[Ardour-Users] OSX vs Linux

Thomas Vecchione seablaede at gmail.com
Sat Aug 22 20:22:14 PDT 2009

On Sat, Aug 22, 2009 at 8:50 PM, Luc Tanguay <lucus at sympatico.ca> wrote:

> I need advise.
> A musician friend of mine wants to build a small home-studio.  Seeing my
> setup he wants Adrour at the center of it all... (A good demo is a good
> selling point :-) I'm running Linux (64 studio on a dual-core AMD PC) so I
> suggest him Linux... But his wife being a Mac addict, and he, having already
> used some Mac to do simple tasks (photo, video, drawing), wants to go Mac.
> On Ardour site, in System Requirements, I read OS X and Linux. But I need
> feedback from users of both camp...
> If he goes Linux I can help him with Ardour and the rest... But if he goes
> Mac OS X, I have no clue and no time to learn yet another operating
> "environment" to do simple task like update/install software, add/modify
> hardware devices (disks, MIDI keyboard, dual-monitor, ...), modify system
> parameters (dynamic CPU speed, PCI latency, ...), compile/link source code,
> ...
> What is the easiest path? (I would add: ... the easiest path for me :-)

I personally would say that is likely the wrong addition there, it should be
the easiest path for him (And his wife) since they will be the ones using

Ok background info here.  I am currently on OS X primarily for my audio
work.  I will get to why in a moment.  I have for a long time run a Linux
workstation, and consider myself a firm supporter of the _possibilities_ or
Linux, however I do not consider myself a supporter of the default Linux
state for professional audio as it currently stands.  It is FAR from user
friendly for most users, and particularly newcomers.  I can set up a
workstation for my own use in a very short order, but I know far more than
most newcomers will for some time.  Try to explain what a pre-emption
capable kernel is, or why you need to be a member of a 'group' and have a
specific text file set up and it turns most off.  Admittedly there are some
(few) distributions that come close to providing a 'decent' out of the box
experience for newcomers for the initial install for the purpose of
professional audio.  But once you get past that initial install things tend
to require more work when dealing with the normal working environment,
getting non-jack and jack software working together(Flash, Pulse, and Jack
in a big pot anyone?), doing upgrades to the newest versions of software
(Like Ardour for instance) etc. tend to need more work than they should

OS X on the other hand provides a much stronger out of the box experience
for most newcomers.  You can install Jack and Ardour(Very easily I might add
in both cases, though not quite as easily as apt or similar systems), you
already have a machine capable of realtime audio out of the box, no text
editing, groups, etc. necessary.  You also have all software working
together, even with Jack, very well and very easily.  Additionally you have
things like wider hardware support and AU plugin support from the OS going
in its favor as well.

All this being said, as someone that used Linux for a long period of time,
and still does for other machines and purposes, I find the workflow on OS X
very limiting myself.  It is very much "Apple's way or we take a rod and
shove it up..."  Compared to the workflow I could set up on Linux, I MUCH
prefered my workflow on Linux.  I could tweak Linux to my hearts content and
get better performance out of it than I ever can on OS X, just because of
how open it is.  However I can't look away form the capability of running AU
plugins that have no quality equivalent on Linux, for instance the
restoration suite I just bought.  And I will admit to loving the sound of my
Duet and having the hardware support on OS X, as well as the capability to
occasionally run software that I much prefer to the equivalent on Linux,
like Final Cut.  In the end it comes down to using the tool that best fits
the job, and for me right now OS X is sadly the best tool for the job, or
rather has the best tools available for it.

So to go back and look at specific points in your email...

But if he goes Mac OS X, I have no clue and no time to learn yet another
> operating "environment" to do simple task like update/install software,

Very simple.  As mentioned it is not as easy as a package management system
getting the software for you and all its dependencies, but installing
software is a matter of two things usually.  Either Drag and Drop into the
"Applications" folder(Ardour is an example of this), or double click and run
an installer(JackOSX is an example of this)

> add/modify hardware devices (disks, MIDI keyboard, dual-monitor, ...),

For the most part they are automatically detected and you don't have to do
anything.  No fstab to modify, no text files to modify to get dual monitors
working, etc.

> modify system parameters (dynamic CPU speed, PCI latency, ...),

You don't.  In fact I would be surprised if you ever needed to on OS X for
the VAST majority of users.

> compile/link source code, ...

Both easy as Linux and not so easy at the same time.

Easy in as far as gcc is part of the XCode toolkit that is on the install
disks and you can easily install.  Not so easy in as far as most of the
software you are probably looking to compile is things like Ardour, which is
very difficult as it requires compiling and setting up an environment for
GTKOSX as well as all dependencies, and sometimes dealing with problems in
build systems set up for Linux that don't port easily to OS X, as well as
differences in the provided libs between the platforms.   This is another
example of, "Apple's way or we shove it up your..." as compiling programs
coded for OS X using OS X's libs (Cocoa, Carbon, Quartz, etc.) is easy, but
compiling ports from Linux can be much more involved due to needing to bring
over all the libs as well.

Which one would be best really depends on the goals of the users, and the
users themselves.  In general as much as people might disagree, for the
majority of users as things stand currently, OS X is probably the easier
path for the users for the purposes of professional audio.  Doesn't
necessarily mean it is the best path in all cases though, I am looking at
setting up some custom Ardour and Pd boxes for a dedicated use that I won't
be hesitating to use Linux for, OS X would be to limiting.

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