield that title like an Object of Power, rather I view myself as a servant to the Ubuntu Studio users and their needs.

Notwithstanding, Dan mentioned a possibility of an interview which would be a nice change to ask for people to help with testing and documentation creation.

Additionally, I told Dan about my wirblewind RPM music and asked if he would consider it for Rathole Radio.  This would be second great event for me.

The first was being interviewed by the Open Source Musicians Podcast.  Having music written and performed by me featured on a podcast would be a close second!

Even if he doesn't choose something I've already done (and mind you, the RPM stuff is a little rough), I keep writing music so perhaps something later on.

Either way about my music, I just hope to keep communication open with the Linux Outlaws (as they're both fab blokes) and hopefully plug Ubuntu Studio from time to time.


* This question really applies to ANY Ubuntu Studio user.  This is a serious statement:  If anyone has a suggestion for improving Ubuntu Studio then please email me at scottalavenderin@gmail.com

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Advocacy

Just a quick note to mention some of my advocacy projects.  Well, given my loquacious nature it probably will not be "quick", but it shall be oil free.

When Words are Not Enough
While I am free with my verbal advocacy to friends and colleagues at work I have felt that I needed to take it to the next step.  I was clear that I had several people interested in Ubuntu, and specifically Ubuntu Studio in many cases, but it was clear that I had not sealed the deal.  However, to be honest I had already assisted two people into Ubuntu but it had been so long ago I don't usually consider them.

I am an hour's drive north of Houston, which has a rather vibrant Loco.  However, most meetings tend to be on the south side of Houston.  This makes it rather impractical for me to attend meetings.

Therefore I had been considering trying to create a Montgomery/Conroe Loco (MoCo LoCo).  This group might even attract several of the Houston members that live on the north side.

With the confluence of events I felt it was time to do a presentation.

I Give You Ubuntu Studio
After a month of false starts I set a date that most of the interesting people agreed would be good and began preparations.

However, I did fail to aggressively remind people of the scheduled meeting.

With eldest son and daughter in tow I set up for the meeting (using one of the big conference rooms and project at work) at the appointed day and hour and waiting for people to arrive.  I was disappointed.

Counting the pizza delivery two individuals showed up.  Luckily the other person was Mark whom I felt was the most interested.

We all ate lots of pizza and enjoyed what I felt was a pretty good presentation.  Considering the amount of questions that I was asked afterward I felt it was well received as well.

The video is hosted with Vimeo and can be found here.  The video is quite long (over an hour) and I fear I misspoke a few times.  However I still feel it is a good introduction to recording with JACK, Hydrogen, Ardour, LV2, and Rakarrack.

I'll add a like to the Open Office Impress slide show in this blog later.

Resonance Cascade
Several people felt quite guilty on Monday morning.  More, however, were even more intrigued by my description of the presentation.

Three out of the five at work asked me if I would do it again so that they could attend.  I agreed to a future, if currently unspecified, date.

This will give me time to moderate my presentation syllabus slightly and make it more refined, concise, and effective hopefully.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bug Updates

Periodically I like to review the existing bug reports for Ubuntu Studio and related applications and see if any can be addressed.  Maintaining the quality of Ubuntu Studio is an important consideration for me and addressing issues that degrade usability is a large constitute of this.

This should be the first of many 'Bug Updates' posts in which I describe the bug and how they were fixed, with a smile on my face and parsing 'yes' as affirmative in your ardour.rc file.

qjackctl
Two bugs will be discussed about qjackctl, one significant and the other annoying.  The annoying one will be discussed first.

This annoying bug manifests as a missing close button on all child windows in qjackctl.  All the additional windows that can be opened in qjackctl, e.g. connections, messages, patchbay, can only be closed by clicking on the button in qjackctl that opened them.  You can read more about it at Bug #447793.

The second, and more significant in my opinion, is a bug that prevent qjackctl from recognizing renamed tracks in Ardour.

Typically, I like to rename my Ardour tracks using pertinent names (e.g. rhythm1, solo1, bass, drums), however qjackctl would not recognize them.  Even if the Refresh button was clicked.  The only way for qjackctl to recognize them was to restart qjackctl, which is arguably not a very elegant solution.  You can read more about it at Bug #490436.

