Ship mscore / fluid-soundfont in Hardy?

Toby Smithe tsmithe at
Tue Mar 11 20:16:19 GMT 2008


Recently fluid-soundfont hit the archives (and since then, Debian).
This is the first Free GM SoundFont, and is thus pretty damn useful.
If you don't know what GM is, then this question probably isn't for

fluid-soundfont enables synthesis that requires, you guessed it, a
SoundFont. There are a number of packages in the archive which could
potentially benefit: timidity, fluidsynth, mscore. I'm concentrating
on mscore, because currently it links against the fluidsynth library
(rather than use the ALSA sequencer), using that to synthesise audio.
FluidSynth (as far as I am aware, and certainly in the way that mscore
uses it) does not support the smaller freepats patches to do
synthesis, and requires a soundfont.

This direct linking makes it very easy, provided there is access to a
SoundFont, to just get up and go: open mscore, and there's no other
faffing about required before you can make noises. Naturally, the
problem lies in that caveat: "provided there is access to a
SoundFont". By default, there isn't, and so mscore doesn't make any

The last upload of mscore (-0ubuntu2) contained a patch to default it
to look for the fluid-soundfont-gm file. This means that, if
fluid-soundfont-gm is installed, mscore will Just Work. Because of
this huge boost in functionality, the mscore package Recommends the
fluid-soundfont-gm package. I would have set it to Depends, but there
are two factors against this:

1. It does not fundamentally require the SoundFont, and can just as
well (though with a little more effort), use a user-supplied font, as
the package's install notification advised in the original -0ubuntu1
version. Or, it can just work silently.
2. fluid-soundfont is *huge* at about 130MiB. If mscore depended on
fluid-soundfont-gm, it would force the user to download an excessive
amount over the three meg required to get the program to run.

Now, the question is: do we ship mscore on the DVD for Hardy? I think
that this would be an excellent move: get a relatively new package a
plentitude of airtime to get bugs shown up and ironed out, and improve
awareness of a massively potential Sibelius alternative. Plus, it
would fill the niche that Sibelius does on Windows, but on Ubuntu

Should we decide to ship mscore, we then have to decide whether to
ship fluid-soundfont. As the DVD is already 877MiB, which is a lot to
download, users are clearly prepared to download that much. Why would
an extra 130MiB be too much pain? It would enable a lot of
functionality (and during the Intrepid cycle, I'll be further
integrating fluid-soundfont to allow it to replace freepats wherever

If we do ship mscore, but not fluid-soundfont, users are purely going
to have to download the soundfont separately (thereby increasing the
effects of waiting for download: rather than wait once in one long
chunk, perhaps overnight, users would have to wait twice, which feels
exaggerated), or find an alternative, or work silently.

Personally, I do not have absolute pitch, and would prefer nice, crisp
synthesis to silence. If this means adding an extra 130MiB, then so be
it: the advantages brought certainly outweigh that singular negative,
especially considering that the free software environment is rather
biased towards broadband users.

To sign off, I'll just ask again the question asked in the subject: do
we ship mscore and/or fluid-soundfont in Ubuntu Studio 8.04?

-- Toby Smithe

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