The Song Journal

Miscellaneous news and writing by Bob Franke, mostly about songs as a portable art form, and the process of creating them and enabling them to do their work in the world.

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Location: Peabody, Massachusetts, United States

from Bob Franke began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1965 while a student at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation in 1969 with an A.B. in English Literature, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has since made New England his home. Bob has appeared in concert at coffeehouses, colleges, festivals, bars, streets, homes and churches in 33 states, four Canadian provinces and England.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Community software for community music

I'm headed to Framingham this morning to consult with a mastering engineer about my new live CD. The foremost question on both of our minds will be whether I need his help; I've already done many of the tasks that a mastering engineer traditionally does to a recording: I've edited it extensively, laid out and sequenced tracks, added pregaps to some of the tracks, and added compression. I've done this, moreover, using an old Compaq desktop computer with an AMD 500 Mhz K6-2 processor and less memory than the typical new computer (192 MB).

I've gratefully sent along $10 to one of the people who made this possible, but I wasn't required to. I was happy to do it because I was blown away by the job he'd done in turning my old nearly-junk computer into a credible editing station, as well as a wirelessly-connected workstation for safe email, web browsing, streaming net radio, writing a good-looking business letter, and putting this blog together. If I bought a headset I could use it as an Internet telephone as well.

I checked this software out without risk to my data or hard disk by setting the computer to boot from CD, and then running the computer entirely from the CD. What sold me finally was that the software recognized and set up my wireless connection. When I decided to install it on the hard disk, reserving a portion of the disk for the few old Windows '98 programs that I needed, the software needed to partition the hard disk was right on the CD. (Always back up your data, okay?). The installation went without a hitch.

It's not that I never needed help, but community help was always there on the web. I never had to pay for it (although a person running a company on this software could contract for support). Having a properly set up (included) firewall, I don't worry about viruses on this computer any more. I don't have to reboot it all the time.

The software is Gnu-Linux free software, the particular distribution package is Simply Mepis. The sound editing (and recording) program is Audacity.

If you've got a high speed Internet connection (and if you're a musician, you must take that step soon if you haven't already), you owe it to yourself to check out this stuff before you buy your next PC, or even your next Mac. You might be able to save the money for a new guitar.


Anonymous Jugi said...

Amazing. I've had some fun with Audacity, specifically on pieces I am editing for radio, but have found that the size of the Audacity file correlates to the amount of memory on your computer. I am using a fairly bare-bones Dell Inspiron 5150 and have been unable to work in files longer than 20 minutes without the program becoming unstable. Also, I recently learned (to my chagrin) that it is possible to start your file BEFORE the "zero point," such that on playback you get some clipping at the start of the recording. Annoying. I've learned to start my file a second or two in, so as not to risk having a few seconds clipped at the start.

2:08 PM  
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