Both of these bugs have been addressed by upstream and within Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Studio 10.10 Maverick Meerkat will contain qjackctl-0.3.6 which contains bug fixes.

Additionally, I have built qjackctl-0.3.6 for 10.04 Lucid Lynx in my PPA.

Ardour
Ardour also had a significant bug "recently".  I believe the bug has possibly existed throughout the entire Ardour 2.8.x series but has only been filed in Ubuntu lately.

This bug renders the track mute button disabled.  The immediate fix is to right click on the mute button and select the which of the various mute options you want to enable, but any new track will also be originally disabled.

Editing the ~/.ardour2/ardour.rc file will fix any new tracks in existing projects and tracks for all new projects.

You can read more about it at Bug #584786.

A patch was applied to ardour-2.8.7 (also a new upstream version) and is included in Ubuntu Studio 10.10 Maverick Meerkat.

However, I have not placed this into my Lucid PPA yet because upstream has resolved the issue and released Ardour 2.8.8.

I will contact Adrian Knoth shortly to ask if he can get ardour-2.8.8 into Debian so we can sync if for Ubuntu.  Not only is Mr. Knoth a member of the Debian Multimedia Team but he has also been very helpful in the past to get Ardour built and into Debian.  Hats off to Mr. Knoth.

Disabled Network Interface
Sometime back, Ubuntu Studio choose to abandon network-manager because it induces additional and appreciable latency when recording audio.  A less dynamic solution was found in gnome-network-admin.

However, it was not recognized originally that the user interface had been disabled in gnome-network-admin preventing users from actively configuring their network connections.

You can read more about it at Bug #570828.

Sadly, this bug has not been resolved as of this post.  Someone has been contacted about removing the patch that disables the user interface but action has not been taken yet.

Our goal is to have this bug resolved in time for 10.04.01 and 10.10 Maverick.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Almost, But Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Tea

Tales of belonging, public speaking, and discourse.  And not a Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser in sight.

Ubuntu Membership
I've begun my application for Ubuntu Membership on my wiki.ubuntu.com personal wiki page.

Other than the status it provides I'm not sure that I will see much benefit, but I've been encouraged by a few key individuals to complete this and therefore I shall.  When good guidance is proffered I am not one to question it.

However, I am reminded that there is one definitive benefit from membership that I do desire; syndication on Planet Ubuntu.  It is this medium that I expect to leverage and bring Ubuntu Studio more to the fore of mass consciousness.  Oh, aye!

But given my personality I feel compelled that my application not only demonstrate, but also embody, the concept of thoroughness.  And although I probably have enough done and probably should start the process proper, I feel I still need to develop a few more aspects of my application.

Since other tasks are being juggled concurrently I would expect completion by this weekend.  Then I can request testimonials, and finally, formally apply to one of the regional boards.

I think there may be some difficulty getting some of the boards to evaluate any application, much less my own.  The America's Board has applications pending from December of 2009.  The Middle East Board has recently announced a June 1st meeting, which may be too soon.  However, the Asia Board appears to have one every month.

I'll shoot for the Middle East Board meeting if I can meet a few milestones in the next two days, otherwise I'll wait for the next Asia Board meeting.

Either way I'll be happy to have the application ready and can move onto other activities requiring my attention.

Open Source Musician's Interview
The other interesting thing to mention is my interview on the Open Source Musician Podcast.

Dan and Steve are super nice guys and really deserve credit for creating a bit of an grass roots groundswell around open source and musicians.  Their IRC channel (#opensourcemusicians on Freenode) always seems to have activity and usually has some interesting things going on.

Anyway, Ricardo (rlameiro) set the whole thing in motion and it was supposed to be me and stochastic.  Stochastic, however, missed the interview and I did it alone.

I had listened to several episodes before so I basically knew what to expect.  As I said before, Dan (who I think has a voice made for radio) and Steve are easy going guys so it was a relaxed event and I think it came out pretty good.

You can download and listen to the interview here.

My main box had a Hardy install (my main recording partition) and various Lucid Beta installs since we were in the middle of testing Lucid, therefore I used my laptop with a vanilla Karmic install to record the interview.   I ended up rather disappointed with how I sound; I recorded it using a rather inexpensive microphone headset, Pulse Audio, and Skype, the result was my voice sounded very tinny and had a discernible buzz.

