Workshops Music Production with Open Source Software

Starting September 7th I’m going to conduct a series of 6 workshops on music production with open source software at De Bakkerij in Castricum. With software I also mean the operating system so the OS I’m going to use will be an open source based one (probably Ubuntu or Debian). So basically it’s a series of workshops on music production with Linux Audio.

Last week I had something like, what the heck, I’m just going to mail De Bakkerij to ask if they’re interested since they host more DIY initiatives like the workshops inititiative I proposed. I didn’t expect much of it but I immediately got an enthusiastic e-mail back from the promotor of De Bakkerij. So after a few mails back and forth it was a done deal.

Rough outline of the workshops:

  1. Introduction and base principles of open source software and using it for music production. What is open source, why use it, how does the open source audio ecosystem look like and will my hardware work?
  2. Recording with open source software. What software is available (DAW), how to use it during the recording process, base principles of recording instruments and vocals (I’ll be focusing on home recording and not recording complete bands).
  3. Making music with open source software. Softsynths, samplers, drum machines, amp/cabinet modeling, sequencers, trackers, DAWs, MIDI/OSC, plugin frameworks etc.
  4. Mixing and mastering with open source software. What software is available, what kind of hardware do I need, base principles of mixing and mastering.
  5. Showcasing the possibilities of the usage of open source software with the focus on low-cost solutions like the Raspberry Pi and RockChip based devices.
  6. Concluding workshop: listen to and discuss the musical projects made by the attendees, discussion on music production with open source software.

There’s no fee for attending the workshops but you do need a notebook or netbook and an empty USB memory stick of at least 4GB.

Workshops Music Production with Open Source Software

Bricking the UG802 Android TV stick

Pulled out my soldering iron, soldered a reset button and a switch to boot into recovery on the PCB and connected my UG802 clone/revision to my TV. Nothing. lsusb. Crap, it boots in flash mode. Let’s try reflashing the whole bloody thing. Well that works so the NAND is not defective or anything. Reboot. Nothing, lsusb still reports the device is in flash mode. So I removed all my soldering efforts which I really regretted because it was quite nicely done given my poor soldering skills and tried again. Still nothing. Arrrggghhhh. Enjoyed a cold Warsteiner and let it rest.

Today I brought the device with me to the office. Hooked it up to a Windows machine, ran the ROM flash tool from Finless’ custom ROM package for this device and powered it up. I was greeted with the most ugly Android boot animation I had ever seen. But at least the device works again so thanks Finless!

So now I can move on again. I had Jack1 running on it so it should be possible to turn this device into a very cheap, yet powerful alternative to do real-time, low-latency audio. Compared to the Raspberry Pi JACK already consumed way less CPU (12% on the RPi compared to 2% on the RK3066 device with the same JACK settings) and I noticed the device has some more IRQ’s so if I could get all of those threaded that should give me some more flexibility to get everything working in a more stable way. I did have to disable WiFi otherwise the whole USB stack crashed after starting JACK. Also tried with an external WiFi dongle, same issue. I can even generate xruns when pressing keys on an attached keyboard. So it’d be really nice if I had serial console access to this thing. But I’ll figure that out too. And maybe the USB part of the kernel can be tweaked to improve things on the USB level.

Bricking the UG802 Android TV stick

New notebook: minor issues

“My keyboard seems a bit loose on the lower left side, is that something that could be fixed?”
“We’ll take a look at it, should be no problem.”

So I paid a visit to BTO again, had to be at a Horus meeting anyway, and within 15 minutes the tech guy returned with my notebook from the workshop.

“Could you try it out?”
“It’s perfect, no loose spots anymore, what did you do?”
“Oh, I just replaced the keyboard with a new one.”

He just replaced the keyboard with a new one. Now that’s what I call service. With any mainstream brand you will have to do without your notebook for at least 3 weeks and in the worst case they’ll start nagging the faulty keyboard is not a warranty case. Not at BTO. Fixed within 15 minutes, ready while you wait.

At the Horus meeting one of the items on the agenda was “Jeremy’s new monster notebook”. Did I really have to show off my notebook? Yes I had and soon 2 or 3 people were like I’m going to get a BTO too and told me I should become a sales rep. More on the Horus meeting in a separate blog post.

I did find out the card reader doesn’t work. But fortunately System76 apparently uses Clevo parts too so after installing their dkms package the reader immediately started working as the udisks package already contains the needed udev rule for this card reader.

New notebook: minor issues

Hacking the UG802 Android TV stick

Lucky me. Brought the Android TV stick with me to work after I got it in the mail. Showed it to my boss and he immediately ordered one too, not a UG802 though but a RK3188 based device. The RK3188 is a quad core ARM CPU while the UG802 comes with a RK3066 dual core CPU. The goal is to hack this RK3188 based device to see if it can be used for one of the projects we’re working on. Only very recently (about two weeks ago) the kernel source has been released and people managed to run Linux on it just a few days ago. Can’t wait to hack it. During working hours. Awesome.

Unlucky me. Apparently the TV stick I purchased is some kind of UG802 revision or clone. Very confusing. But I can boot Linux on it as it’s a RK3066 based device so I’m ok. I think I’ll order another TV stick but then one with better community support, like the MK808.

Unlike the RK3188 based devices the RK3066 based devices have been available a while longer so there is quite some useful information available on how to get Linux running on it. First thing is to get a Linux kernel on it that allows you to boot into a Linux rootfs that resides on a MicroSD card. For the Linux rootfs I’ve chosen to use Debian Wheezy. For the kernel I used Galland’s concise yet effective howto. All the details on how I set up the TV stick in order to boot it with Linux can be found on the Installing Linux on a RK3066 based device page.

