[ardour-users] Setting up a gentoo box for ardour

Pasi Karppinen pasi.karppinen at pp6.inet.fi
Thu Mar 9 15:35:06 PST 2006

Andrew Johnston wrote:

> where ardour will often crash multiple times during a session, making 
> it hard to work with.  CCRMA is pretty rock solid, however I find 
> fedora a little bloated and latency is much higher as well as getting 
> those AMD specific clock timing jack issues, and with a CCRMA setup I 
> am left at the mercy of Fernandos time to get the latest updates

Hello Andrew,

I hear you. I've tried Planet CCRMA and I also bought the commercial 
StudioToGo! software package, but I've never been 100% satisfied with 
any one of these. OK now, both of these audio distributions are actually 
awesome and most people will be even more than 100% satisfied with any 
one of them. There is absolutely no doubt about that - people behind 
these distributions have done amazing job and know what they are doing! 
I shall congratulate them for doing such an amazing job! (Huge thank you 
to Paul Davis as well - Ardour sparked my fire! (expect to get a paypal 
donation soon ;) Not to forget Dave Phillips, who has done amazing job 
introducing Linux audio to us who were not familiar with its potential)

However, I'm one of those people who ultimately wanted to go their own 
way. I'm in the minority - I acknowledge that. I installed LFS 
(http://www.linuxfromscratch.org) system. Why see all that trouble? 
Because I wanted to see if I can do it and I wanted to see if it would 
make any difference. Well, the biggest reason for me to do it was 
because neither one of these audio distributions could satisfy my needs 
if I wanted to do something else than audio work. I also wanted to take 
one step further and gain more knowledge about Linux and Linux audio in 
general. I guess I ultimately just wanted to be in the driver's seat.

I'm not done yet - this mission is incomplete, but let me tell you 
something - every step's been worth it! This LFS system I'm running 
right now is more satisfying than any other Linux distribution I've ever 
tried before. Is it any faster than precompiled regular distributions? 
Well, I don't have enough knowledge to measure that in any scientific 
and accurate way, but at least I can tell you that it boots in less than 
15 seconds to fully operational XFCE desktop and no other distribution 
I've tried before has been able to do that with this hardware. This is, 
of course, possible because I have only installed software I want to run 
on this computer. No need to run any extra services I will never need. 
Overall desktop responsiveness is also very nice! Better than ever. 
However, I'm willing to believe that you can configure basically any 
distribution to suit your needs if you really want to and neither one of 
them will be faster than the other if you know what you're doing.

OK, let's talk more about my journey :) Sometimes I think "yeah, I need 
that software" - and a while later I've got it. To my surprise it's 
really been that easy! When I used precompiled distributions I was never 
sure how something was installed (this was not a problem until you had 
to compile something by yourself. Let's face it - NONE of the 
repositories of well known distributions had all the software I wanted) 
- now I have a pretty clear image about what is installed, how it is 
installed and where it is installed. I've been able to install a desktop 
system that satisfies almost all my needs. This is a journey I started a 
couple of months ago and I've done a lot of research and I've "wasted" 
(not really wasted, because I've learned so much!) a lot of hours, but 
the result is better than I could ever expect. I believe when I'm done I 
have a system that is actually better than I could ever dream of.

Has there been any problems? You bet! There's been a couple of problems, 
but it amazes me that only a couple. What kind of problems? Well, let me 
give you two examples:

1) I realised that you can't have Ingo Molnar's realtime preemption 
kernel patch and Nvidia binary drivers installed at the same time (at 
least on SMP machine). What happens? When you start X, the Nvidia driver 
freezes the machine. This was a hard lesson. You don't want to push the 
reset button. Fortunately the filesystem recovered. Hopefully someone 
finds a solution to this problem. I hope Nvidia would make their drivers 
open source. Molnar's patch + Nvidia drivers would be a killer 
combination! I had a taste of Ingo Molnar's realtime patch and damn - I 
can't believe how responsive the desktop was!

2) I had a trouble compiling qjackctl. Instructions say you only need to 
set QTDIR environment parameter before compiling the software. Well, it 
was set to /usr. "./configure --prefix=/usr" part went fine, but "make" 
failed, because it couldn't find some QT header files. These header 
files are located in /usr/include/qt -directory. Fortunately I found a 
solution by using Google. After "./configure" I had to type "sed -i 
s,include,include/qt, qjackctl.mak" and after that it compiled nicely.

As you can see, you can have _your own system_, but it requires that you 
have at least a couple of years of previous experience with Linux. I 
started using Linux in 1998 (Suse 5.something if I remember 
correctly),but  I'm really not an expert myself (if I'd be an expert, 
I'd be coding), but I consider myself more experienced than average 
Linux user. I can't recommend LFS to anyone, because I know that most 
people will not have the energy (although I'm sure many would have the 
ability) to learn to build a satisfying system and I believe that you 
don't really even have to do it nowadays. Like I said, I believe every 
Linux distribution can be tailored to suit your personal needs if you 
really want to make that happen.

So, I would say that go ahead! Install Gentoo and try to make it to suit 
_your needs_! That's what this is all about! OSS is about choice! What 
can you lose if you try? Well, some hours, but you will probably learn a 
lot even if you waste some hours. It is pretty clear to me that you can 
achieve your goal if you really want to. I also believe Gentoo is a 
great choice as a base for audio system. So, go ahead and make it happen!

Also, watch this closely :) Ubuntu is a very big and very nice 
distribution and hopefully it will become a distribution for Linux 
musicians as well.


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