Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Well, I'm back up and running.  A nice, new, quiet, powerful PSU (that may be a slight bit too big for my case's original screw holes) is sitting in my case, running my computer.  Now to get back to business.

Where I last left off, I had done some SVN installs of FFADO and JACK to test, but I was getting no success. I started to hypothesize that they haven't developed firewire 800 support yet, as none of the units preceding this one had firewire 800 capabilities. Now I'm running off of that theory and hunting around for my old, 15' long firewire 400 cable. I will be checking my brother's place for it shortly, and, hopefully, I'll have it tracked down in no time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Due to some unforseen hardware issues (my PSU (I think) has developed an extensive, high pitch whistling) I haven't been able to make much progress. I can hear it and it's driving me batty. I have thoroughly narrowed it down to one of the following, my PSU, my motherboard, or my CPU. I highly doubt it's the CPU, probably not the mobo, so that leaves the PSU. Until I get it fixed/replaced, I can't put forth more work on this project...

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Well, my first hardware upgrade arrived, I now am running 8 GB of RAM (the maximum available).  I was going to wait for a new hard drive as well, however I have figured out that I can get away with clearing one of my currently existing hard drives.  As such I have installed Sabayon one that drive.

Now it's worth noting that I am still running OS X primarily and will not be jumping ship to Linux for a little while.  I have a number of reasons, many of them personal, some are simple.  Primarily, I need a functional method of transferring the files I have from HFS+ to EXT4 drives, so if anyone has any elegant suggestions, I'd be happy to take them. 

Currently the only thing coming to mind is to use the mediocre HFS+ drivers in the Linux Kernel.  I have heard that these drivers don't work all too well, however I'm guessing read support is pretty stable, so that's currently my plan.  I'm thinking about trying to do it in VirtualBox/VMWare/Parallels/whatever I can use that will support raw drives, if I can manage to do "network shares" of my HFS+ drives.  Of course, there's still some reasons that I'm not jumping ship yet, but those will pass shortly.

And one of the best bits of news is that the Fireface 400 (the little sister to my unit) is now functional under FFADO.  Still not considered fully functional and stable, but that's okay.  It's a big step in the right direction.  Can't wait to get my unit working natively in Linux.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Time to test

So my little hack method looks like it might work.  I'm going to try this right now.  I've got SPDIF output from my onboard audio card and I'm running it to my Fireface.  I've never tried using the device in stand-alone mode, so now, I'll be rebooting, plugging my DVD-RW drive back in (yes, I know, I've been working for months without a disc drive on my hackintosh and it's been fine), booting into Sabayon 8 KDE LiveDVD.  With any luck, I'll hear the startup sounds that they have by default.

EDIT: Looks like I'm up and running. Currently I do not have the audio through my speakers like I was hoping, but I'm also not terribly surprised at this outcome. I believe I forgot to save the settings to the speaker channels, but I have it in my headphones, which means that I can operate under this system.

It'll still take some tweaking, as of right now, I am not installing, for various reasons (top of which being hard drive space, lower being time, and lowest being figuring out dual-booting), but this liveDVD (Sabayon 8) has me hopeful. For right now, I'm going to see how well the system survives without me rebooting into OS X today. It means I'm going to be emailing and everything from my laptop for now (simply because I don't feel like configuring KMail, Thunderbird, or whatever other client I feel like using), but I'm looking forward to a fuller Linux experience. By for now!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Decision has been made (kind of)

So I've come to a couple decisions as far as distributions are concerned.  The two decisions that I've come to are that: A.  I do not want all the fluff of a general purpose computer running on my recording device and B. I still want a general purpose computer.  As such, I'm going to run two separate installs, one for general purpose and one for Audio.  This should be simple enough to do, and, while I'm in the general purpose one, I can still do some audio work, just not as extreme as the audio one.

As of right now, I'm thinking Sabayon for the GP install and Gentoo for the audio one.  Of course, I'm not 100% on that yet, I still would like to play around with Debian and a couple other distributions that have similar mentalities to Gentoo (build your system to your liking).  I'd also like to try Ubuntu, if only to see this new Unity interface that I've heard so much about, and I'm going to see how SuSE holds up these days (last I used it, I was moderately impressed but there were still things that just didn't feel right), but I'll take suggestions for others.

Regardless, I wish I could just run things in the real world, not virtualized, but my system currently isn't capable of wiring up that way.  I could probably come up with a good ole "hardhack" style solution, which I may do sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Someone Beat me to it!

