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Music Applications on Linux

hosadeeb's picture

The session was attended by six members, excluding Diaa. I had anticipated that no less than ten would come, so I waited until 5:15, then the session started.

My plan was to concentrate on the file formats used in music production (rather than just play-back), and give a brief idea about related pieces of software, besides an introduction to the technologies (and libraries) needed to make all of that possible.

First, I discussed raw audio, essentially .wav and .aiff files, in contrast to compressed files like Ogg/Vrbis, .mp3 and .rm, etc. Then I gave a quick visit to audio editors: Audacity, Ardour, DAP and ReZound.

Then came the .mid format. I discussed the difference between it and the first one, explaining the fact that it stores only the performance data, rather than the resulting sound. This was followed by a quick visit to Reosegarden (MusE wouldn't launch for some reason). I also mentioned that the main drawback with MIDI files is that the quality depends entirely on the sound generating equipment, so the same file would sound differently on different sound cards, organs or music modules.

Then I discussed .mod files, which contain both the performance data and the sound bites ( = samples) of the instruments used within the file. Again, I gave a quick tour of both SoundTracker and CheeseTracker, the main contenders.

Next was the .sf2 (SoundFont) format, which is the exact opposite of .mid; i.e. it's like a .mod file without the performance data. And the members had a quick look at Swami and FluidSynth.

Then I quickly talked about synthesisers (like amSynth) and rhythm boxes as helper applications.

I then gave a quick introduction to ALSA, Jack, LADSPA and EcaSound (drivers, libraries and servers) upon which most, if not all, of the existing applications depend for their basic audio and MIDI needs.

Finally, I gave a very short briefing on notation software (notably NoteEdit and LilyPond) since most attending members weren't really interested in written music.

لمزيد من المعلومات قم بزيارة الموقع المذكور.


There are two traditions

There are two traditions in software development: the work done in universities and by individual developers, often shared among research teams, and the proprietary code created by commercial entities which is usually a trade secret. Each tradition has its own ethos, and licenses the software it creates in very different ways.

The UNIX family, which includes Mac OS X and Linux, has long been the mainstay of university computer departments, but the original UNIX concept has fragmented into many incompatible proprietary versions. Because Linux belongs to everyone and no-one, it is now being invested in by many of the big UNIX companies, including IBM, Sun, SGI and HP. By contrast, Mac OS X belongs to Apple, so we are unlikely to see other companies contributing significantly to it.

It's a common misconception that Linux was created by a lone student in Finland. In fact Linus Torvalds still leads the project to this day, more than 10 years after he began it, but the operating system has been contributed to by thousands of people. It builds on the considerable work of developers who had dreamt for many years of making a free UNIX, many of whom worked on the GNU project.

The sense in which 'free' is used by the GNU project is not the same as in 'freeware': it refers to developer and user freedom rather than zero cost. Confusingly, Free Software can be sold, while software that can be downloaded at no cost often places restrictions on user freedom. But there are plenty of complete Linux systems that you can download for free, or buy on CD-ROMs for near the cost of production.

The familiar software licence that comes with a Windows or Mac application only allows you to use that software in specific ways, and non-compliance with the conditions of the licence can even lead to prosecution. Usually the software you get is a binary — an executable file made of ones and zeros that isn't human-readable. It's like a sealed black box, and if anything goes wrong or you don't like a certain feature, there's not much you can do about it except complain to the vendor. The vendor's response can only be that you should upgrade the binary, since the source code from which the program is made is a trade secret.

With 'open source' software, the source code of the program is made available for those who need it. This not only helps the software developers, who can fix problems directly, but also those users who can hire a developer to sort the program out. There are usually fewer restrictions on binaries too — for example, you can often install open source software on multiple machines without infringing the licence.

The next step in the process is what separates Mac OS X from Linux. OS X is based on a very liberally licensed codebase known as BSD, which allows developers who make fixes to keep the improvements to themselves — if they want to. This is one of the reasons why you can't just download OS X for free, even though it's based on freely available software.

The licence under which Linux and the majority of software for it is released is known as the GNU GPL, or General Public Licence. It insists that any improvements to GPL-licenced source code have to be made available under the same terms, and generally patches are sent back to the original developer. This continual feedback process has lead to the refinement of most of the software that runs the Internet — the Apache web server, for example — as well as Linux itself.

Of course, there is nothing to stop programs from the proprietary tradition being made available for Linux. As long as those programs don't make secret changes to Linux itself, then they are perfectly acceptable to most users and developers. The message that anyone porting their program to Linux will be forced to make it Free Software has been put about by the likes of Microsoft — but this is clearly not the case. As one spokesperson for the company put it, IBM has a lot of intellectual property and a lot of lawyers, and they aren't worried about the possibility.


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