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

I tried Sibelius a while back and I thought it was quite poor. It might be alright if you are concentrating on purely printing scores but for composing with the ability to write a score, I think Logic was best.

As for Avid. I don’t like what they do. I don’t like being locked into certain formats and the hardware (although that end of things is better now). I wish everyone could be using open source or free software. However, Avid have absolutely no competion with Protools. It is without question the fullest featured while being easy to use DAW. This is why they have a monopoly. Logic is probably next best. I would use Protools HD in a pro environment if I was making money to cover the cost of it even although I’d have a gripe at being forced to do it.

However, Avid have absolutely no competion with Protools. It is without question the fullest featured while being easy to use DAW. This is why they have a monopoly. Logic is probably next best. I would use Protools HD in a pro environment if I was making money to cover the cost of it even although I'd have a gripe at being forced to do it.

I would strongly disagree with this, and I think it depends strongly on what you are doing. For example composers might enjoy Logic more, Film Scorers for a time tended to prefer DP, etc.

The reason Avid has a stronghold with ProTools has more to do with the fact that ProTools is everywhere from when they were without much competition. That means I can start a PT session recording in one studio, walk down the street to another with a better mix room, finish it there, and send it to a mastering house in a third. The other options have not reached this prevalence yet, and it is in part because they don’t have this prevalence so they are in a catch-22 type of situation there, and Protools continues to dominate as a result.


I noticed a slowdown in A3 development for 3 months… I hope the stable version will be released this year.

Its mostly burnout on my part.

Can one endeavour for a near perfect (bugless) version release?
The logical answer is probably “yes”, but the real world answer is probably “no”.

Don’t worry about it. Svn still get updated :).
I regulary do an svn update and there are always updates, but not always showed in issue tracker i think.
It’ were holidays also, for me it’s normal it was little bit slower.

Mmn… i don’t think that reaching a bugless release would ever be the ultimate goal as every DAW is always evolving, that bugless release would eventually have to be replaced by a better version, however probably buggy release … what i think could be a main goal regarding to buggs is to ensure every release is free of “freeze - session corrupt - frustrating hours of work wasting” buggs, and even that is aiming high maybe? Devs are working hard on that, i know it.

I haven’t experienced that type of bugs from either Ardour 3 or Mixbus 2 for a long time now and thats great, and every time there is not much “news” on Ardour’s site i know something good is being cooked for A3 or for Mixbus and sincerely i cannot wait to see what brings the future of A3 to a eventually A3 based Mixbus… and i know its not going to be soon but still…

“at least 3 companies have tried and failed to produce and sell linux DAWs” - even if you tried and failed, it wouldn’t be the end of Ardour.

“getting involved in this sort of effort would dilute the continued forward progress of adour itself” - by commercializing you could fund a team to accelerate progress of Ardour.

“PC hardware changes all the time” - there’s your continuous revenue stream!

It is easy for tech-oriented folks like us to get too caught up on technology and many times we don’t see the business arguments for a project - I myself have made this mistake too often. Nevertheless, I wish you good luck on the Ardour journey. Looking forward to the Ardour 3.0 release!

so your suggestion is that i get directly involved in a business idea that has been tried at least 3 times, that i was indirectly involved with 3 times (what DAW do you think they used?), and failed all 3 times? and that as a side effect it would magically raise enough money to pay for at least one more full time developer?

its easy for people enamored with both linux and with ardour and DAWs in general to overstate the business case for a commercial enterprise based on this technology. there isn’t much of a business case for any DAW that isn’t cross-subsidized by some other kind of activity, though Reaper and Live are interesting counterpoints. Live managed to tap into (or even help create) an aesthetic zeitgeist for which it is uniquely well suited. Reaper is first and foremost a Windows application that integrates well with that environment and offers people the nominal promise of free-or-cheap.

telling people that they need to buy special computers to run your software seems to me like a fairly sure-fire way to become even more of a niche. people “know” that their computers can run Live or Reason or Logic or Garageband or … the few who are in the situation where they (a) have realized the virtue of buying another computer just for audio work and (b) are willing to work without proprietary plugins … if they number more than a thousand or so world wide i’d be flabbergasted.

@linuxdsp, there may be good plugins, but there are definitely not as many as in the proprietary ecosystem. I feel the fact that the whole free-as-in-beer trend, apart from other factors, has hampered adoption, and indeed, quality of Linux-based audio software. In an enterprise setting, paying for something provides the buyer a sort of “proof of value”, the thinking being, “the developers must have enough confidence in their software to be charging for it.” Part of the payment the developers receive is compensation for their work. But another part is reward for the risk they assume in supporting their software. In software that is free-as-in-beer, this risk is not perceived to be transferred to the developers. I don’t have a panacea for the domain, but charging a reasonable price for audio software might be a step in the right direction.

@AUser: I completely agree - but the issue with GPL software has always been that while there is nothing to stop the developer from charging for their work in theory, this is seldom practical because while a very clear distinction is made between free (no cost) and free (as in freedom) they are essentially the same thing, if the license permits anyone to distribute the software without restriction. I guess the GPL deal is 'you can have the software for free, so long as you don’t expect any guarantees about its a) fitness for purpose, and b) longterm / support*
With proprietary software you have a right (in some cases legally) to expect both of these things. (and in return you have to accept certain restrictions on what you can do with the software).