But overall I was very happy with the interview and look forward to doing another one with them when I have something worthwhile to tell them again.

Communication
A hallmark I would like to develop is consistent communication with the users, which encourages reciprocative discourse or actions.

A simple post, email, or news item should help to keep the community informed, building a sense of trust and commitment.  A 21th century Fireside Chat with FDR, if you will allow the comparison.

In this format, communication probably will not take the form of long, laborious missives.  Rather, it will likely be short and to the point.

Examples might include:
  • informing users of project direction and goals
  • soliciting user suggestions opinions
  • updating users of project goal accomplishment
  • reminding users of upcoming milestones
  • and requesting user testing
Currently I envision no more than two weeks between communiqu├ęs.  But can be reevaluated as necessary.

And hopefully, an informed and educated community results in an active and involved community.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Best Laid Schemes o' Mice an' Men

I've been queried about my views of Ubuntu Studio's future; therefore, I will expound some of their intricacies now.  All while serendipitously keeping your window button firmly planted on the right side of your window and in the correct order.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
Intrinsically I tend to gravitate towards order and structure.  It's not a neurosis, I can function within chaos (and sometimes it is fun to do so), but I typically prefer not to do so.

Mainly it's that I'm an objective or goal oriented person and as such I find that I accomplish them more effectively with order, structure, and a plan.  Generally speaking, the trip is enjoyable but I derive a greater sense of reward from the accomplishment of Something Getting Done (huh, we've seen that before, haven't we?).

Also, as the kid who read the cereal box because I couldn't dully, sedentarily, and illiterately eat my breakfast cereal, I often ponder over topics of interest in an almost obsessive manner.  I'm not omniscient, I just have a hard time stopping my brain from devoting CPU cycles sometimes.

These are the qualities I feel I bring to Ubuntu Studio.  And hopefully an enthusiastically and passionately fresh perspective as well.

Everyday People
The most immediate goal I would like to approach would be to clearly define Ubuntu Studio's audience.  Some would argue that Ubuntu Studio has always had a definitive audience from it's inception.  Others argue otherwise, as they are wont to do.

I wasn't involved during those times so I cannot support either side.  But I would posit that in either case, both Ubuntu Studio and it's audience have evolved since Ubuntu Studio's genesis.  It would interesting to see if they have diverged and are incongruent now.

During this cycle (Maverick Meerkat) I am hoping to obtain qualitative and pervasive information about our audience and their needs.  My initial suggestion is to create an online survey, but I'm hoping we can develop other methods to supplement this approach.

The first tangible benefit of this process should be to determine how effective or successful we are in meeting our audience's needs.  Obviously, when we have a more concise and thorough definition of their needs then we are in a better position to address them.

Sing a Simple Song
Another tangible benefit, although not for our audience, is possibly reducing scope.  Now, before all two of this blog's follower email me with nasty comments and disreputable questioning of my parentage, I want to clarify my position.

Ubuntu Studio has taken a scattered and broad approach to application inclusion and fulfilling audience needs.  While I will not critique Ubuntu Studio as "bloated", I would suggest it demonstrates symptoms of limited "application creep".

I suspect that the attempts to fulfill user's needs have historically been based less on evaluating data and more on gut feelings or good intentions.  It is also possible that applications were included simply because of a "because it's available and we can" mentality.

The analyzing, inquisitive reader might have shrewd questions materialize in their heads, such as:
  • Why is reducing scope a benefit?
  • Oi, if the benefit isn't for the audience, then for whom is it a benefit?
  • To be, or not to be: that is the question
Firstly, allow me to preface my answers by stating, "An application without a need is useless indeed!"  While not quite Shakespeare (but then what is these days?), this mantra would serve us well to remember.

That bit of poetry aside, addressing the first question; reducing Ubuntu Studio's scope minimizes the workload and responsibilities of the developers.

You might have noticed that I deftly answered the second question as well in one quick, sharp witted but cleanly spoken stroke!

Additionally, it should be pointed out that removing unnecessary applications also reduces the size of the ISO that is downloaded.  This curious phenomenon benefits not only Canonical's server bandwidth but also the hapless users who have a slow internet connection.

Lastly, I would point out that the last bullet point is in fact a statement, not a question, and I retort, "Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating."

