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.

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:





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.

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


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.

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 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.