First off, I feel that I must apologize for the lack of posts lately. I had previously been running Ubuntu Linux 8.04, but as I had been having issues, I backed up my data, wiped my drives, and installed Gentoo Linux in its stead.
What’s Linux got to do with it?
Yes, I do realize that this is a music related blog. However, as regular readers will note, I do talk about open source software (and some non-OSS occasionally) when it is related to music. Under Ubuntu I was having issues with flash and sound. Flash movies would play fine for awhile, but then after several minutes to several hours (not of necessarily continuous) of using flash, movies would play for about five seconds, then stop, then about twenty or thirty seconds later would play another two seconds, and then rinse and repeat. Obviously it is difficult to listen to music or watch videos on sites like Yahoo!, YouTube, or Last.fm under these circumstances. The various open source flash libraries worked properly, but had issues with certain sites; which is also not an acceptable solution.
My sound issues stemmed from the fact that I (technically) have three sound cards in my system, and, under Ubuntu, they would not play nice together. I have a Sounblaster Live!, the onboard Via card, and an ATI video card with HDMI output which contains a sound chip. I do not have any monitor or television in my home with HDMI support, so the sound portion of the card was useless, but even if I set the card to be last in the list, it still seemed to randomly jump ahead of one or both of the others every other reboot. I tried changing my settings so that the driver would not load, but that did not seem to help either; granted, that may have been user error on my part, but it was still making the system difficult to use.
Who needs Ubuntu when flash is so broken?
I’m not trying to slam Ubuntu, it works for many people in many situations – including my computer at work. However, it does not seem to be the ideal OS for running unusual (to say the least) hardware setups. Gentoo, but contrast, forces you to pick every package that gets installed. So, while it takes much longer to setup than many other OS’s, it has much less conflict. My sound, at least on the two cards that I use, works flawlessly and flash (the official Adobe version) runs without a hitch. The downside – besides the install time – is that, in many ways, it feels like running Linux back in the “good ol’ days” of 1998 when I first started. You really do have to RTFM and it helps if you already know more than the average person about computers before you begin. For this reason, it will never take off the way Ubuntu, Mint, or Fedora have. But, for those who have unusual setups and are not afraid to spend a couple of days installing a system instead of a couple of hours, the initial pain is worth it.
It may seem to you, that credit is due.
This post is not entirely bereft of music. You may have noticed that all of the section headings are plays on lines from Tina Turner’s &quto;What’s Love Got To Do With It". And, the article is related to playing music – and sound in general – under Linux. Speaking of which, I cannot stress enough that Ubuntu is not a bad flavor of Linux, it just is not right for me currently; and I did not try 8.10 or 9.04 which may have solved my issues. If you are considering trying Linux for the first time, don’t let my experiences scare you away, for most people Ubuntu (and many other flavors) are extremely easy to setup and work "out-of-the-box". The best suggestion is to try running it off of a live CD before installing it; if your system runs fine off of the live CD, then it should run correctly with the installed version.