Hopefully I have deflected any possible hostile or aggressive emails by demonstrating the possibly substantial and appreciable benefits from evaluating the current application scope in contrast with defined user's needs.

Admittedly, I do not expect to find large tracts of applications that will qualify for scope reduction and furthermore, staunch resistance is expected to removing those that might be considered.  Granted, the potential also exists that we find solid justification for every package we currently have, which would be equally accepted.

It's a Family Affair
Refinements in our package development and maintenance would be something else I would like to improve by leveraging our relationship with Debian.

For the uninitiated, Ubuntu is based on Debian and many Ubuntu packages are derived directly from the Debian archives.  At the beginning of each Ubuntu release cycle packages not in the Ubuntu archives are automatically synced from the Debian archives.

Additionally (and more specifically), I would be remiss to not mention that the Debian Multimedia Team provides many audio specific packages to Ubuntu Studio via the previously mentioned syncing methodology.  Many thanks to the Debian Multimedia Team, without whom Ubuntu Studio would probably be a pale shadow of what it currently is.

Also of import, Debian seems to have a very robust and active program for adding new packages to their archives in comparison with Ubuntu.

Therefore, I would like to see new multimedia packages (e.g. LV2 packages) make their way into Ubuntu Studio via Debian and the Debian Multimedia Team if possible.  Given our lack of dedicated packagers and the Debian Multimedia Team's fastidiousness (non-derogatory), this becomes a no-brainer.  Their quality and throughput is magnitudes beyond what we can accomplish given an identical time scale.

While one of Debian's strengths lies in it's packaging, in a symbiotic twist, Ubuntu's stregnth lies in it's quantity of users.  This manifests itself, amongst other ways, as filed bug reports and patches submitted.  Therefore, we should be attempting to push bug fixing patches back to Debian where applicable rather than only patch them in the Ubuntu repositories.  Sometimes it is not applicable as Ubuntu is different than Debian and sometimes packages require specific moderations.

Reducing the delta between the Debian and Ubuntu packages will allow for auto-syncing at the beginning of each release.  Therefore, pushing patches back to Debian will not only help keep Debian and Ubuntu's package archives up to date but it will also reduce the workload on the Ubuntu Studio developers.

I believe there is great potential for both groups to mutually benefit from a closer working relationship and I hope we can explore it.

I Want To Take You Higher
Lastly I want to mention the possibility of developing new audiences.

This is not to imply that we would abandon our current audience; that would be silly given that I have discussed trying to definitively understand their needs and address them.  This has already been misunderstood so I want to say it clearly:

Engaging a new audience does not preclude continuing a commitment to an existing audience.

New audiences potentially could provide Ubuntu Studio with a substantial quantity of new users who could also go on to report bugs, help the development team or even develop their own audio centric applications.

Each of these new users, especially if it breaks out of the Ubuntu/Linux circle, could possibly engage in advocacy in a manner and effectiveness that has been yet seen.

This isn't a decision to pursue new audiences, rather, it's a decision to explore the possibility of developing new audiences.  Possible audiences need to be identified, their needs understood and our abilities to fulfill their needs evaluated before any decisions should be made.

I would expect that at the end of Maverick we might have begun to identify new audiences and their needs and might require a year (or more) to make a definitive decision, develop a plan, and begin to implement that plan.

It will possibly be a lot of work to successfully engage and support a new audience but the returns could be equally as rewarding.

In Time
Other items exist to be pursued that that not only require fewer literary tracts for explanation but also are not governed by or fit into a desirable timetable.  Some may be deferred due to interest or availability of resources, but hopefully these will all be addressed, just some sooner than others.  These include (in no particular order):

