Network

Since the design of this system relies heavily on network connections between applications and/or hardware (OSC, http requests, video or audio streaming...), running it on a freed network matters. Nonetheless, if you are in a hurry, any standard compliant switch or router will make it.

  • You may also setup a small Linux machine running a dhcp server, such as the Linksys NSLU2, also known as the Slug. The latter is quite a good solution, since you may attach a hub to its second USB port, and then plugin an external harddisk (and run a file server through a NFS share or Samba), a Freeduino, a webcam and turn it into a sensor-capable device.

Tip: if you plan to use a wifi-enabled Linksys on stage, consider buying the high-gain antenna HGA7T.

GNU/Linux box

The key part of this system is one (may be several) GNU/Linux computer.

  • Some companies sell pre-installed Linux boxes. See http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/desktop.html and http://www.linux.org/vendor/system/laptop.html.
  • You may also install it yourself. Warning! Not all audio and video hardware devices are Linux-compliant. If you dont plan to build your PC from scratch, one easy way to test your actual config is to boot from a generic LiveCD such as Ubuntu or from a mutimedia/audio oriented LiveCDs :

Otherwise, you should pay attention to the following:

  • Ethernet: most Ethernet interfaces work. Prefer Gigabit if you plan to transfer big video files easily.
  • Wifi: first check if drivers are available for your specific hardware. See Jean Tourrilhes's website. Intel 2200 or 3945 chipset work fine.
  • USB Audio interfaces: Most interfaces work plug-and-play.
  • Chipset audio: Most work (such as Intel's) but their sound quality is poor and has a tendency to degrade over time (hard disk clicks etc.).
  • PCI audio cards: RME's or M-Audio's work well,and also allow to reach low-latency.
  • Firewire audio interfaces: older ones, such as the M410 dont work at all. See the Freebob firewire driver project.
  • DV video
  • USB video / webcams
  • Bluetooth: ...
  • Video card: if you dont plan to use video for anything else than displaying a GUI, you dont have to bother. If you want to use OpenGL , you should know that, as of today, most Intel chipsets dont implement 3D hardware acceleration, the few that do dont implement it fully, which may lead to unexpected behavior when using Pd's Gem lib for instance. The ATI drivers are under a transition period, but try using the old fglrx drivers. nVidia geForce graphics card work fine with the proprietary driver called nvidia (not nv, which is 2D only!). See http://www.manga-burgah.net/?q=nvidia+xorg to get working xorg.conf config files examples.
  • CPU: It's good idea to run a multiprocessor. When the load is shared, the system crashes less or only partially. The last time I tested an Athlon 64bit system, it was quite hard to get all libs and programs working. Core2Duo/Core2Quad seems to be the right choice today, especially for laptops which need less power and dont heat as much. I have no experience with Xeon/hi-end CPUs.


If you're a newbie, and still havent made a choice which distro to install, you should consider either a Debian or a Debian-based installation, such as Ubuntu. If you're a crack, go Gentoo or Slack ;-)

At the moment, I'm running Debian 4.0 stable (version name Etch) which is a good choice in terms of stability and ease of maintenance (especially instaling kernel modules such as the nVidia proprietary drivers). Now, it's got a few drawbacks: multimedia libs are developed at a fast step, and it sometimes takes years before a package makes it from the testign to the unstable and eventually to the stable branch. For instance, Bluetooth doesn't work on stable (hence the Wii), whereas it does on unstable, Gephex compiles but the GUI is unusable, etc. Actually, I think th esystem will be soon dist-upgraded to the unstable (aka Lenny) branch.

I'd say the best compromise between choice of packages/ease of maintenance/ease of install/overall performance is to run Ubuntu, better, Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the lighter desktop Xfce). I wouldn't recommand Ubuntu's latest though, rather the version that's already a semester old. Less uptodate, but more stable: who wants to crash the night of a première?