Saturday, December 16, 2006

Interview: SuSE Jacklab Creator Michael Bohle (Part 1)

Michael Bohle is the founder and one of the project leads for JackLab. JackLab is a project for research and support of proaudio / media software for openSUSE Linux. He joins us here at Linux Rock Star to answer some questions about the project, and its future in light of the recent Novell / Microsoft developments and what this means for JackLab users.

Q: JackLab is has a selection of some of the best open source audio programs for openSUSE. How did this project get started, and why for openSUSE Linux?

First: We decided to merge our RPM repository with the free packager group packman ( ) and concentrate our focus to user support and the development of a openSUSE based "JackLab Audio Distribution“ but more of this later in this interview.

Since 1999 I've checked SuSE Linux for its multimedia capacities and always was disappointed. Promising multitrack solutions like SLAB never working for me and playing a simple pcm wave file was sometimes pain in the ass with the open sound system (oss).

In 2004 I was testing the Knoppix based aGNUla DeMuDi live CD and I was very impressed. I'm a musican and music producer so I was always looking for a free music producing platform. Linux seemed to be this, but until DeMuDi it was frustrating to use Linux for creative music and media. So DeMuDi was giving me the first impression, how JACK, the low latency audio input output system working.

But I have special proaudio hardware and a dualscreen system. DeMuDi is based on Debian, and its support for hardware is very basic. So I was checking once again SuSE and all my hardware was detected and configured correctly, but I didn't get JACK and the proaudio apps like MusE to work. But for me it was clear -Linux is the future platform for proAudio so I get the idea of „JackLab“ - an laboratory to delve the capacities of JACK.

Later in 2004 Mathias Nargorni, the developer of Alsa modular and Novell Product Manager, made in cooperation with a popular German music magazine a SuSE 9.2 based Audio Live CD. But there was no installer, and the “normal” SUSE 9.2 pro audio wasn't working well.

I recognized that I have to compile a new kernel and some more. So I get in touch with the free SUSE community. The packager oc2pus (Tony Graffy) offered me to make more proaudio rpms available from a wishlist, that I made, and the hacker gimpel was helping me to make a realtime audio kernel for SuSE Linux. 9.2. To share this, I opened the website In the same time SuSE was getting open for the community development and so we are joining into openSUSE as one of the first free projects.

Q: Will Jacklab continue in light of the recent Novell / Microsoft developments?

Why not?

For sure we will continue – cos where is the problem? openSUSE is sponsored by Novell, but the community make their own decisions. Remember for example the story with of Gnome vs KDE: Novell wanted to put pressure on to get gnome as default WM through. At last the devs from Nuremberg decided to keep KDE. I don't get any nervous by this deal. I think MS try to contact Linux, because its threatened their biz. Now is the point, that Linux will spread more and more. I think the FSF should concentrate their focus on HURD, and Mark Shuttleworth should look by his own gpl-games.

Anyway: JackLab is a free project. We are feel as a part of the openSUSE community, but we have nothing to do with the biz decisions of Novell.

Q: Are there any changes in the agreement that affect Jacklab / openSUSE users?

No. why?

Q: Will Jacklab be updated for openSUSE 10.2?

I just started with some beta testing and I'm positively surprised. 10.2 seemed to be the best of the “openSUSE” builds (since 10.0) With the actual RT kernel from Appleonkel the rtprios for PAM jack is running flawless.

The last days an tutorial was released, which explains clearly how to build up a own openSUSE distribution, so there is a big chance that Olli and Nico are solve the dependencies to make a stripped down one CD install “JAD” image, based on 10.2. A first release is planned for latest the LAC2007 end of march. But I'm sure a preview will be available in February.

At next I will release a basic tutorial for updating a standard openSUSE into a DAW, there is already a new repository rt for kernels available and I promise: Now it will be very easy to pimp the office girl Suse into a rock queen named Susi ;)

I also tested Ardour 2 on 10.2 with a 2.6.19 rt kernel, with success, so sad that we can't share the ardour2 vst build :( because the GPL don't allow to distribute binarys compiled with the proprietary code headers from the Steinberg SDK.

Q: What are your favorite applications on Audiolinux?

First of all: Ardour. I just produce with the band called “Band Man Dead” a demo cd, and a good workflow is given. A really pro app. I also like SooperLooper for free improvisation with my voice, and the synthesizers ZynAdd and AMS. Together with Hydrogen and Seq24 in sync.

I just testing energyXT2 for Linux... seemed to be that this will be one of my fav in the future. But a lot of beta testing to do.

Q: What sets openSUSE / Jacklab apart from other Linux music distributions?

Not so much. In fact there no big difference between the Linux distributions. But: openSUSE is one of the progressed and user friendliest distributions in the Linux market. YAST is the best developed graphical Linux configuration interface. openSUSE is ready for the enduser, which means, those who working productive with an operating system. But it is open for improvements and a good source for modern, innovative development. Maybe Ubuntu have the better community, but openSUSE is leading in the technological aspect.

So openSUSE is a good base for developing a very userfriendly operating system for studios and musicans. The JackLab Audio Distribution (powered by openSUSE) will be fast, slim but complete, beautiful and fully compatible to the main openSUSE distribution.

But in the core, the audio apps and other items like RT kernel similar to all other Linux distributions -it has something to do with taste, but the ingredients are always the same source code. It is simply Linux.

Q: Why do you value Open Source software?

I choose it, because I can work freely with it. I feel safer with a opensource DAW software; cos I'm not depend on the update cycles of the manufacturers of proprietary software. I've got the freedom, to to share the app, for example Ardour, with the customer of my mobile studio, so they can edit their audio
tracks by themselves without spending lots of money or breaking software copyright laws. I like the open project file format of Ardour, because in fact “shit happens” and so I have the option to edit and repair the project file in clear text , XML based.

In addition I think, that a free culture needs independent and free production tools.

Q: How is the weather in Germany today?

Fuckin' foggy cold, it is autumn it its last state. I'm happy to be here in my warm studio ;)

Posted by DCZX @ 10:54 AM

Read or Post a Comment

Great Job on the release!

I have been playing with linux audio for the last few months now and am stund... It is absolutely amazing and my kudo's go out to the entire community at large.

I installed jacklab's distro this week and haven't had a hickup... well one or two little things... hardley worth mentioning... so I won't. All the important pieces where there, the realtime kernal was installed as was the audio group. I started Jack opened hydrogen, zynaddsubfx and ardour2. No problem... easy as pie. Good times.

Also, I am a re-leaved to see the take on the ms deal... It is somewhat of a concern. We'll see what happens......

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