*I realise that there is a theory that GPL software, due to its open nature is always supportable because anyone can maintain the code, and there are some fine examples, but a lot of the time, the reality is very far from that, with many projects being dependent on a tree of defunct libraries, and some so badly documented that it would be quicker to start over than to try to understand how the code works in order to maintain it. Personally, I favour open standards as a practical compromise - that way I know my data which I created is not encrypted in some proprietary format which only one application can read, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for developers to create competing (commercial) applications which can do things with that data.

redhat and mysql are products that are percieved to have significant value to a very wide range of corporate and other users who are willing to pay significant sums for either the initial purchase and/or support. audio software like DAWs are a niche that of interest to only a relatively small number of people, a substantial number of whom have traditionally not paid for their software at all. the comparison isn’t really very useful in my opinion.

i don’t pay attention to hardware because it is an entirely separate business that i have no interest in. at least 3 companies have tried and failed to produce and sell linux DAWs. i don’t believe i’m likely to be any more successful at that, and that getting involved in this sort of effort would dilute the continued forward progress of adour itself.

finally, PC hardware changes all the time. it is not even possible to recommend a particular model of computer, because (a) it will be gone within a few months and (b) the actual chipset specifications for the machine are subject to continual change (and it is often the chipset that causes problems). this is not unique to linux - look at windows DAW forums and you will find all the same tales of woe about how a particular machine just can’t run Sonar or Live or whatever without clicks and pops.

An important priority should be the creation of high quality, stable plugins, which are glaringly missing in the Linux audio universe.

google “linux plugins”

Paul, you are right, I’m not very familiar with internals of DAWs; I’m a mere user, though a programmer by profession. But if performance is so hardware-dependent, there’s no reason you can’t make the same recommendation that Digidesign made when they released their Windows version. Maybe you could even assemble and provide hardware configurations that work well with Ardour. I understand that this doesn’t fall within the scope of the Ardour open source project in its current state, but for an “Ardour company”, it could be a viable idea.

If you focused on supporting specific hardware, at least some people would actually be able to use Ardour in a professional setting, and what’s more, they would pay you for your hard work. Besides, why is Ardour abstracting over the all-important hardware? If you know hardware is as important as the software, why is Ardour development so bent on a breadth-first approach? The consequence I observe is that the project isn’t able to leave the programmer’s sandbox and become accessible to the general populace. Rather than spending extra time building a DAW that runs on all hardware, more value would be created by providing a professionally usable product today, hardware-specific if necessary, for which there is huge market. If the problem at hand can only be reasonably solved with a vertically integrated platform, then so be it: tackle the real-world problem, rather than solving an idealized version of the problem that is much harder. Anyone who wants to do serious production with Ardour is going to be looking for specific, good hardware anyway; you could point them in the right direction, or even better, sell it to them. And if the Linux that came with that hardware were a customized Linux, I don’t think they would care. I would personally be more willing to buy an integrated, pro-quality Ardour hardware+software music workstation than donate to the Ardour project.

You say in your article, “…had Sibelius been an open source program, it would probably have never been generating $18M of cash flow/revenue.” Being open source and making a lot of money aren’t mutually exclusive: take MySQL, which was valued at $1B by Sun, or Red Hat, currently valued at ~$10B. Ardour too can be a commercially successful product, if executed with a user- and profit-centric strategy.

I have a humble suggestion for Paul and the other developers of Ardour. Before I impart my idea, I would like to say I’m really happy that Ardour exists and is pioneering open standards and good software practices in the music world. However, progress on the project is very slow due to there being limited resources available. There are many features in proprietary music programs which are not yet implemented in Ardour 3, and so it is hard to use it for production-quality work (in my limited experience with Ardour 3).

My suggestion is this: create a usable audio software bundle that “just works”, offering basic features and plugins on par with contemporary professional DAWs. I imagine something like Ubuntu Studio, but with no assembly required. An important priority should be the creation of high quality, stable plugins, which are glaringly missing in the Linux audio universe. If accessible to the technical skills of an average sound engineer, you could promote it and charge for it. And if priced similar to the proprietary programs in the market today, you may be able to fund a full-time development team as well as a marketing budget.

The program would still be free (as in speech), but there would be a revenue stream which doesn’t depend on unstable donations.

My intention is to provide constructive criticism from a practical end-user perspective, because I feel that Ardour has the potential to become the de-facto standard in audio production. As a Pro Tools HD user, I am tired of wearing Digidesign’s (now Avid’s) golden straitjacket.

@Auser: i suspect you are not aware of how hardware dependent good DAW performance can be. There are companies such as Rain who do nothing but build PC’s for Windows DAW software. And then, of course, there is Apple, who do more or less the same - picking very specific hardware components for their machines that are known to work well together. Even Digidesign, when they first released PT for Windows, certified only a single model PC for use (they have expanded that but are still fairly explicit about the potential problem with using “unsupported” hardware). Several other efforts have been made to create a ready-to-run Linux DAW platform. All have essentially failed, and one of the most fundamental reasons is that if you cannot control the hardware, it is very hard to control performance.

I think that you are also not aware that the major reason people offer as a reason for NOT moving to Linux as a DAW platform is the unavailability of essentially all of the plugins they have access to on Windows. There is nothing the Ardour project can do about this that makes much sense (we have provided a way to run Windows VST plugins, but it is fragile and not really supportable, given that it is essentially dark magic).