Posts tagged debian

Auditioning Multimedia Distros (part 2 – pure:dyne)

So, after my brush with dyne:bolic, I decided to try pure:dyne. PD was originally a revised version of dyne:bolic, but the producers of it decided to go upstream and recreate their distro based on Debian — The Universal Operating System (the ultimate ancestor of many specialized distros, including Ubuntu).

I’ve been using Debian for nearly ten years now, and I believe it is a good foundation to start from.  Unfortunately, the pure:dyne folks have a lot of work to do in order to customize their version to the same extent as dyne:bolic.  For example, where dyne:bolic has organized its apps and utilities into a very hierarchical menu system which makes it easy to find the function you want, even if you don’t know the name of the application, pure:dyne dumps everything into a single menu folder.  Unless you already know all of the multimedia apps you want to use, you have to spend a long time exploring to begin to be productive.  This is a minor complaint, of course, and otherwise pure:dyne looks like it would suit my purposes just fine.

When I tried to run Cinelerra on “leek and potato,” the latest pure:dyne release, I couldn’t get past loading my project.  This was due to the USB hard drive problem I’ve been having with certain kernel versions.  Pure:dyne, through no fault of its own, inherited the same issue.

At this point, not yet understanding the source of the problem, I gave up and moved on to Ubuntu Studio.  Since my drive worked with Ubuntu Hardy on another machine, I reasoned that UbuStu might work better.  Meanwhile, PD looks like a good distro which I would happily use again.  I expect it will be even better in future versions.

USB Hard Drive Problem

I have a Western Digital 1TB external USB hard drive.  Under Debian, it worked some of the time, but would power itself off in the middle of major copy jobs.  The drive would unmount very ungracefully and my copy would end with “input/output error” for every file after the first few.

The drive works fine with my Ubuntu Hardy laptop, so I started digging to figure out why it wasn’t working in Debian.

After lots of research, I figured out the problem.  Some versions of the Linux kernel have a USB 2.0 module which doesn’t work.  I tried loading other kernels, but couldn’t come up with one that solves the problem for that drive.

To fix the problem, I had to just remove that module (as root):

#modprobe -r ehci_hcd

For a more permanent solution, you must rename the module so it doesn’t get reloaded on reboot.  There’s probably a more elegant way to do this, but here is what I did in my new Ubuntu Intrepid setup:

#cd /lib/modules/2.6.27-11-generic/kernel/drivers/usb/host/

#mv ehci-hcd.ko kk_ehci-hcd.ko

Without this module, the drive works fine, though very slowly.  I’ve moved all my video clips to the internal hard drive for editing.

Details here: Bug #88746 in linux-source-2.6.20 (Ubuntu): “ehci_hcd module causes I/O errors in USB 2.0 devices”

Choosing a Multimedia Linux Distro

For reasons I won’t go into yet, I decided to take my tried and true Debian server and turn it into a multimedia workstation.

The machine is a Shuttle barebones case with an Athlon XP 1700+ CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a ATI Radeon video card.  It contains two WD 200GB drives, plus I’ve added a WD 1TB (I love writing that!) external USB drive.

The system isn’t exactly ideal for it, but my ultimate goal is to use it for video editing with Cinelerra in particular.  My old Debian install had too many idiosyncracies to continue with, but I really wanted to stay with a distro in the Debian family, which I’m very familiar and happy with.

I narrowed the choice down to three options.  There are other similar distros out there which might do (64Studio, Musix, for example), but these seemed like the best options for me:

  1. d y n e : b o l i c

    • plenty of great software, including Cinelerra
    • uses low-resource window manager
    • seems to have a good user base and a bit of history behind it
    • made by Rastafarians!
    • doesn’t use Debian’s apt for package management, so you must wait for the next dyne:bolic release for upgrades
  2. pure:dyne

    • entirely Debian, with traditional package management
    • uses low-resource window manager
    • supported by Arts Council England
    • although it used to be based on dyne:bolic, the latest versions have been recreated from scratch from Debian, so there’s probably still work to do
  3. Ubuntu Studio

    • Ubuntu-based, so it will have plenty of support
    • uses Gnome
    • doesn’t include Cinelerra

I tested all three, but I ended up using Ubuntu Studio. Why? Because of hardware problems of one sort or another. I’ll explain more later.