LV2 - packaging the LV2 effects, plugins, and generators started last cycle and continues to be an active goal right now thanks to quadrispro
JACK2/Pulse Audio - developing functional integration between JACK2 and Pulse Audio via dbus is another active project headed up by TheMuso
network manager - a common and familiar problem that finally received a bug report and is now being addressed, thanks to Ricardo (rlameiro) for filing the bug
update website - something that has been long overdue, we have a general direction and now hopefully progress will be made thanks to detrate.  I have high hopes that this accomplishment will have an expansive and dynamic effect with users
fill team positions - as all team positions are effectively empty, this is something that desperately needs to be addressed and i am hopeful that within the next month significant progress can be made, especially for the tech lead position
ubuntustudio-controls - updates are needed since JACK now handles rtprio and memlock in /etc/security/limits.d/audio.conf but Ricardo (rlameiro) would additionally like to explore a redesign which I would like to potentially leverage to include other activities that users routinely perform for setting up their boxes
Ubuntu Studio backports PPA - since the official backport team is pretty busy and our applications fill a niche need we might consider a backports PPA for our users, much like KDE maintains, to provide more immediate access to backported applications
documentation - more documentation is the obvious and immediate thought, but I would like to explore defining and possibly reorganizing the scopes of the wiki.ubuntu.com vs. help.ubuntu.com websites as they relate to Ubuntu Studio
decision documentation - who wants to repeat history? We should document reasons for certain decisions so that users understand why those decisions were made, plus we can keep knowledge continuity within the developer team even with member attrition.
testing procedures - I feel very, very strongly that if we want users to help us test Ubuntu Studio then we need to explicitly provide instructions explaining every step and expectation, therefore we need to develop clearly identified and documented testing procedures.  If this is effected we will significantly lower the threshold for users that might help us.  I am hoping that stochastic and I can work together to accomplish this, or at least start making appreciable progress, soon.
user communication - another topic about which I hold very, very passionate feelings.  I want to develop effective, consistent, pervasive, and thorough communication with our users to help develop a vibrant, dynamic relationship with the developers.  I believe a direct correlation will become evident between effective communication with users and their participation in development.  And this is to everyone's benefit.

 (You Caught Me) Smilin'
These are currently my immediate and foremost thoughts, more or less, about Ubuntu Studio and the its future.  Nothing shocking perhaps, but hopefully they align with the "do one thing and do it well" ethos.

I feel this is an excitingly enviable juncture in Ubuntu Studio's development and I am fortunate to be part of a project with so much exceptional potential, where we are only limited by our own desires and commitment.

Of course, this potential that would not exists if not for giants elevating us.  Hopefully all those who contribute to Ubuntu Studio's development will seize this opportunity and accomplish something worthy of having stood on their shoulders.


Lastly, please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions with me by commenting or emailing me directly at scottalavender@gmail.com.

    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    Shaping the Future

    Discussing leadership and quite possibly some of the biggest changes to Ubuntu Studio in a single release cycle, in more than 144 characters but in less than or equal to one blog post.

    Take Me To Your Leader
    Last night was an unusual night on #ubuntustudio-devel.  Usually the channel is pretty quite but we had continuing discourse for approximately seven hours.

    Several times during the conversations Cory intimated that I should or was leading the project.  Other times some indirectly referred to me as the "leader".

    It reached a climax when Troy asked who _was_ the lead and I said that I had volunteered as acting lead since no one else had stepped up.  This was the first time to make such a statement in a related public forum.

    Aside from a few ominous statements ("Then the project's fat rests in your hands") that sprinkled the remainder of the discussion, the announcement seemed to be palatably received.

    I don't feel much of a leader at the moment as I currently do not have a definitive "vision" of what the project should be, although I do not feel daunted or intimidated by the absence.

    Originally I had considered that I might perform as a steward, just providing stability, organization, and direction, until someone more appropriate was identified.

    Now, however, I do not think this is probable, so if no one were to object I would accept the responsibility of Project Lead for the indeterminate future.

    When Seeing is More Than "Vision"
    Although the discussion started with updating the website, Troy and Emmet directed the topic into trying to define Ubuntu Studio, its mission statement, and its audience.

    It quickly became obvious none of these had been defined before.

    One thing that *did* become obvious was that we probably would reduce the scope of the project.  This might be important, so I'll say it again: we probably would reduce the scope of the project.

    However, all this is speculative discussion without basis until we clearly and definitively define our audience, their needs, and our goals to meet those needs.

    But, it is possible this could be a very, very pivotal period in Ubuntu Studio's history.

    Who knows, next release we might have an stripped down audio-centric distribution, with extremely limited video/graphical applications, that fits onto a CD, and is distributed as a LiveCD!  Oh, and Pulse Audio completed removed and using JACK as the sole sound server which starts automatically when logging in.  And the coup de grace would be installing Network Manager as so many users have asked.

