Using Linux With The KeyMusician Keyboard
This past month, the latest release of Ubuntu Linux, 15.04 came out, and I've been busy testing it. In looking for an interesting topic for this month's KeyMusician Newsletter article, the current state of all-things-linux came to mind.
The newest level of Ubuntu Linux, 15.04, is a good system. It has passed all of the tests, even on my slowest test-machine (only 450 megahertz speed), without a single audio-dropout using Qsynth.
If any of this interests you, keep in mind that you can try-out Linux without affecting the hard-drive of your machine. In fact, you can build a bootable USB drive with persistent storage, install everything needed for the KeyMusician Keyboard on it, and then boot that USB drive when you want to use it.
If you have a Windows machine, you can probably easily dual-boot Linux and Window (when it starts, you choose which system to boot). If your machine has the Secure-Boot BIOS feature, it can present difficulties. On a machine having Secure-Boot, to use Linux, I had to turn off the Secure-Boot feature in the BIOS setup. Then I could run (and install) Linux, but the Windows system seemed to have disappeared. When I turned the Secure-Boot feature back on in the BIOS setup, the Windows system re-appeared (but the Linux systems were not accessible).
Also, dual-boot of Linux and Mac OS X is somewhat difficult to set up, but can be done (I do that on my test machines).
If neither of the last two paragraphs apply to you, it should be easy to try out Linux.
Linux is one of the more secure operating systems, and it comes with its own virus/malware protection
There is a lot really good MIDI music software on it, at no financial cost
It will run on machines that will no longer run current versions of Windows
Where Windows XP is no longer supported (with security updates), you can use Linux, which is supported with security updates
When new levels of the OS come out, you just upgrade to the new level, it doesn't cost you any money to do so, and you don't have to re-install your applications
MIDI music systems only need about 7 gigabytes of hard-disk space, though if you do audio-recording (as opposed to just MIDI recording) you will need more space
The FluidSynth software synthesizer, together with its graphical user interface Qsynth, is one of the lowest-latency synthesizers out there, and gives you easy flexibility that VST hosts can't match
You can spend a lot of money on Windows or Mac, trying to equal the music software you get for free on Linux
When I perform with the KeyMusician Keyboard, I almost always use Linux, and most of the demo-pieces were created using Linux
By using Composite Voices (see the newsletter article telling you how), you can do layered-voices, which would otherwise require a VST host
Is Linux Easy To Use?
The days when you had to use a command-line interface for doing things on Linux are long-gone. It's point-and-click for everything nowadays.
Although the documentation for using the software is not always the best, we fill that gap, explaining in detail how to use the associated software you need. Also, by installing a single package, it will cause to be installed, all of the associated software you will ever need with the KeyMusician Keyboard.
The installer of the Help and Tutorials makes sure you have the other software you will need (installing it if necessary), and even tweaks your system configuration so that it will run successfully on an older, slower machine.
How Do I Get Linux?
Linux comes out in a variety of different distributions. Different people prefer certain distributions. One of the more popular distributions is Ubuntu (pronounced oo-boon-too – a South African word).
Although other distributions of Linux can be used, the KeyMusician Keyboard is tested with Ubuntu, so unless you have a need to use another distribution, Ubuntu would be a good first choice. The Linux Mint distribution is based on Ubuntu (or the Ubuntu repositories), so that popular distribution is also a good choice, but I haven't tested it recently.
The Debian-based distributions (such as Ubuntu) are supported better than non-Debian distributions, such as Red Hat and openSUSE. I have tested openSUSE in the past.
Ubuntu comes in a variety of 'flavors', filling different needs. You can click on the pictures below, associated with the different varieties of Ubuntu Linux, and learn about that particular 'flavor' of Ubuntu. Also, below each picture, I supply additional information about the particular 'flavor', based on my own experience.
This is the main flavor of Ubuntu, and is probably the most thoroughly supported version. But it requires a fast machine, having a lot of memory. It basically needs as capable a machine as Windows 7 does. In a future release, they plan to bring together tablets computers. To do that, they have a desktop (called Unity) that is different from the other flavors, and may take some getting used-to.
This version of Ubuntu is designed specifically for music production (as well as video production, graphics, and photography). Most of the MIDI music software needed for the KeyMusician Keyboard gets installed out-of-the-box with this distribution. Your machine will need at least 1 gigabyte of RAM (2 gigabytes if it's running 64-bit) to run it, and it probably needs to have at least a speed of 1.6 gigahertz.
This is the best version for older, slower machines, and will pretty-much run on any machine Windows XP would run on. I recommend having at least 512 megabytes of RAM (memory), and a speed of at least 800 gigahertz. I have successfully tested a 450 megahertz machine with the KeyMusician Keyboard, but it takes a long time to install, and to install system updates on it (it's very slow). I have also successfully tested a machine with only 256 megabytes of RAM, but on such machines you can't use high-quality soundfonts (such as FluidR3_GM). It has easy color-customization (which I like). You can put tools on the task-bar informing you of the machines processor, and memory usage.
I use this distribution for my personal and development machines, and I am one of the people on the Lubuntu Users e-mail list, answering questions.
This is your next-best choice for older, slower machines. The desktop is similar to that of UbuntuStudio. But you'll need more than 512 megabytes of RAM - at least 1 gigabyte (though possibly 768 megabytes would work). You can put tools on the task-bar informing you of the machines processor, network, and memory usage.
I personally like this version. Its desktop is essentially the way Ubuntu was before they changed the desktop with the goal of bringing computers and tablets together. It has easy color-customization (which I like), and it doesn't require a fast machine with a lot of memory. Its requirements are probably the same as Xubuntu. You'll need at least a gigabyte of RAM, because it depends on the Ubuntu Software Center, which needs a lot of RAM. 768 megabytes of RAM might be enough. The KeyMusician Keyboard installation will not succeed with only 512 megabytes of RAM.
Even though it uses Gnome, you can put tools on the task-bar informing you of the machines processor and memory usage. In installing it, select the “Gnome Desktop” option. Before installing the KeyMusician Keyboard, you first need to manually-install (using the Ubuntu Software Center) the following packages:
This version of Ubuntu uses the standard recent Gnome desktop, which I don't like as well as what they used to have in earlier Gnome desktops. You can't put widgets on the task-bar for informing you of things like processor utilization. Also, its way of selecting an application to be run is (to me) awkward.
This version is the “Most Different” of the Ubuntu variants. It uses different software and libraries, and the way you do things is different. It also requires almost as much processor-speed and memory (RAM) as Ubuntu, so don't try it unless you have a fast machine with plenty of memory.
Be sure to read the “Improving Your System” pages for Linux, in the Member Pages, since it gives you detailed instructions for using the Qsynth (FluidSynth) software synthesizer, and also an amazing synthesizer called ZynAddSubFX.
One user, describing how much better our documentation is, said it was like being given the key to the city, rather than having to lay-siege to the city.
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