Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, December 11, 2006

  Audio Backstory

Why the heck is my cat featured in these blogs? Well, she was key to finding the answer... but first some more backstory:

After I "upgraded" my windows 98 box to Windows 2000 back sometime around 2002, my old 24 track motu 24i system, which used to be able to handle 14 tracks or so, rapidly deteriorated to where I'd be lucky if I could get 4 tracks to work for 15 minutes before crashing. After wrestling with it for a while, (and eventually dropping out of the band I was in), I put the motu on the shelf and tried to do pure midi with Sonar. Each successive release of Sonar performed worse and worse, and even after a major hardware upgrade, I couldn't get reliable timing out of it. I gave up, and just started performing to good old tape. Eventually my 8 track tape deck went screwy too, and that's where things stood for a couple years, my creativity frustrated, and frankly I played a lot more guitar than piano because I just couldn't handle being around all that broken electronics.

Enter Ardour. It was the first linux app that even came close to Sonar in base capability, and upon seeing it I threw out windows from my studio. (and after begging Motu for years to produce a Linux driver without avail I traded the 24i and some other stuff for a S6000)

I got ardour to work pretty well under Linux using the rme-audio card. I was exuberant. I was tired of the yearly 100 dollar Sonar upgrade cycle, for more flash and glitz, when I couldn't even record properly in the first place. Dog-tired. Sure, I could have reverted to Windows 98, or sunk more time into Windows... but why bother - if I have the source to all my code, I can FIX it... and I knew a heck of a lot more about Linux than Windows, so I KNEW I could make it work...

Or so I thought, nearly 2 years ago. I forgot to account for the right-brain problem. And my cat.



When I get in front of a musical instrument, all my programming ability is usually exausted by work, and my right brain, my artistic side, takes over completely. Even the tiniest thing wrong technically puts my right brain sulking in corner.

Even though I'd started hacking, professionally on the realtime extensions to Linux, I rarely had time or focus left over to fix the darn studio. When I got in there, I just wanted to *play* - I could record 8+ analog audio tracks in realtime, but I wanted more - I wanted a sampler, a midi program, and a drum machine - all to work at the same time.

And ever since I started trying to do that, I've hit a brick wall - totally random crashes, system lockups, segfaults without a stack backtrace, odd network behavior, corrupted filesystems - name the problem I've hit it - sending right brain screaming out of the room - and tired left brain would ask "do I get paid for this? No? I'm outta here..." and I kind of threw up my hands and tried to be happy sitting down and recording analog all the time, when I could be bothered to record.

I picked up the bass this past winter because I just couldn't be bothered anymore.

Anyway, these past two weeks have been the first time I've had both sides of my brain available to tackle the problems, one by one. One of them being my darn cat.
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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