    There you go, this could be the next version of Ubuntu Studio.  Or not.

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    How Do We Get There From Here?

    Starting to follow Troy Sobotka's advice from IRC and discuss openly what I've kept pretty quite starting with Ubuntu Studio's leadership and how it effects me.

    But before I get started I should mention that I think Troy should go to medical school.  To me, his name just sounds like a doctor's name.  Try it, say it out loud...Dr. Troy Sobotka.  Sounds Hippocratic to me.

    Disclaimer: The things I state are my opinions based on my perspective and I'm probably wrong on most, if not all, accounts.  Enjoy!

    Leadership, It Does a Project Good
    For some time, those with a keen eye and quick wit should have noticed the implosion of the Ubuntu Studio team leadership.  And not to point the Finger of Blame at someone, but it started when Cory needed to step down originally as project lead.

    Cory had to do what he had to do, but that was the demarcation of when the project transitioned from involved, decisive project leadership into something different.  Even when Cory returned, he couldn't commit the necessary time and was ineffective.

    But that was better than suffering with a token leader, which we did.  And again, I don't fault someone for not having time, but in this case I can be critical for some not being forthcoming with their involvement status.  I feel that courtesy (or respect perhaps) for the others involved would demand it.

    Nonsupporting Cast?
    Slowly other supporting members have fallen away.  Like unnamed cast members from a science fiction show that join the away party on the unknown and unavoidably hostile planet, they were not destined to stay with us long apparently.

    Luis has effectively not been involved for some time, even when he was.  Luke is now leaving, a great blow in my opinion and his leaving castrates the project rendering it far less potent.  Heh, how's that for a metaphor?  Probably not the one you wanted.

    The three already mentioned were the core team at one point.  No more.

    Others have limited involvement, although some might have more involvement behind the scenes that I am aware.

    I don't think I've ever seen Andrew Hunter directly involved with Ubuntu Studio (but he could be managing packages for all I know), Jussi is around and offers opinions and gives suggestions but I don't know what else he does, and I don't even know what crimsum's real name is, much less what he does.

    But no one has been really that visibly active that I have seen.  Except Eric.

    I Will Not Repeat Myself Again.  I Said...
    When I joined the project, Eric was Getting Things Done.  Yes, I used capitalized words because he was really doing things.  Visible things.  And lot of them.

    Me for my part, I like when Things Get Done.  That's means something is Being Done Right.

    So now that I've got my feet under me a little more and I can be a little more effective, it's a little frustrating that he is also beginning to minimize his involvement.  I was hoping he would assume the mantle of leadership and we could Really Get Things Done.  I added another capitalized word to the original sentence, that makes it even more impressive, and disappointing.

    Again, this is not meant to be accusatory, I just unreservedly prefer to state my views directly and openly.  But to see the same cycle repeat itself is like an unfriendly kick in the groin, as opposed to a friendly one.

    * insert history aphorism here *

    History, The Lesser of Two Evils?
    I like history, it offers great lessons.  I just don't like it when those lessons are repeated on me.  And now I'm part of that lesson.  But what can I take from it?

    Warning:  Direct and Over Simplistic Discourse Follows!

    With strong leadership Ubuntu Studio progressively makes improvement.  Devoid of strong leadership it meanders at best, flounder at worst.

    The former statement is applicable to Cory's first tenure when the project first started.  He was direct and forceful but tractable strides of progress were achieved.

    I believe the later statement applies to everything since.

    So here we see a good history lesson and we can choose to learn from it.  Or not.

    Please note that the statement, "Or not." does not mean to choose not to learn from it but rather not to choose to learn from it.  There is a distinction. 

    To Lead or Not To Lead, That is the Question
    I think Ubuntu Studio is important, perhaps even the premier media creating distribution.

    So, this is an interesting situation.

    I've thought about it for almost two months and Ubuntu Studio is holistically important to me, too important for me to stand impotently by and watch it succumb to entropy.

    So, I will step up and conduct myself as acting project lead.

    Why "acting lead"?  Because, while I do not believe that I am the best choice, I am certainly better than no one.  If some suitably capable person should desire to be project lead then I will support them and the project as I can, but just as another developer.