So I'm not even a month into this and I'm already second guessing just about everything I'm doing.  I just found this: http://audiodef.com/projects.php?project_id=1 while I was diagnosing an issue I was having and am seriously considering just following this guide.  Furthermore, I'm almost certain that I shouldn't be bothering with Parallels as it's extremely annoying that I cannot install their stupid tools in a current Linux environment.  I'm still using Parallels 5 and I'm not looking to upgrade.

So, seeing as I'm going all open source on everything, I'm going to invest some time into VirtualBox and go that route.  I plan on doing the verbatim install listed on the above guide in VirtualBox, but I also plan on re-doing said install once my computer is up and running.  I will definitely be using a separate /home partition (for those non-Linux types, /home is like the Users folder in OS X, putting it on a separate partition or even a separate drive gives the user(s) that entire partition and drive for their files and configurations.  If you were to, say, mess up a system installed, you'd still have all your desktop, your icons, your widgets, etc. readily available) so when the time comes, I can just copy that over.

I'm actually quite excited about someone else having already done this.  Of course, his hardware is already supported whereas mine, unfortunately, is not yet.  I'm anxiously anticipating the time when I can actually start testing my system in Linux with sound working and everything, but until then, I can follow this guide, run into issues, fix them, break some more, and then see where it gets me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Different Flavors

So I knew that, when I decided to undertake this adventure, I'd be running into some changes.  Big ones, small ones, and places in the between.  Gentoo has always had its place for me, it was my first distribution, it has taught me a lot, but now I'm starting to think serious about jumping to its off-shoot, Sabayon.  Back when I was in the Linux world, Sabayon was in its infant stages.  Heck, back then, it was RR4 and RR64.  I played around with it, mostly cause it would show off XGL (also in its infant stages), but I never really thought much of it.  Now, I'm considering it.

In my eyes, now Sabayon is to Gentoo what Ubuntu is to Debian.  Now that's a very broad statement, and the laymen at this blog will be confused as can be, but basically, Sabayon feels like it's trying to be a new user oriented distribution.  It offers a decent amount of variety, customizability similar to Gentoo, and, in theory, an easier setup.  As I type this post, I'm downloading the LiveDVD/installer and I will be trying it out. 

The one thing that Sabayon has changed significantly since I last used it is that it is no longer Portage based.  Portage is Gentoo package manager and compiles everything it can from source.  This is nice, it adds customization, but it also takes away on speed of updates and such.  With Portage, you start from scratch and build up.  Sabayon has migrated to Entropy, which, as far as I can tell, is a custom package manager that uses Gentoo based packages.  So someone else does your compiling and you get the package management of portage.  It's not going to be as customized, but it'll be quicker to install.

My biggest issues with Gentoo were always that, anytime I felt like changing things around, it'd cost me...a lot.  If I decided that I needed that debug USE flag, I needed to recompile for a day and a half minimum.  With Sabayon, I can avoid that, and Sabayon seems to give the user more options from the get go.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The problem is the nut behind the board...

So I just spent the better part of my morning working on figuring why I could not for the life of me get my virtual Funtoo box to run X.  First I had module issues (not surprising for me), then I had config issues, (again, not surprising for me), and finally I couldn't figure out why my kernel wasn't working right...

Then I remember to mount my /boot partition...

So, as the title above implies, the problem lies with the nut behind the (key)board...d'oh!

EDIT: and with that fix, I've got X11.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Portage issues

I'm already reminded of why I left Gentoo behind long ago.  Anyone familiar with the system will know the following command and understand my issue: "emerge -auDN world".  I forgot a simple USE flag, "debug", which allows me to get useful backtraces when I screw something up (which, trust me, I do often enough).  To me, it seems that this one should be an opt out style thing as, yes, it adds some bloat, but it makes everything so much more fixable.  I used to hate it when I forgot to compile debug in by default and have to recompile everything to get it working.  Hopefully the 328 packages I forgot to do this for don't take too long to emerge...


Well, my timing is a little off, but I've decided that I'm going to go ahead and start setting up some tests.  I've created a 20 GB virtual disk for my root drive and a 20 GB virtual disk for my home directory.  If I manage to do everything right, I can re-use said home directory (and the kernel configuration) across all the distributions that I test. 

First one I'm working with is actually a variant on Gentoo called Funtoo.  I'm going to use this as a basis to judge other distributions going forward, so right now I'm doing a full KDE install and installing the granddaddy of all necessary Linux audio programs, Ardour. As this is Gentoo based, everything requires compiling and installing, a trade off in hopes of better stability and customization, so it will take some time.

