Ubuntu Studio, the podcaster’s distro.

As a Linux user I’ve endured a fair amount of jabs on the podcast that I co-host every week. First my microphone sucks, then my levels suck, then my bandwidth sucks. Well, no more. Time to take these freedom-hating fools to school, and what better way to do that than with a 64-bit Linux distribution and a real-time zero latency kernel?

That’s right, I’m talking about Ubuntu Studio. And as you can clearly see above, it doesn’t run Unity.

A replacement is on the way for my rather famously underpowered desktop; until then I’m testing the latest version of this official Ubuntu variant on a new-ish ThinkPad.

Preamble

So I’ve a bit of a confession to make… This is actually my first-ever 64-bit Linux installation. Scared off by tales of old — incompatibilities, no Flash support and such — I needn’t have feared; everything, Flash included, seems to be working great. And though you’d think from the Ubuntu Studio download page that there’s no 64-bit support for Intel chipsets, you’d be wrong. It’s fairly complicated thing to explain, but you’ll probably be okay to just grab the ‘amd64’ one. If it doesn’t work you’ll know right away.

Installation

Unfortunately Ubuntu Studio has no live CD/USB functionality beyond a text-based installer. Kind of makes sense when you consider all the stuff that will end up on your computer.

During the installation there are two points of note that you should be ready for:

Watch that you’re not too jumpy with the return key on this screen; it’s where you install and configure everything that sets Ubuntu Studio apart from the other ‘buntus. Of course you can do this yourself after the fact, but wouldn’t you rather have the installer handle it for you? Me too.

And here’s where you get that real-time support. I don’t myself run a multi-user environment, so why not reap the benefits of living on the edge?

Oh, I should point out that the previous two grabs were pooched from an excellent tutorial on HowtoForge; though technically specific to v10.04 I don’t think these two installer screens have changed much since then.

Post-Install

At this point you might get tripped up by some of the information that’s out there. Even the official documentation from Ubuntu is a bit confusing; for example, you’ll already have the must-have packages on your computer if you ticked all the boxes like I did during the install.

If you don’t have a FireWire or PCI sound card and you don’t need a custom kernel, there are two to four quick additional steps to get you to a production-ready system:

  1. Install the restricted extras (for exporting to proprietary formats);
  2. Add the Mediabuntu repo.
  3. Install support for encrypted DVDs (if you want it).
  4. Install the Flash plugin from the Ubuntu Software Center (also optional).

I Don’t Know JACK

JACK, the Audio Connector Kit, brings professional audio software to Linux. It’s not critical for my needs at the moment, but there’s a huge amount of power there ready to be tapped. I’m on it.

A Small Crisis

With everything set up (or so I thought) I ran into one final problem that stymied me for a good couple of hours — for some reason I couldn’t get any sound from my USB-powered microphone. With so many available options for audio I seemed to have forgotten the most basic of all — the audio preference panel shown above. Oops.

If you’re still having issues with a USB source you can try unplugging it then plugging it back in. Works for me.

The Big Test

I’ll be putting my brand-new installation of Ubuntu Studio to the test this evening when I join the cross-Canada team of Dyscultured for another live recording. You can join us too if you like!

10 comments:

  1. No Ogg Vorbis feed?

    (And the “listen in browser” link is only for Safari, being a direct link to a .m4v file?)

    Tsk, tsk.

    Still, Ubuntu Studio looks pretty handy for this sort of use, though nerd that I am I’m likely to stick with Arch or Gentoo.

  2. “And the ‘listen in browser’ link is only for Safari, being a direct link to a .m4v file?”

    ??

    Works great in Chrome and Firefox on all my Linux boxes — Chrome seems to have a problem resolving the redirect to the mp3 on libsyn, which is why we’ve gone with the Flash player instead.

    But I hear you loud and clear on Ogg Vorbis. Rest assured, were I responsible for delivering the audio file we’d have that as an option too.

  3. @Epicanis

    It’s true that Firefox does not seem to handle .m4v files correctly (natively atleast, perhaps an addon handles this) but just copy pasting the url in VLC/Mplayer works fine for me.

  4. To be fair, it would PROBABLY play from (if not “in”) firefox for me, too, as I do have VLC and the VLC plugin installed. “.m4v” is still arguably not “for” Firefox though (and probably not for future versions of Chrome, if Google is serious about moving away from the patent fees on h.264 and, I assume, aac.)

    For the freedom-haters, it’s worth noting that I’ve verified that mp3 also works in <audio> tags for Safari and, presumably, iP(ad|od|one)s.

    I just like to post in cases like this so that somebody knows there’s at least SOME interest in the format. I suspect most people who would prefer Ogg Vorbis either click away or hold their nose and subscribe to the mp3 feed without actually saying anything.

    Is there a “technical” or infrastructural reason there can’t be an Ogg Vorbis feed (i.e. “libsyn only allows mp3 and aac” or “we believe it would require too much bandwidth/storage” or “our audio generation tools don’t support it”) or is it just an assumption that nobody cares for it?

  5. The audio file is delivered from Windows (not me). I would imagine that if enough people demand Ogg Vorbis we (he) would have no choice but to deliver. 😉

  6. What exactly do you mean by “delivered from Windows”? (i.e. just that it’s recorded on a Microsoft Windows box, or just mixed and encoded there, or the server that hosts the audio is Windows?)

    I’m honestly interested in what might keep people from offering Ogg Vorbis feeds – I figure I could just sit here and whine about it, or I can sit here and whine about it AND try to help 🙂

    I do know it’s quite possible to generate (and decode) Ogg Vorbis audio on Windows systems, perhaps using the DirectShow filters[1] (which I’m assuming are analogous to the free XiphQT[2] quicktime components that let Safari and the rest of Mac OSX read and write Ogg Vorbis/Theora/FLAC/etc – including support for Ogg Vorbis in <audio> tags in Safari, incidentally).

    I haven’t gone back through the archives of this podcast yet – was there any past episode that describes how this podcast is produced?

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