    But until that time Ubuntu Studio is too important to me to allow it wander course without anyone at the helm looking to the future with seeing eyes and steadying the present with firm, guiding hands.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    of Whats and Wheres

    I've been busy, really busy, and at length I plan to talk about it.  I shan't do it all at once and it probably will be parsed between several posts over several weeks.  So, let's begin.

    Back in February I embarked upon the RPM Challenge for the second year in a row.  The goal of the challenge is to record ten songs, or thirty-five minutes of music, during the month of February.  Writing the material during February is encouraged but not required and music that has been recorded previously is explicitly prohibited.

    My name for the project is wirblewind and my page can be found here:  http://wirblewind.rpmchallenge.com/

    Although I did not quite reach the ten song or thirty-five minutes of music goal, I accomplished several other goals.  Given that I only managed a single "song" last year, I am quite pleased by the progress, which was a goal.

    Everything was recorded in Ubuntu Studio.  I'm proud of that as well.

    Of all the songs, I'm quite pleased with Werewolf Baby for several reasons.  Specifically, I'm happy with the production of the song and believe it to be the best sounding of all the songs.  Also, this song was specifically written with a genre and subject matter in mind.

    Normally, most of my songs are developed organically and I usually cannot direct their development.  In a very Zen matter, they are and I am only discovering them rather then creating them.  This one germinated from an idea and developed as a result and stayed rather true to it's roots.

    The last topic I will discuss in this blog will be a conversation and its implications that I had with someone in the #ubuntustudio-devel channel on IRC.

    Troy_S told me I should write, really write, about my thoughts on Ubuntu Studio instead of using this blog as a notepad to record technical minutiae of some accomplishment for future reference.

    Troy is an interesting guy and comes from a very different place than I.  That's not a bad thing and I don't think we clash with each other, we are just different shades of color.  If I was Black Sabbath then he would be Joy Division.

    I'm working my way through a couple of books he suggested to me about graphic arts and design.  Bloody good books they are!  I'm learning loads of new stuff, things I never considered or was aware of before.

    Anyway, I'm going to do what he said.  I'm going to open up more about my thoughts on Ubuntu Studio and where it's heading as I've held those very close to the vest for the most part.  And hopefully no one gets upset about some of the things I might write :)

    But just not at this particular juncture in time.  But soon, as I plan on writing more frequently here.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Of Branches and Trunks

    My Plymouth theme changes were merged into the official trunk of the ubuntustudio-look package last night.  This is amazing.

    Firstly, it's my first code that has been accepted into an official Ubuntu Studio package.

    Secondly, this is something extremely visible as it will be the first (and mandatory) thing seen as Ubuntu Studio boots up.  And it is at this stage that I really, really hope it works!

    Lastly, this is for a Long Term Supports release so my contribution will be relevant for three years!  Of course, unless someone else (or me) creates another theme and then replaces mine.  This seems unlikely unless my theme is borked somehow as there are many other, more important things to worry about.

    Backporting packages was one thing.  Working on packaging a new application is another.  But this step is way beyond either of those.  Truly exciting, both for my contributions but also for my development.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    REVU: First Blood

    Today I submitted a revised zynjacku to REVU in response to my first comments by Fabrice.  I had already submitted revision to lintian, tool to dissects Debian packages and tries to find bugs and policy violations, warnings.

    This took a little longer that I had hoped but I quickly addressed everything after the latest Ubuntu Studio meeting.  I notably had trouble getting zynjacku to compile using Debhelper7, although it should have been a snap.  If my past experience is any inidcator, then it's the dope behind the weapon, not the dope on the weapon.  I ended up reverting back to the long /debian/rules file.

    Hopefully this will secure the first Advocate and can quickly acquire another Advocate in time for Lucid Feature Freeze.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    zynjacku in REVU

    Today I submitted zynjacku to REVU.  The web page is located here.

    What is REVU?  According to the Ubuntu REVU wiki page...

    REVU is a web-based tool with which contributors may show package changes to Ubuntu Developers for review and inclusion into Ubuntu.

    When a package is not already included in Ubuntu (or Debian for that matter) then it must go through a vetting process before it can enter into the Ubuntu archives and available in the official repositories.  REVU is that process.

    I am hoping to get this approved for inclusion into Lucid.  Maybe even a few others as well.