[LAU] Graduating from Ubuntu Studio

Florin Andrei florin at andrei.myip.org
Fri Jun 13 18:20:43 EDT 2008

Christian Delahousse wrote:
> I started playing with Ubuntu Studio and Linux about a year ago and I 
> now feel that I am passed the beginner level. I don't have an indepth 
> knowledge of the command-line but I do know my way around, I have a good 
> knowledge of the way things work and I've learned the software fairly well.
> Lately, Ubuntu Studio has been getting on my nerves with all the bloat. 
> I just want a system for digital signal processing (ie. a computer 
> version of a guitar pedal board) with the lowest latency possible and 
> Ubuntu seems to be taking up alot of space and resources.

No offense, but the two paragraphs above seem contradictory. What you 
seem to think is "bloat" is either not a problem, or easily removable or 

The most important thing is to use a kernel with real time capabilities. 
That's the single most important step you can take.
Ubuntu Studio uses linux-image-rt by default IIRC, which should be good 
enough for most audio purposes:


Make sure that important applications, such as jackd, actually take 
advantage of the RT capabilities. A non-RT jackd will cause XRUNs no 
matter what's the distribution or the hardware.

On hardware that is not ancient, i.e. processors newer than Pentium 3, 
and as long as the amount of RAM is at least average for a contemporary 
computer (let's say you have 1GB), the desktop environment does not 
matter, as long as you use an RT kernel. Provided that your hardware is 
not very old and limited, and provided you do use RT capabilities, you 
can run any desktop environment you like, and still obtain very good 
Of course, no matter what distribution you use, you're free to change 
the desktop to something like XFCE or whatever, which should be trivial 
especially since you said you have a "good knowledge of the way things 

Disk space is just not an issue. You can get half a terabyte for $80 
nowadays. You can install any distribution, enable all packages, and 
barely use more than 1% of all that space.
If low latency and absence of drop-outs are really important to you, and 
you use a lot of audio tracks, you should probably use a separate drive 
anyway for your audio files. Voila, space "bloat" doesn't matter anymore.

I'm not sure what "resources" you're talking about.
Memory? With 1GB of RAM even Gnome and KDE barely use a fraction. Use 
XFCE instead, or add more RAM, if indeed that is a problem. Adding more 
RAM will also help increase the disk cache, which may be important for 
applications such as Ardour. Turn off the unnecessary services, if you 
want to free even more RAM.
CPU? It doesn't matter too much for low latency nowadays (but it does 
matter if you use a lot of LADSPA plugins, which is a different problem 
from low-lat), and anyway RT capabilities make that a moot point. If 
there are other processes already running with RT privileges, and they 
start to bother jackd and the audio stack, push them down.


There are other things that you can try as well to lower latency while 
avoiding XRUNs, but pretty much none of them are distribution-dependant.

Oh yeah, one last word of advice: avoid the word "bloat" when referring 
to distributions. It's a staple of the 1990s script kiddies jargon. 
Better to not use it in polite (and educated) society. ;-)

Florin Andrei


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