Why Open Source? Why Free (as in speech) Software?

Some people who come across Ardour and start reading about its "odd" license (the GPL, used by thousands or tens of thousands of software applications and libraries around the world) end up asking "what is with this whole open source/free software thing anyway?" or "why don't the Ardour developers just release Ardour like a normal commercial, proprietary program?".

It isn't a complete answer to this kind of question, but as exhibit 13.1(a) part 8, I offer you:


Summary: Avid buys Sibelius, which brings in a nice $18M or so a year, then appears to layoff all of its developers, mumbling about how they plan to integrate its development within their California development team. Sibelius users are extremely unhappy and attempt to convince Avid to sell the software.

Now, its true that had Sibelius been an open source program, it would probably have never been generating $18M of cash flow/revenue. But its also true that its users would not face this kind of situation. The company would probably not have been acquired, and if it had, its developers would have been free to continue working on their own fork after being laid off by the purchaser.

Rest assured, dear reader, that this is not a fate that can befall Ardour. There are other issues that the project faces, but this is possibly one of the most serious future usage threats to the user of any piece of software, and this cannot happen to Ardour. Because of the GPL. Good night and good luck to Sibelius development team and its users.

@fernesto :

Could AATranslator help ? I’m only guessing, I know nothing about Logic or its file formats, but I see that the converter does support OpenTL and lists Logic as an import/export target.




i agree with josander, i’ve found in Ardour, Mixbus and LinuxDSP i very confortable corner where i can “hide from the system” and im gratefull for that, the “horizontal structure” of this comunity is a big plus so even when i hope and wish you all devs can keep on dedicated to this and get better and bigger incomes from an eventual user base increase… i also hope it keeps being this horizontal.

so… Long Live “OUR DAW”!!

@linuxdsp: I totally agree. I have a folder of Protools sessions which I might as well delete as I do not have protools and am not willing to spend that much money to save the sessions. Thankfully I have been able to convert them at university, but that kind of thing would not happen had they used an open standard. It seems to me that open source and open standards tend to go in hand though, so I am always more likely to pick the open source choice, not just because I advocate what it stands for but also because it has saved my arse more times than I can mention.

I have 20Gigs of audio in a single Apple’s Logic Session that i wont be able ever ever again to open, i have to rely on a friend to do a stem export or bounce the most edited channels so i can pick it up from it…

Not happy… not happy about it… not at all.

It’s not like this kind of thing never happens. Anyone else here remember Opcode’s Studio Vision ? How about Tascam’s Gigastudio or Voyetra’s music software ?

The company owns it, they can do what they want with it. C’est finis.



@josander: The fader/pan control knobs probably send 14 bit NRPNs, rather than some proprietary protocol. Its fairly easy to figure this out with any MIDI monitor app.

@paul: Ardour/Mixbus’ autolearn functions doesn’t detect the fader/pan control controls.

Is usage of 14 bit NRPN something Ardour/Mixbus will or might implement? Is there something I can do apart from sniffing MIDI data? I’m willing to ship my Faderport (and also pay for the return of it) so somebody that is skilled and can figure it out and implement it or I will be happy to buy/donate one to Ardour, but can’t afford it at the moment (maybe in two three months or so).

EDIT: I think the following link have a lot of useful information for Faderport support, but I do probably not have the skills to write a patch that can be sent to the Ardour project:


…and this is probably all the technical information that is needed i an insanely great documentation the maker of Renoise’s Faderport driver maker did:


While the fader does send 14 bit, the pan controls sends an increment and decrement command only. Going off memory both of these are supported in A3 with the MIDI protocol, but I would need to look it up to be sure.


I am very grateful for this product being opensource, it means I can be safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens to the project in the long term, my sessions will always be accessible.


my sessions will always be accessible.
I think that is as much because the format ardour uses to store your sessions is an open format as it is to do with the project itself being opensource. I think open standards are just as (or perhaps more) important than the open vs closed nature of different applications.

Anyone remember what happened when Apple bought Logic? It’s estimated that they kicked out around 60 000 Windows users.

