Linux' readiness for pro audio (was Re: [linux-audio-dev] Hartman Neuron)

Jay Vaughan seclorum at
Wed Jun 4 07:56:01 UTC 2003

>Knowing that you know the APIs of Mac OS X too,
>do you still see some things lacking in the current
>Linux APIs ?

I think that the low-latency work being done in the kernel, the 
latest LADSPA work, and Jack work by Paul D, pretty much levels the 
playing field technology-wise.  Same with driver design, although OSX 
user-space driver support is pretty bitchin' when it comes to doing 
things like USB i/o and such.  (I'm sure there's something similar 
for Linux, though...)

I will say this: it is possible to target both OSX and Linux 
platforms at the *same* time when doing audio app development as long 
as you're not doing any fancy OSX-specific GUI stuff.  The API's for 
audio processing are compatible enough to where a decently organized 
source-code project could use CoreMIDI on OSX, or MidiShare under 
Linux (by way of example), and still have a lot of common code 
between them.  Just look at Audacity for an example.

The ability to deliver both Linux and OSX versions of an audio app 
should not be underestimated, also...

Interestingly enough, I think both OSX and Linux are about at neck 
and neck in the apps department.  The ability to port Carbon apps 
gives OSX an edge, but the fact is all the pieces are in place now in 
Linux for some seriously productive tools to be written.  Same as 
OSX.  If Paul Davis and crew can build Ardour out of the API's 
they've forged for Linux, then so too can Digi build a Pro Tools for 
Linux... not that they ever would, but the fact is: Linux can do it 

>I must say I really like the jack api and ladspa.
>One thing that is unfortunate (others would call it
>a strength), is the lack of a unified set of widgets we
>could use to build plugin guis from (or any application
>for that matter).

I don't know what you're talking about.  It is very easy to write 
cross-platform GUI widgets which can be used in both Linux and OSX 
... whats hard is implementing GUI widgets which work within the 
relative frameworks imposed by both environments if you stick to the 
"Developer Way in OSX", but what I'm finding is that its possible to 
maintain complete API compatability between Linux and OSX and still 
write powerful audio processing apps that work well in both 

One thing to be careful is the blindness that can occur when 
searching for GUI toolkits - the most obvious ways of doing it 
cross-platform will be hidden from you in your search for "complete 
GUI toolkit"... any "complete" GUI toolkit will probably end up 
enforcing its own architecture on you, and that's just the wrong way 
to look at it if you want to maintain Linux/OSX compatability.

>When I look at OS X I see consistency all the way
>(besides the high price which is also hard to ignore ;).

Consistency in a user interface is one thing.  A user interface which 
works very well and which becomes popular overnight is another thing 

Whenever I think about GUI toolkits, I always try to learn the 
lessons which Kai's Power Tools taught us in the early 90's. 
Consistency in a GUI is no substitute for a well done task-designed 

>Yes. I was amazed with Stanton pioneering their Final Scratch on Linux,
>but coming to think of it, it is all about total control.
>Using some sort of live cd distro, you can avoid a tech support
>hell supporting operating system bugs, while you should only
>be giving support for your own bugs.

Linux is ideal for this sort of thing.

>What I really crave for, is a affordable general purpose
>DSP card, with a decent driver for Linux, to experiment with.

They are out there.  You can find DSP cards for Linux, quite easily, 
if you do a bit of searching.  There's an Extended CSound DSP adapter 
which works quite well with Linux.

In summary, from a professional audio developers perspective, I'd say 
that Linux is nearing readiness for prime time, and all it will take 
is one or two pretty heavy apps to be released for folks to realize 
this ... I watch Ardour with baited  breath, anyway!



Jay Vaughan
r&d>>music:technology:synthesizers -

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