Ubuntu Studio 19 is worth investigating

Submitted by peter on Sat, 04/18/2020 - 17:04

I prefer Linux Mint to Ubuntu but Ubuntu has some interesting editions worth investigating even if you do not use them. Ubuntu Studio is the first Ubuntu you should look at.

Ubuntu Studio started out as a sound processing system and included a low latency version of the Linux kernel to allow real time sound processing. Well, close to real time. Enough for live entertainment.

Real time?

One big difference between Linux and Unix was the availability of real time processing in some versions of Unix. Linux has improved over the years to the point where it can handle the live sound and video in Android devices. Ubuntu Studio used to have all the special Linux modifications for real time. Today, most of the Linux real time modifications are in the standard Linux kernel and many distributions of Linux have options to fine tune Linux for live video and sound.

Modern hardware is many times faster. Modern hardware runs multiple threads. Modern hardware can handle easily sound and video streams on medium price hardware. Add a graphics card or upgrade to a premium CPU to run many audio streams through nearly rela time processing.

Version 20

Today our look at Ubuntu Studio is mainly to see what applications they use. You might have to load up a test of Ubuntu Studio to see the exact configurations they use. Visit https://ubuntustudio.org/. Version 20 arrives late April 2020 and has long term support.

Download the 3.6 GB .iso image then write the image onto a USB stick. In Linux Mint, you just right click the image file and select Make bootable USB stick.

You can boot from the USB stick and look at the applications plus their configuration. You might decide to work with many of the applications on Linux Mint instead of Ubuntu.

Areas of interest

My interest was mainly publishing and photography but now video is so easy and producible by all the devices that used to produce just still images. My next hardware and software upgrades will be for video.

On the Ubuntu Studio Web site, you will see sections for the following areas of interest. Read the areas that interest you. For graphics, publishing, and photography, you could add those applications to any version of Linux.

Audio

Sound processing is performed through Jack, Ardour, Carla, Audacity, Qtractor, Hydrogen, Yoshimi, Rakarrack. Guitarix and other options are in the support libraries ready to install.

JACK

JACK is the low latency audio and midi server. You have to have the right hardware for maximum speed. With that magic hardware, you can connect multiple audio devices to multiple applications.

The hardware is not really magic, there is no "it works" versus "fail". The required hardware speed depends on the number of sound streams, their resolution, and the amount of processing you require, the range of filters and special effects.

Adour

Adour is the mixing and mastering workstation application. You need a big monitor to display all the options plus a decent graph of the sound streams.

Carla

Carla is the hardware patch panel and of use mainly for switching hardware in and out. A typical use is a studio with 50 microphones set up around a band and backing singers. You might swap them in and out to choose the best 24 to lay down 24 tracks.

Graphics

The included graphics applications are Blender, Inkscape, GIMP, and PicoPixel.

Blender

Blender creates 3D models you can then export as 3D images. The models can be used in games and animation. There are movies made entirely in Blender.

Inkscape

Inkscape creates 2D vector graphics. Vector graphics expand and shrink to any size. You create the image once at the size required to show all the detail, save the result as an SVG file then export the image in any size and any format for any use.

GIMP

GIMP is a free image editor that replaces commercial image editors for more than 95% of users. I have not found anything that other editors do better at the image level.

There are some image managers that help you when you have large volumes of photographs. Look at Pix for browsing images and Darktable for mass image adjustments.

PicoPixel

PicoPixel lets you create images at the pixel level. You can do something similar in Gimp by expanding the image up to show individual pixels. Most of the PicoPixel examples could also be drawn in Inkscape then shrunk to pixelated sizes.

Publishing

The included publishing tools are Calibre, LibreOffice and Scribus.

Calibre

Calibre creates e-publishing files. You can create them in other ways and, for frequent use, authors find Calibre easier.

LibreOffice

LibreOffice replaces OpenOffice with a better developed application. Of course, you have already upgraded Microsoft Office to OpenOffice. LibreOffice is the next step.

Scribus

Scribus is the publishing tool of choice for magazines, newsletters, PDFs, and similar small to medium size documents. The latest Scribus has the first steps towards importing Microsoft Publisher files for those people still using Publisher.

The Microsoft Publisher import is not reliable at this stage and relearning everything the Scribus way is difficult. The best approach is to use Scribus for new projects. You can use Scribus on Windows along side Microsoft Publisher before upgrading Windows to Linux.

Photography

The included photography applications are Darktable and Shotwell. You already have Gimp from the graphics section but do not have Pix for simple browsing of photographs.

Darktable

Darktable is the digital equivalent to a light table and a darkroom for photographers. The light table part lets you browse images as if they are slides on a light table. The darkroom part lets you perform many of the image edits you might perform in Gimp and equivalents.

Darktable is heavier than the Pix image browser. For simple deletion of out of focus images, Pix is faster. You then import directories of images into Darktable.

Although Darktable does not do everything Gimp does, Darktable has one big advantage. Darktable keeps the original untouched and stores only a list of changes. You edit until you are completely satisfied then export the image in whatever format you require with all the changes applied.

You need a large screen for Darktable as the two sidebars take up a lot of space even if you are not using most of the options.

Shotwell

Shotwell edits images but changes the originals. You have to copy everything before editing. For something really simple, like editing the EXIF data, Shotwell changes the original instead of using the Darktable approach of storing the changes in a "sidecar" file.

I would delete Shotwell and use Pix, Darktable, then Gimp for fine tuning experted images.

Video

The "video" applications are Openshot and FFmpeg. Openshot uses Ffmpeg in the background for handling various video formats.

Conclusion

Ubuntu Studio plus fast hardware is the first choice for real time audio processing. For most of the other applications, you can use Linux Mint. The video applications will require big disks and a fast processor, or a graphics card, but not the real time fine tuning.