After that, there'll be plenty of configurations I need to do for my desktop environment (DE), as well as just about everything else.  This will take a decent chunk of time, probably in the three week to month period.  I still don't have my memory upgraded, so my system's definitely being a hair more finicky than normal.  I think that after this, I'll probably do an XFCE install too and choose which one to use for audio.  Part of the beauty of Linux is that I can easily switch DEs whenever I want.  I think that what may be the best choice is to have a dedicated DE for audio (XFCE or something else lightweight) and one for personal use (KDE or something a little more bloated).

Much of my configuration needs I remember, but some of them I do not, and enough of them have changed in the past four years that I will need a retooling to a good degree.  I'll be doing my best to keep this updated as I go along, but for now, I'm watching a whole lot of emergeing on a virtual machine.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The general gameplan

So before I get any further, I'm going to come up with a general gameplan here.  For starters, I need to invest in some more RAM and another HD.  At the same time, I'm going to need to fix up my Hackintosh (I know, I'm moving away from it, but I need it for the transition period), get it all running the way it should. 

After that, I'll be running one distribution after another (look for another post talking about different distributions that I'll be trying) in virtual machines.  Yes, I know, VMs are not the way to be sure, but seeing as my audio hardware doesn't work in Linux...yet, I kind of need something else.  After I've settled on two or three of them, I will most likely be dual booting for a while to test out each of the remainders as a usable environment.

Finally, I'll be migrating to that environment permenantly.  I may even take my laptops with me, but that's for another time period.  At this point, I'm content to focus on my desktop.

So the general plan is:

Update Hackintosh and purchase new hardware - end of February/beginning of March

Start testing new distributions - as soon as the new purchases are installed and I've done some transfers (got a few ancient drives I need to get rid of)

Choose two or three final candidates and start testing them - Probably about May

Finalize on one and migrate towards it - I'd guess June.

Of course, that's a basic generalization and completely reliant on what appears to be a long term project that might not be usable by June, so, for now, I'm focusing on the Hackintosh.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I feel that the description above, while accurate, is lacking a great number of important details.  This introduction post will help me convey these without bogging down the top of the page.

First of all, currently I'm a mid-twenties audio engineer with a bachelor's degree in management and a minor in music.  In my college career, I spent much of my freshman, sophomore, and some of my junior year playing with Linux.  With the exceptions of checking compatibility and the occasional gaming, I have not booted a computer that I own into Windows proper in over six years.  I have, occasionally, had to use a virtual machine to boot into Windows in order to use Internet Explorer or something similar.

Furthermore, for the past three and a half years, I have not booted any of my computers into Linux without it being a virtual machine, and even then, for only a brief time period.  When I was in college, my distribution of choice was Gentoo, mostly because I had the mentality of "If it ain't broke, don't stop tinkering!" and the Gentoo community seemed very willing to help whenever I broke something (on average, every other day or so).

Now I have a number of reasons for leaving the Apple Software front, the first that I'll mention is the last of my concerns.  Technically speaking, to use Apple software, you are required to use Apple branded hardware.  My desktop has an Apple bran, in the way of one of those Apple stickers that I got with my first iPod.  I use a Hackintosh as my desktop.  The reasons for this are rather complicated to explain, but primarily, it's because I want the ability to add interface cards as needed and have multiple hard drives.  In order to do this on a proper Mac, I'd need a Mac Pro, ad I'm not about to spend that kind of money on a computer right now.

The real reason I'm leaving Apple is explained in most cases, by the Walled Garden arguments against Apple's iOS devices.  Since Apple's move last year to put OS X updates exclusively in the Mac App Store, I have been attempting to find a method of leaving Apple's software for good.  I have no desire to be purchasing software through a virtual medium without ever receiving a physical version.  Furthermore, the thought of purchasing through the App Store is similar to one of the reasons I left Windows (aside from most of the issues I was facing being due to overall stability as well as other personal preferences), which is "Windows Genuine Advantage" or, as I prefer to refer to it, system-wide DRM.

I fear for the day that Apple decides that the computing world is better off running more like iOS.  It's becoming obvious that Mac OS and iOS are starting to move closer and closer together, and I don't want to spend money on something that I don't really want to use.  Instead, I'll move to the Linux world, and donate as I see fit for software that I use regularly.

So, in six hundred words or less, this is the primary motivation for migrating off of OS X.  The other reason I'm doing so now is that I currently am not active in recording circles, so I will be working on adapting this to my abilities before I have to use it professionally.  I'm eager to put it to use.