(rant) Is there any hope

Rick Green rtg at aapsc.com
Wed Feb 15 05:11:39 UTC 2012

for Ubuntu Studio as a productive audio recording and mixing environment?

Four years ago, I bought a Focusrite Saffire Pro 26 firewire interface, 
largely because it was listed as one of the best-supported by the ffado 
project.  I loaded up a copy of UbuntuStudio 8.04LTS.  The clean install 
wouldn't talk to the interface, but after I obtained a bleeding-edge copy 
of the ffado source from one of the developers, and recompiled locally, I 
was up and running.  I've used that installation for every recording I've 
done since.  For the most part it's stable, and I've learned to 
work-around its quirks
   When 10.04 came out, I thought I'd upgrade, thinking I'd like to see the 
latest enhancements to Ardour, and it might be more forgiving of the 
order I start up programs.  But 10.04 wasn't stable enough to run jack 
for more than a few minutes before the xrun count went thru the roof.
   Since then, I've tried every new release, and the regressions are 
stacking up faster than ever.

   I recently did a clean install of 11.10 (amd64), and tonight gave it a 
first attempt with the firewire interface...

   With 8.04, I start ffado-mixer, and it automatically starts the 
ffado-dbus-server.  With this one, it merely complains that the dbus 
server isn't running, so I'm forced to open a terminal and start it, then 
when I restart ffado-mixer, it tells me 'no supported devices found'.
   This isn't exactly true, for when I go to a terminal and run ffado-test 
ListDevices, it clearly finds my focusrite pro26IO on node 1.

I launch qjackctl, open the setup window, and select the firewire driver, 
accepting all the defaults for now.  When I attempt to start jack, it 
fails with a 'cannot connect to server as client' message.

After many attempts and reboots, I discover that if I start qjackctl and 
start jack without attempting to start ffado-mixer or ffado-dbus-server 
first, then jack will actually start! (With 8.04, I HAD to start 
ffado-mixer first.)
   I launch Ardour, open a new session, and start to record two tracks of 
whatever audio happened to be playing on the stereo at the time.  About 24 
minutes later, just as I'm getting complacent with no xruns recorded(!), 
jack inexplicably dies, but qjackctl doesn't know it, so it is locked up, 
too.  I ended up having to go back to the terminal and kill -9 everything 
jack-related I could find, then power down my interface, and power it back 
on, then restart qjackctl, and finally jack.  Only then could I tell 
Ardour to reconnect and save the session, but for some reason Ardour's 
transport was messed up.  I could move the playhead either directly, or 
with the |<< button, but the 'Big Clock' still showed the time at the end 
of the aborted capture, and the 'play' button or the spacebar had no 
   I closed Ardour, then went to stop jack and close qjackctl, and qjackctl 
threw messages about a client still connected (Ardour was already shut 
down at this point), and after I press the 'close anyway' button, then 
qjackctl itself refuses to quit cleanly, and I get a 'program not 
responding' message from the window manager, and I'm forced to go back to 
the terminal and resort to kill -9 again.

   The developers are over halfway into the 12.04 cycle now, so I don't see 
any point in submitting bug reports against 11.10 for all this.  Have they 
gotten to the point of publishing any pre-builds of 12.04, and would it be 
any help to install that and submit bugs against 12.04pre- instead?

Rick Green

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little
temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
                                   -Benjamin Franklin

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our
safety and our ideals."
                                -President Barack Obama 20 Jan 2009

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