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Cooking at a friend's party one night, 1990s
Dan Byrnes cooking at a party


Opinions of late

By Dan Byrnes

Fooling with software

Item 13-3-2010

So some years ago I abandoned all use of Microsoft software in search of something much more reliable, after having finally been guided to Ubuntu/Linux. Earlier I'd looked at Red Hat, Xandros, Mandriva, but the last thing I wanted to do was try to use a dual boot system using both Microsoft and Linux. That would be a sure road to disaster, probably sooner rather than later.

So I waited, hoping that Linux systems would soon evolve to the point where I could completely abandon Microsoft for most purposes. Which finally happened.

Ubuntu! Marvellous, a true revolution. Restful. Reliable, I can get a lot more done without having to stop to wonder how and why the computer regularly fouls up.

Now, when I hear someone complaining about their computer working badly, and that's a lot of people in my age group, I regard their problem as entirely self-inflicted. It's very simple. Their problems will go away when they stop using Microsoft.

Using WINE with Ubuntu

Ubuntu logo

Admittedly, it does take a while to get used to using a Linuxy system. And it takes a while to learn how to use WINE. What is WINE? WINE is software that allows us to use various software originally intended for use with MS Windows as we'd like. WINE is a sort of Windows emulator that cutely bills itself as WINE is NOT AN EMULATOR. Whatever, WINE allowed me to efficiently use my genealogy database -- PAF5 -- on a computer running Ubuntu. I've not bothered to test WINE with a great range of other Windows-type software, there is too much work to be done. One day perhaps I'll get around to it.

Meantime, I used to do a lot of experimenting with Windows-type software, partly in the search for tactics of using a computer that worked well and reliably, an often vain search. I gave up experimenting when I switched to Ubuntu, partly as Ubuntu provides about 25,000 packages which can be downloaded quickly and efficiently to my computer -- far too much to bother to test. A great many of these packages are quite nerdy, and often for those who are interested in programming issues for their own sake, which is not me. In 2008-2009 I slowly started to download more packages. One marvellous offering is PICASA, which is organizing software for collections of pictures. Highly recommended!

Whatever, I recently became interested in music-handling software for an Ubuntu system. Not software for handling .mp3 files or mp4, .ogg files, ; or .wav files (the Microsoft format for sound files). Software to help me compose some music using a computer. Problem, it is a bit complicated. Firstly, the project goes back to 1979, when I wrote many sections of music using a 12-string guitar, and taped them using a cheap mike and a small cassette player. The result was not good sound quality, but the exercise was enjoyable and I wanted to preserve the ideas, so I wrote down the most complicated chords with a view to one day transcribing the whole thing onto paper. Which never happened, to the present day. Meantime, I had copied the old casette tapes to hard disks using Audacity (cross-platform software for editing sound files).

What has to be done then?

It would be ideal if we could have software which "listened" to a music file and notated the music. Quite an impossible ask. The tasks involved have to be researched. A good deal of software would have to be freshly installed. I don't even know as I start if my sound card (a new wave card from Intel on a brand new computer) can do all the necessary without some fix-ups. Firstly, I used the Ubuntu system to download several different systems for handling music notation. (And whether any notation can be printed out to paper is a separate but related question, a printer question,not a sound-handling question.) The system I liked most exports my sets of notes to several formats including MIDI. Is my computer set-up to play MIDI files? It seems not. More work is required.

The software I prefer to work with is NoteEdit. (See http://noteedit.berlios.de). NoteEdit seems to require JACK server, which I then download. After some more mucking about, it seems I may as well download Kguitar Project (for making chord charts), and kmid (what does that do?) But I still need to work out how to get some sound from some MIDI files. This requires more experienting, consulting forums on the Net, etc. I downloaded several more files, especially GStreamer plug-ins (from "the bad set") to be able to play MIDI files which happen to be sitting in the computer for test purposes. Hmm, it seems my system is not yet configured to play MIDI files. The fix on the forums seems to be to install Timidity and/or Automatix. But Automatix seems to be unavailable to my system. Whatever, I install Timidity ok and bingo, now I can play MIDI files.

What the forum said about playing MIDI files on an Ubuntu system ...

Re: How to play MIDI files in Ubuntu? I had to same problem to play midi files. So I installed automatix. It's really an amazing program. It solves many problems automatically. So I installed the MIDI package via automatix. It did all the steps about timidity or soundfonts itself. But I found that timidity is a software sequencer and eats up so much system performance. So I removed all of that.

My card is a SBLive! and finally I could configure it to play midi. It may also work with audigy:
In terminal:
sudo modprobe snd_seq_midi
sudo modprobe snd_emux_synth
sudo modprobe snd_emu10k1_synth (this creates the device modules for MIDI)
sudo apt-get install awesfx;asfxload
"asfxload soundfont.sf2" for ALSA or "sfxload soundfont.sf2" for OSS
(and this is a tool to load soundfonts, you can find them on internet)
and after that you can play midi by selecting a port "emu10k1 : 0" etc in a midi player
and to make these changes permanent (to load the modules at boot):
sudo gedit /etc/modules
(Enter these lines at the end of file in editor)
save n exit. This should work with SBLive! or Audigy (emu10k1)
Last edited by barisurum; January 26th, 2006 at 08:30 PM.

... which wasn't necessary ...

Actually, I didn't have to do any of the above. I installed Timidity, and suddenly I can play MIDI files, the sound card can handle things! What to do next? I now need to examine the construction of MIDI files in terms of which software can play them. Audacity files (.aup files), ogg vorbis and .mp3 files are compressed, and probably for that reason will not play in software which can play MIDI files. We'll see. The situation is that Noteedit will carry a score. That score can be output from NoteEdit as a MIDI file. That MIDIfile can be converted into an MP3, ogg vorbis, .wav file. But the MP3 files etc cannot be re-converted back to MIDI files for fresh import into NoteEdit. But I suspect that if a NoteEdit score is exported as a MIDI file, that MIDI file can be re-imported into NoteEdit,and its score will then appear in NoteEdit for new writing, re-arrangement or editing.

More to come ...

Dan Byrnes 2014

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