One Year Leading Ubuntu Studio

I hardly know how to describe this entire past year. If I had one word to describe it, that would be “surreal.”
Just a little over a year ago, I answered a call to put together a council for Ubuntu Studio. The project leader at the time couldn’t commit the time to lead, and the project was failing. As someone who was using open source software for audio production at the time, and at the time using Fedora Jam, I saw Ubuntu Studio as too important of a project to let die. I just had no idea how dire the situation was, or how it had even ended up that way.
With the release of 18.04 LTS Beta around the corner, I knew something had to be done, and fast. So, I jumped-in, feet first.
Ubuntu Studio, as it turns out, was on life support. It hadn’t been worked on, save a few bugfixes here and there, for two years. Many considered it a dead project, but somehow, the plug never got pulled. I was determined to save it.
I had many connections and sought a lot of advice. We got the council going, and since I was running the meetings, I became the chair. Then, I acted as the release manager. However, I wasn’t quite comfortable with signing-off on a release that would be supported for three years. I was advised by those already involved with the Ubuntu release team that it might be a good idea to have Ubuntu Studio 18.04 be a non-LTS. I presented this idea to the council, and they agreed.
Ubuntu Studio 18.04 “Bionic Beaver” was released as a non-LTS. The community was unhappy with this decision since now that meant those that only use LTS, especially in professional applications, were feeling left out. Eventually we figured out a solution, but not until much later, and that became the Ubuntu Studio Backports PPA.
During the 18.10 release cycle, we got the development ball rolling again. Len Ovens worked on a new version of Ubuntu Studio Controls that would do something that no other tool for configuring audio on Linux had been done before: adding/removing USB devices from the Jack Audio Connection Kit (Jack) as they are hotplugged, and allowing Jack to use more than one audio device simultaneously. It’s truly something that can revolutionize how audio is done with Linux. Eylul Dogruel made an amazing backdrop wallpaper, originally intended for 18.04. She and Thomas Pfundt helped with the Ubuntu Studio Wallpaper Contest, the winners of which landed in 18.10.
We had a vision during that release cycle of adding an additional desktop environment. Unfortunately, that turned out to be more work than it was worth. So, we scrapped that idea and instead of bringing a new desktop environment to Ubuntu Studio, we decided the opposite should happen: bring Ubuntu Studio to the other desktop environments. This manifested in a repurposing of the Ubuntu Studio Metapackage Installer. Len and I worked on this, renamed it to the Ubuntu Studio Installer, and got something working for the 19.04 release. Now, Ubuntu Studio has become an operating system and a toolkit.
Then there was the vision to add more tools to Ubuntu Studio and replace some old ones. The Calf Studio Gear plugins were outdated in 18.04 and 18.10. Working with Ross Gammon, we got that fixed upstream in Debian, which then trickled-down and landed in 19.04. Then there was the challenge to add Carla, an audio plugin host and patchbay, to the Ubuntu repositories. In the past this had been prohibitive. It took me almost a year, but I finally got it packaged (with the help of the upstream developer, Ross, and several others in the Ubuntu community). Now, it’s available in 19.04.
Unfortunately, we had done all of this work, but had nobody to upload to the Ubuntu repositories. I started speaking out. When I got no response, I escalated things. Eventually, it got to a member of the technical board who, upon hearing that Ubuntu Studio had no uploaders, realized that it was not able to function as an official flavor. Remember that life support Ubuntu Studio was on? Ubuntu Studio had just gone “Code Blue.” Ubuntu Studio was about to die.
Within a week, Ross and I were able to get upload privileges for the key parts of Ubuntu Studio. Then, two weeks later, Ross got upload privileges to the Ubuntu Studio Package Set, which is everything in Ubuntu Studio not shared with other flavors.  With that, Ubuntu Studio has made a big recovery.
What’s next? Len and I agree that we’d like to make it so that nobody who runs Ubuntu Studio thinks they need to add the KXStudio repositories to have a complete audio setup. We want to keep making it a full-fledged audio, graphics, photography, and video workstation. We want to be the choice for creative-types everywhere. We just hope others want to join us on this journey.
As for myself, I cannot tell you how much “Imposter Syndrome” I’ve experienced. Oftentimes, I don’t believe I’m deserving of such a high leadership position within the Ubuntu community. Me, and audio engineer / video producer / photographer from Microsoft’s back yard, would be leading the world’s most popular multimedia creation operating system. Surely, others are more qualified. Yet, here I am. It’s a good thing others believe in me, even when I can’t.
So a special thanks to those people (in no particular order): Len Ovens, Eylul Dogruel, Thomas Pfundt, Set Hallstrom, Ross Gammon, Simon Quigley, Valorie Zimmerman, Dustin Krysak, Martin Wimpress, Alan Pope, Jeremy Bicha, Walter Lapchynski, Mathieu Truedel-Lapierre, Thomas Ward, Keefe Bieggar, and anybody else I’ve missed.
And of course, thanks to my wife and son who have had to put up with me though all of this geeking-out.
Here’s to another year.
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Linux for Photography

