[PlanetCCRMA] Some planet-ccrma wishes for the new year

Fernando Pablo Lopez-Lezcano nando@ccrma.Stanford.EDU
Fri Jan 2 18:38:01 2004

> as I do not (yet) know how the planet-ccrma requirement management is 
> happening, I thought I'd bring up a couple of wishes on this list for 
> commenting. I have been using planet-ccrma for a couple of weeks now 
> and I thought to write down my first impressions while they are still 
> fresh in my mind. Please disregard if I am on the wrong forum.

Nope, you are on the right one. Thanks in advance for all the feedback. 

> 1) using the root account
> I think in general it is bad practice to have to use the super user 
> rights to use user applications and this should be avoided. As a new 
> user to planet-ccrma I have so far found two cases where I cannot avoid 
> using the super user password: 
> a) starting the low latency patch
> I remember reading on some of the low latency pages about a solution 
> where the low latency patch can be activated and deactivated with the 
> SysReq key. This to me seems like a good solution and I would hope it 
> could be included in planet-ccrma. Some kind of a graphical status 
> indicator, e.g. a blinking scroll lock led, should be implemented to 
> indicate that the patch is active.

The low latency patch can be automatically activated by adding one line
to /etc/sysctl.conf ("kernel.lowlatency = 1"). See the "Activating the
low latency patch" section in the "Tuning the system" Planet CCRMA web
page. After you do that the low latency patch should be automatically
turned on when you reboot. To tell the truth I think at this point the
low latency patch should default to being active on boot. Just a matter
of historical residues that are no longer necessary (a long time ago I
though it reasonable to start by default with the patch "off", it was
safer - most probably that's no longer reasonable). 

> b) using xvidix full screen video on mplayer with an ati mach64 card.
> This should be possible using the kernel helper software presented in 
> the mplayer FAQ. I have never gotten it to work, I think it would be a 
> great thing if this "patch" would be included in the planet-ccrma 
> kernel.

I'll take a look but frankly it is probably not going to be "high

> 2) grouping of programs in the Start button menu
> As a new user it is very difficult to recognise which program does what 
> in the Sound and Video menu in RH9. Submenus under the Sound and Video 
> menu would help in recognising programs and also improve the usability 
> a lot.

Yes, that needs to be addressed somehow. The current setup uses the
default RedHat groups and menu entries. I have to add something that is
more clear. 

Regretfully (as you comment below Re: macros) not all programs can be
started from menus easily as there are dependencies (ie: an app depends
on Jack being running). Some programs are nice and have a popup screen
that says what's wrong but others (most?) just print to standard error
and quit, so you don't see anything when running from a menu entry.
Andrea (Glorioso, of Agnula) had proposed a system to take care of these
problems... amazingly I still have that email as marked "to answer" and
never find the time to do it. Most probably feedback should be given to
the program authors about the inadequacies of just printing something to
the terminal and quitting :-)

> 3) macros to start programs
> To improve the usability of planet-ccrma it would be great if it would 
> come with ready made macros that would do all the setting up needed for 
> programs to start. E.g. starting Rosegarden requires me to a) activate 
> the low latency patch, b) start qjackctl c) start fluidsynth d) connect 
> fluidsynth and the alsa-driver e) finally start Rosegarden. Five (5) 
> steps to start a midid sequencer seems a bit over the top! This is a 
> usability flaw that could be solved by including program start macros 
> in the Sound and Video menu to do this. I think most programs would 
> benefit from this.
> 4) Soundfonts
> I did not find any soundfonts on my system to use with Fuidsynth so I 
> had to find them from the net. Planet-ccrma could include a selection 
> of GM soundfonts and at least some collections of the most used 
> instruments, such as pianos, organs, strings, string pads, percussion 
> sets and sound effects by default. 

I currently test with the Fluid soundfont and I was planning on somehow
making it available (uncompressed) in the web site. Probably not in the
iso images as it is fairly massive (~140Mbytes). I think it is freely
distributable but I'll have to check. There may be other interesting
fonts (that are freely redistributable). Any interesting suggestions?

> Also to the Sound Font Archiver 
> Sfark linux version should be included in planet-ccrma as soon as it is 
> available. Further, setting up a apt-get repository at planet-ccrma of 
> free soundfonts could be a good idea.

That would be nice indeed. Suggestions accepted. 

> 5) Comments on the included programs I have used
> Qjacktl:
> Great tool! Extremely user friendly and  good usability.
> Fluidsynth:
> Should be automated with a macro to activate always when you start a 
> Midi sequencer. This is a service you would expect the operating system 
> to provide with no hassle.
> Rosegarden:
> Rosegarden4 0.9.5 has a bug that makes recording midi from a keyboard 
> while playing an existing file impossible. This is currently discussed 
> on the Rosegarden users list and a solution is already on its way. I 
> hope the correction will be included in planet-ccrma as soon as it is 
> available.

I always try to stay up to date so when a new version of Rosegarden is
released it will be made available (provided I have time, as usual :-). 

> Ardour:
> I am running a dual boot system with Windows 98 and RH9. For recording 
> I have been using n-track studio http://www.n-track.com for years in 
> Windows. The user interface of this program is one of the best , it is 
> very intuitive and it consistently minimizes the number of key strokes 
> and mouse clicks needed to do your stuff. It simply works. In addition 
> it comes with a VST support and a number of excellent free effects. 
> Ardour is from a different planet. Simply importing a wave file to edit 
> requires a process which I still can not memorize even after doing 8 
> different projects with it. Ardour seems not to be designed from the 
> user point of view but from the developers point of view and has a long 
> way to go in regards of usability before it can cal itself a 
> professional tool.

Maybe you could try to become a member of the ardour-users and/or
ardour-devel mailing lists? I'm sure they will be more than happy to
hear your comments on usability (I mean it). Ardour is still evolving
fast and positive feedback will be appreciated. 

> A good musical year 2004 to everyone!

To you too!
Thanks again. 
-- Fernando