Suggest some hardware for a new system from scratch?

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benjas
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Joined: 2007-05-13
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Hello I'm new to Ardour and new to Linux, though I'm a senior Windows software engineer. My job has had me spending the last month porting code to Vista, which has been a horrible experience. I'm not normally a Windows basher, but Vista just really sucks for even an advanced user's experience.

I'm ramping up to build and gear up a home music studio at my house, and I've pretty much decided to abandon Windows for the time being at home. Considering OSX, which I'm sure would be awesome, though I don't particularly want to spend $3K on a nice pro-machine. I'm also not particularly crazy about the idea of joining the Mac cult, though I suppose that's not really necessary to buy a Mac.

After poking around Linux Audio sites the last few days, I've come to realize that's it's really pretty cool. Given that I'm reasonably confident I could build my own machine without a huge amount of trouble, I'm considering building a basic Linux box optimized for audio so I can evaluate Ardour and the other nice looking apps as well as my eperience in the OS. I may still go with a Mac just to have better plugin/hardware support, or maybe use both. I've already poked around a little with the Musix live CD, which I found to be very cool, though not perfect compatibility with my aging Dell 4550. Mainly I couldn't adjust the screen resolution to 1600X1200 so t
the graphics were a little distorted. I'm sure that's something that could be fixed with a little time and a real install.

benjas
User offline. Last seen 6 years 48 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-05-13
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Just realized I did a new topic instead of a reply. The website isn't working well in IE (yeah I know, probably works fine in Firefox).

repeating second post here:

Continued from last post.

So, after a lot of rambling, some questions:

1) Can people recommend parts for a basic Linux box. I’m assuming this could be done relatively cheaply, say within $600 total, preferably under $500. If it can’t be done for that price, let me know. What I want is something that will be

a) really fast
b) quiet. I want really quiet fans/case.
c) expandable. Might start with one HD, but add more later.
d) As compatible as possible with whatever software/drivers are out there.
e) I’m thinking at least 1GB RAM, maybe 2GB. At least 200GB HD, or more than one harddrive from the get go.
f) Preferably hardware I can just go to a huge computer store and buy today.

I have an Edirol UA5. I realize USB is not ideal, but I think it should be class compliant, so it should work. Later I’d look into one (or more) of those REM or Delta cards.
Presumably a new machine can keep up with high latency 2 channels of USB.

I would really appreciate any guidance ASAP. If I were to switch to open source / Linux I certainly have a lot I could contribute (C/C++,TCL, limited Java, Windows kernel/user,Master Degree in Computer Music, etc.) If I decide I’ll use Ardour, I’ll certainly contribute in one form or another.

Sorry about the really long post.

Reuben
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Joined: 2006-03-30
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ust realized I did a new topic instead of a reply. The website isn’t working well in IE (yeah I know, probably works fine in Firefox).

It's kinky on Firefox too. I have to login twice. (I think the web server caching is misconfigured)

Hardware drivers is not generally an issue. The gotchas are video drivers. Intel, is open source and works well, Nvidia is closed source, but works excellent. ATI is a mess, although AMD just today announced that they will be opensourcing ATI drivers. The other thing is audio interfaces. Make sure there are drivers, either from ALSA or Freebob. The Delta and RME cards you mentioned are both excellent. I use RME myself.
Otherwise, most hardware is supported. Bleeding edge new stuff may not yet have drivers finished, but that usually gets fixed within months. WIFI is also a bit of a mess, and in the middle of getting a complete overhaul in the kernel right now. Check up on that as well before buying WIFI units.

Other than that, the machine will be as powerful as you want depending on how much you wish to spend.

I'm in the middle of building a new portable rackmount computer for a friend that he wants to use for large scale recording. It will have 16 channels of audio IO and will use a 4 way RAID 5 array for project workspace, on a Tyan mobo, Opteron multicore processor, 64 bit, 2 gig ram. It is the fanciest computers I've ever built, with a price tag of about $2800. (Way more muscle than what you would get on a Mac for the same cost) So you can use Ardour on Linux for serious work. You just have do a bit of research on which parts will work best with Linux and be willing to spend money on it.

As far a software is concerned, I don't think you'll have any problems figuring things out if you are a software engineer. With that type of background you might be interested in Gentoo. (That's what I use) Most people using Linux for audio patch the kernel with Ingo Molnar's realtime-preempt patch. Besides that, everything else shouldn't be hard to figure out.

There's always need for more people willing to contribute C/C++ to various projects.

benjas
User offline. Last seen 6 years 48 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-05-13
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Thanks for the reply. I'll definitely make sure to avoid the video hardware you mention as not so good.

>It will have 16 channels of audio IO and
>will use a 4 way RAID 5 array for project
>workspace, on a Tyan mobo, Opteron
>multicore processor, 64 bit, 2 gig ram. It
>is the fanciest computers I’ve ever built,
>with a price tag of about $2800.

Does that include the IO? That's clearly more than I intend to spend, and seems like a lot, but I'm not really thinking of this as my final machine, just something that is expandable that I can start with. I guessing that a biMainly I'm asking for advise on things to avoid.

Reuben
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Joined: 2006-03-30
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Yes, that includes the IO, peripherals and video monitors. It will be using an RME HDSP AES-32 interface. The price is because he wants ALL the bells and whistles like the RAID array, dual gigabit ethernet, dual monitors, enough system bandwidth to add another 16 channels IO later on, etc. So yeah, it's pricey, but it's also probably a lot more than what you are looking for. I was only giving an example anyway.

I've looked at some commercial PCs built for pro-audio work, that are around the same price, but offer so much less. Take Sweetwater's pro-audio computers. You could build your own equivalent of what they offer for $800 - $1000 less than their price tag.

I'd recommend taking Linux and Ardour for a ride on a spare PC you already have. You will be able to know exactly what it is capable of feature wise before spending on an expensive system.