Linux is a wonderful operating system, but one thing that gets overlooked a lot is how it can help a photographer’s workflow. In this article I discuss the software that’s available and my workflows, and pose a question for everyone.

If you don’t know my story on how I got into Linux, it’s about time I told it. It was almost 3 years ago. My son had just been born, and I had some pretty outdated photography software. I was running Adobe Lightroom 1.0 (or something like that) and Creative Suite 3. Sadly, those were the highest I could go without upgrading my Power Mac G4 to an Intel mac. Additionally, this same computer would no longer run the latest versions of Firefox. I was pretty stuck.

The real key in my workflow was Lightroom. Unfortunately, I had a really small budget. Also, it was likely that, much to my chagrin, I was going to have to go back to Windows. So, I searched for alternatives. This is where alternativeto.net came in handy.

The only viable alternative was a program called Darktable which does not run on Windows, but Linux as well as Intel Macs. Same situation, except this time there was a potential solution.

Having dabbled with Slackware in 1997 an Ubuntu in 2009, I decided to give Ubuntu a try again. This time I was blown away. The Unity interface felt comfortable, especially coming from the OS X world. Also, Darktable was a great replacement for Lightroom, and Gimp was a good replacement for PhotoShop.

The only thing missing was RAW to DNG conversion that Lightroom could do internally. I convert to DNG because it’s a fairly universal and open format, and has lossless compression which saves disk space. The only solution I could find that ran natively under Linux was Digikam with its Kipi plugins, which ran best and integrated best with the KDE Plasma desktop.  This got my switching to Kubuntu.

Unfortunately, being comfortable with my OSX-like workflow, Plasma turned out to be too windows-like. Don’t get me wrong, it can be customized very well, and the tools are excellent. But, from a photographer standpoint, it’s just too cumbersome.

Fortunately, I found out that I can run the standard Windows version of the Adobe DNG converter with WINE. This seems to work fine for my needs.

So, to stay at the most up-to-date software, I’ve been using Fedora 21 with its default desktop environment (GNOME Shell 3.14). Although not a “rolling” distribution (which tends to have breakages in my experience), it seems to always have the latest versions of software.

My workflow is as follows:

IMPORT: I use Rapid Photo Downloader. This organizes my photos by year and date into my library.

CONVERT: For this step, I use Adobe DNG converter to convert the RAW files to DNG. I discard the raw files as the conversion to DNG is lossless.

EDIT AND DEVELOP: This is where Darktable comes in. From there I can mark my picks and adjust the photos that I pick, retouching in GIMP as needed. From there, I export into my main photo library as JPEG.

ORGANIZATION: For this I use Shotwell as it can create custom albums and export to social media. This is where I simply keep my photos as it serves as a logical replacement for iPhoto for me.

What do you use? Let me know in the comments.