[linux-audio-user] Doing the soundcard manufacturer tango (long)

Dave Phillips dlphilp at bright.net
Thu Dec 2 09:42:46 EST 2004


  As I skim over the various messages regarding Marek's tribulations, 
first with RME, then with apparently the entire LA* community, I started 
thinking that there was some basic flaw in the whole thing. After some 
reflection, a few thoughts on the matter:

    Frankly, who gives a a flying fsck what gear you're using ? I'm 
*far* more interested in what you're doing with it than who makes it, 
whether it's "pro" audio gear, if it's the latest trend, or even if it's 
"The Future" (TM Disney Corp., I'm sure) of audio technology throughout 
the known universe. There seems to be this prevailing fear motif that 
somehow if we don't have firewire or whatever that we will somehow 
become disabled as musicians and kept forever from creating and 
recording good music. What a lot of horse hockey. Over and over again we 
see/hear artists who do their work on whatever's available, making it 
work because for them it has to work, they have no choice. Early rappers 
single-handedly revived a slew of vintage drum machines and synths, the 
Seattle punkers said "No thanks!" to the technical indulgences of the 
big-hair guitarists of the 80s, returning to the *song* as the logical 
focus of a rock band, and if I had to make the point further I'd bring 
up Conlon Nancarrow and Harry Partch. Geez, people, stop talking and 
start singing ! Where's "Marek's Blues" or "The RME Fight Song" ?? Come 
on, the talent's here, we know it is. And I've never heard a single 
"normal" listener say anything like "Wow, they really knew how to use 
[Pro Tools, Cubase, Ardour] on that song!".

    I think we're barking up the wrong tree. Maybe letters to 
manufacturers make a difference, but I'll bet one successful song will 
do more to attract manufacturers and users to Linux. Even touting 
numbers isn't nearly so effective an attention-getter as would be a 
single successful recording. And by "successful" I mean that it reaches 
tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

    Then during the interviews you can say "Ja, I used Linux, ya know, 
it's da bomb"...

    We're also still missing the potential in the academic scene. 
Professors and researchers also have pull, and if they can be convinced 
to use Linux in their audio labs, they can also bring pressure on 
manufacturers to provide them with drivers et cetera. Plus, a great deal 
of hardware work could probably be done at university level, they have 
the resources. The home recording market is another potentially powerful 
force. In other words, no change will come from the high end, because 
there's simply no incentive. Large studios have money for 
state-of-the-art equipment and software, they're all scrambling to stay 
ahead of the competition (because there isn't really very much of it) by 
having what the other guys don't, and there's just no reason for them to 
even take an interest in anything other than what they know or are told 
to know via Mix magazine. So, no market for Linux there, sorry, not at 
this moment in time. But the home studios and smaller scale pro studios 
are more budget-minded, ditto for academic studios. Lots of possibility 
there, lots of people, lots of potential pressure on manufacturers to 
stand up and notice the movement around them. But we won't reach them by 
writing messages on mail-lists, we'll reach them by showing them what 
can be done.

    It's often overlooked how incredibly conservative the whole industry 
really is. Innovative trends like Linux may be perceived more as 
disruptive than smoothly continuing "things as we've always known and 
liked them to be", especially to the higher-level professional studios. 
Mark, I'll buy you a case of Iron City Light if Digi ever decides to 
support Linux in any way. It's just not in their best interest to do so. 
They have created a locked-in market as completely as M$ has done, even 
moreso because of the narrow market base. They'll continue to eke out 
their innovations to keep them ahead of their competitors and they'll 
continue their so-far successful policy of keeping everything closed. I 
think it's important to note that such companies are not necessarily 
hostile to their user-base, they simply have the power to define that 
base and they'll do everything in their power to maintain the lock-in. 
It's how they're making their money now, it's been working for them for 
many years, and there seems to be no pressing reason for them to change.

  So, what to do ? Well, AudioScience has a developer who could perhaps 
persuade his company that there's a growing market for high-end 
pro-audio cards for Linux, and his company could literally corner the 
market for a while simply by providing either their own open-source 
drivers or by giving the specs to the community and letting the ALSA and 
OSS guys do the driver dance. There's already been some exchange, but 
perhaps a little more concerted community effort in that direction can 
help ?

  Ivica has been working on new ways to promote Linux audio software in 
academia, perhaps more people could work with him in a more directed 
fashion ? Like a mass-mailing of live Linux audio CDs to the heads of 
music tech departments around the world ? I'm sure there are a lot of 
ways to create inroads to academic studios.

  And we need to make more music with the gear we have. Y'know, I'm sure 
that all that virtual hot air blown over on the RME lists could be 
utterly dispelled by someone writing, recording, and posting a "Marek's 
Lament". I'll bet the cats at RME would be far more interested in 
hearing that one song than reading yet another dozen or so screeds.

  So get it on, folks. I'm tired of finding my LA* message boxes filled 
with diatribe and pointless blame, I want to hear some more *music*. 
Isn't that really why we're all here ?

Best regards,


PS: Much of this message should be read with a healthy dose of good 
humor, followed by a refreshing walk in the crisp morning air. Which is 
where I'm headed now...

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