@BenLoftis and @linuxdsp:

I’m a big fan of open source - both for several well known ethical and long term reasons, but realize that it can be very difficult to make a living by making open source programs. So I’m pragmatic and shamelessly buy and enjoy closed source programs and plugins - and Mixbus and the linuxDSP stuff are not difficult to enjoy - I’m probably one of your biggest fan boys. :slight_smile:

But i’m a much bigger fan of open standards and transparency - which I see as much more important thing than making program open sourced. Then it will for example work like this: If you don’t like a car, then use another one, you can still drive on the road with anything you want because the road is standardized and everyone are more or less following the same rules when using it. I know that you know what I’m talking about here, but I’m saying this for all the people that are not aware of this Open\s.+ things (not that they will read this anyway…)

I was recently bitten by a mistake I did: I was stupid enough to buy a Presonus Faderport and it is a true mess when using it on Ardour and Mixbus (and probably anything else without special drivers for it). Some buttons work partially (MIDI CCs), and the fader and pan control (which probably have a proprietary protocol) doesn’t work at all. And it seems to me that no one in the whole word can give a straight answer on how til fix it and make it work in a decent manner for Ardour/Mixbus - that is if somebody even bores to answer - I think Presonus is probably answering with a massive silence on this matter.

So I have my Presonus visible on a shelf, reminding me that I shall never ever buy a gizmo or gadget without making sure that it actually works together with my excising stuff. Hoping that a thing someday it will work should is plain stubidness and i did it again…


This is our approach with Mixbus as well. We don’t give away the plugin source code, but the user’s data (in the session) is clearly preserved, and the fact that we use Ardour’s session format makes Mixbus sessions much more durable than a proprietary storage format. I don’t understand why “pros” are using apps with proprietary and even (in some cases) encrypted/obfuscated session files. Someday the owners of the material are going to ask them to re-purpose these old works, and it might be hard or impossible to open a session file from a long-dead workstation company. The execs might not understand why it costs a lot to reuse something that they supposedly already own.

abandoned open source projects do not automagically come back alive.

Sometimes they do. At a rate of 0,01%, though :slight_smile: LAoE audio editor would be one of them.

I think something that often gets overlooked is the importance of open data formats and APIs etc rather than just a strict open or closed approach to software. As a user as well as a developer, I actually care more that my data - be that audio or text or a DAW session, or whatever I create is not inherently encrypted by being stored in a form only readable by one (closed) application. If the format is known, at least I can take my data and use it with another (open or closed) application, if the developers of the original either go out of business / lose interest etc. My own software is commercial - I can’t necessarily give away a complete built, tested implementation of ideas which I have spent my own time and money developing. That would not make commercial sense to me (or other investors). But the technical specifications are published and there is a wealth of detail provided about the theory of how it works. But, as I said in my previous comment, the choice is there - at least on linux people can use open source or commercial applications, depending upon whatever suits their needs / politics

The same logic applies to using Ardour with proprietary plugins, no?

I wonder if the same applies to any project once it passes a certain level of complexity or requires specialist knowledge. There are a lot of orphaned open-source projects out there which are either completely incomprehensible to anyone but the original developer, or simply lack anyone with the relevant skills to take them on. Ardour is among the best in terms of being a well structured, professionally coded application - so in ‘theory’ if the original developers quit for some reason, it could be picked up and maintained, but there aren’t that many (read hardly any) developers with the necessary combination of skills (and I think most are already involved).

The same is true of plugins - proprietary or not - If one of the core libraries on which x / y / z plugin depends stops being maintained by the one developer who understands how that complex DSP code actually works, then to the average user the result is the same - they can’t use it anymore.

It could be argued that in most cases a commercial developer with a good business plan will have a commercial incentive to keep a product working across future OS / host / API changes, and also some obligations to existing users, whereas perhaps a single developer / student who releases his work for free, in his spare time, has no obligation to fix anything and may just lose interest. So I think as usual there’s no clear cut ‘one is better than the other’ answer - just a different set of advantages / disadvantages - but at least you have the choice to go with commercial or open-source software.

The same logic applies to using Ardour with proprietary plugins, no?

Correct, abandoned open source projects do not automagically come back alive.

But the number of projects which got picked up after the original maintainer and all of his/her team left is >0.
The number or proprietary cases where an abandoned project was picked up by someone with no connection to the original author is by definition 0.

Thanks for that Paul, though I’m sure there are probably some people still shaking their heads in disbelief. :wink: Your project is solid proof that the terms “high qualify” and “open source” are not mutually exclusive (Ardour isn’t the only one, of course, there are others like Inkscape and Scribus to name only a few more). :slight_smile:

I wonder how many Sibelius users know about Lilypond and frontends to same? :wink:

I think that would certainly help, sadly my country has a control over the amount of money we can spent over the internet to other countries… i reached my limit this year so i’m just using whats left for Ardour’s suscription.

I could buy the software next year or maybe succeed opening an account on the US this year since im traveling on november for a week to miami, going to buy a couple of hardware pieces, anyone up for a beer? heh…

AAF and OMG support will be very important also for my work so i am very interested in aatranslator or ardourxchange… yet to see what works best for me.