ALSA and Other Linux Audio Items

An entire week with no news updates! I think that’s the longest I’ve gone in nearly a year. I’ll try to do better. Last week was slow in terms of news anyhow. Lots of Perl coding, haggling over business deals, and the occasional break to watch the latest satellite photos of Antartica’s ice shelf breaking up (check it out if you’ve never seen an iceberg the size of Deleware).

I did take some time this weekend to upgrade the sound system on my box at home. I picked up a Sound Blaster Live! card as it appeared to be one of the few with driver support for all the cool stuff like wavetables, synth, and sequencers. A download and a few builds later, I had the ALSA 0.5.6 drivers working. It took a bit patience but I eventually got the sequencer and MIDI stuff working adequately too. (I didn’t realize for the longest time that MIDI wouldn’t work until you download a soundfont file with the MIDI instrument sounds to the wavetable, duh…) So, the next step was downloading all the Linux music stuff I could find. The best one-stop list of all Linux/Unix sound and music software is Dave Phillips’ Sound & MIDI Software for Linux site. I spent a good part of a day downloading, compiling, and trying various music software. What I discovered was that about 50% of it is total crap, 25% will be really cool someday when the development progresses a little more, and what remains is almost usable. One thing that I found particularly annoying was that none of the programs I tried had any reasonably easy way to enter musical data directly. Several programs indicated they’d be supporting MIDI capture in future versions, however.

My recommendation for stuff that looks almost useful at the moment is the Beast/BSE package for sound generation, the Melys MIDI sequencer, and Denemo (a LilyPond front-end) for notation.

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