Hacking the UG802 Android TV stick

Ardour with video and LV2 MIDI plugins chaining support

Got so absorbed hacking my UG802 that I completely missed this:

So not only can you add video to your Ardour project but now it’s also possible to chain multiple LV2 plugins that accept MIDI. The video support is the great work of Robin Gareus and it was actually a presentation on this functionality that got me acquainted with the Linux Audio meetings at the HKU almost 3 years ago. So yes, he’s been working on it quite a while so I assume it works well.

I have actually never worked with Ardour, I’ve always used Qtractor. But maybe it’s getting time to check out Ardour too, especially now that the MIDI part is stabilizing.

Ardour with video and LV2 MIDI plugins chaining support

More DX goodies!

Just in, a Beitai SNT-D06 mini PC which set me back a whopping €33,-! What do you get for this price:

Chipset Rockchip RK3066
Processor Frequency 1.2GHz
GPU Mali 400
Memory DDR3 1GB
Storage 4GB
Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11b/g/n
Video Output HDMI
Audio Output HDMI
Other Interface

1 x USB host, 1 x Mini USB port, 1 x TF card slot

Let’s see if we can get Picuntu running on it and turn this baby into a Raspberry Pi killer.

Edit: I could’ve just bought an UG802 but at least I got it with an EU adapter. Other than that the device seems exactly the same. Debian Wheezy runs like a charm on it. More on that later.

More DX goodies!

LAC2013: Saturday 11th of May

Somehow I managed to arrive just in time to set everything up for my workshop, like always. I’m very good at stumbling in at the very last moment. The Nvidia binary blob didn’t like a beamer attached to it so I couldn’t properly display my slides. The well-filled room didn’t seem to care, they were more interested in what I had to say and the equipment I brought with me. I talked and talked and only briefly demonstrated the Raspberry Pi I brought with me. Guess I could’ve done a whole workshop about the RPi because apparently that little device caught most of the attention.

Right after my workshop I rushed to Rui’s intercalated workshop about the software he develops. I missed his first workshop which took place on Thursday. But since Rui had so much more to show after that initial workshop the LAC2013 organization decided to allot him more time for an extra workshop. But I also didn’t want to miss Jörn’s workshop so I decided I also wanted to see part of that workshop too. Even though I’ve been using Rui’s software for years (I’m a QA, Qtractor Afficionado) he showed things I had never seen before. And I probably attended one of the best parts of Jörn’s workshop where he showed and made us listen to what he did with a live recording. An ear opener, really, amazing what you can do with a good pair of ears, years of experience and the right tools.

Then it was lunchtime already. Missed out on the warm lunch but when that was all cleared the alternative food stand was set up again which had probably even better food. They had great salads, fruit juice, bread and other tasty things, all for free. Many, many thanks to the organization for setting this up, it really added up to the overall positive vibe of the conference.

Now I had a bit of a problem. I needed to go to the Forum Stadtpark to do a sound check for the Linux Sound Night. But walking was not an option with all my stuff and public transport would take too long as there was no direct connection. Luckily I could tag along with the guys from SuperDirt² so I hopped into their car and off we went. SuperDirt² had to play last so they did their sound check first. I watched their sound check in awe, these guys were good! I was up next. Everything went smooth, monitors were good, the sound guy was a really cool guy and so was the stage manager for the event. All omens were very positive!

We got back right on time for Albert Graef’s talk on creating LV2 plugins with Faust. We witnessed a glimpse of the future. If I got it right it will be extremely easy to create your own LV2 plugins in the near future. Just throw some Faust code against it and upload it with your browser and within moments you can download your own LV2 plugin! Time to learn some Faust I guess. One lightning talk later we witnessed another glimpse of the future. No, not my acrylic guitar in the hands of Bruno Gola but the world premiere of the MOD Quadra digital pedal board. The excitement was tangible. But the MOD guys quite easily redeemed the high expectations. The MOD Quadra is simply an amazing device, the web GUI looks stunning and it’s all so easy. And it runs on Linux people, using the LV2 framework. If this doesn’t propel LV2 into mass adoption then what?

For dinner we ended up in a nice Italian restaurant. The Gösser tasted good, same for the dish I ordered (Calamari alla griglia). After dinner we walked to the Forum Stadtpark where we were welcomed by the pleasant chaos of Android drummers. I installed the app and joined the concert. It was fun. Then the beamer got switched on showing us two terminal windows with vim on the right side and something compile-ish on the left. On stage a person in front of a notebook, coding live. The result? Really cool stuff if you ask me, just watch for yourself.

Algorave to the max all y’all!

Then it was time for something remotely dance related, namely me. Really enjoyed the gig even though my voice let me down after the third song. The guy that came after me unfortunately was a bit the odd one out so the contrast with the last act, SuperDirt², couldn’t have been bigger. As soon as Käpt’n Dirt hit the strings of his cello we knew this was going to be a blast. And when Ras Tilo kicked in the party was complete. What a great show!

After the encore of SuperDirt² it was time for the Open Jack Session. Not Jack as in JACK but Jack as in 3.5″ mini-jack. It was lying there on the table on stage and after ClaudiusMaximus Marije Baalman plugged in. Live coding in SuperCollider with every once in a while Marije stretching her arms because of the anti-RSI alarms that kept popping up. Great stuff, very enjoyable to listen to and the added humorous note of the anti-RSI alarms perfectly summed up what this conference was all about: having a great time. Despite the submerging inebriation I was enthralled.

We stayed until we got kicked out. That’s how it should be. Sole minor blemish: the beer. That Murauer stuff was close to undrinkable.

LAC2013: Saturday 11th of May