I just read an article on Slashdot in which the author claims to have created fire from water. No, really. Although Fervent Software's Studio to Go! doesn't claim such impressive magic, it sure does make the life of the traveling musician easier.
Studio To Go! (STG for short) is a live CD—a single disc that contains the complete operating system, system utilities, and all necessary applications and drivers to run a complete PC workstation. Unlike conventional operating systems that are installed to your hard disk, the operating systems and applications on live CDs run from the CD itself—nothing is installed to your PC.
Fervent Software goes one step further with STG by integrating its audio and MIDI applications so they run on a modern graphical desktop in a nice, neat package. STG lets you audition, experiment with, and operate a Linux-based digital audio workstation (DAW) without the hassles of installation—essentially decoupling the PC hardware from the audio session. With STG you can be a true traveling troubadour, roaming from town to town, PC to PC, carrying your next album's work in your pocket.
Built for Intel- and AMD-based PCs, STG has modest system requirements. It will operate on the vast majority of recent Pentium or AMD PCs and notebooks with a minimum processor speed of 800MHz (1.2GHz recommended) and 256MB of RAM (512MB recommended). Mac users shouldn't feel left out—perhaps you have a PC in the garage that'll do. If not, ask a friend or visit Freecycle.org. It's well worth it to check out STG!
STG comes bundled with audio recorders, MIDI sequencers, score editors, soft synths, a virtual keyboard, audio utilities, plugins, and all of the necessary audio drivers and system utilities to create a modern DAW—for just $99. How is that possible? Thank the programs' authors for their foresight to license their software under the GNU General Pubic License. (See the "Demystifying Linux" sidebar.) It's a labor of love that brings their extraordinary audio software to the rest of us.
Here are a few notable applications included with Studio To Go!:
Why It's Cool
|Rosegarden||Audio and MIDI sequencer and score editor||A professional audio and MIDI sequencer, score editor, and general-purpose music composition and editing environment.|
|Ardour||Multichannel digital audio workstation||ProTools for Linux. A multichannel recording, non-linear, non-destructive audio recorder, with full automation support; a mixer whose capabilities rival high-end hardware consoles; and lots of plugins to warp, shift, and shape your music, which is controllable from hardware control surfaces at the same time as it syncs to timecode.|
|LilyPond||Music engraving system||Advanced score typesetting for creating beautiful notation output.|
|Audacity||Audio editor||Popular audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux|
|JAMin||Mastering software||Performs professional audio mastering of stereo input streams. Works well with Ardour and Audacity.|
|JackTime Machine||Audio Recorder||Records any audio at any time. Filenames are saved as a time stamp of the recording. Very handy!|
|ALSA sound drivers||Audio device drivers for all ALSA-supported devices||Supports all major audio cards and on-board audio chips. Note: FireWire audio devices are not supported.|
|JACK||Audio server||JACK can connect a number of different applications to an audio device, as well as allow them to share audio among each other.|
|K3b||CD/DVD burning||Supports numerous audio and data formats, as well as ripping.|
||Mixers||A variety of mixers for specific audio hardware.|
|FluidSynth||SoundFont sample player||A real-time sample-playback synthesizer based on the SoundFont 2 specification.|
|QSynth||Front end for FluidSynth||Provides a graphic user interface with knobs, buttons, and meters.|
|Hexter||DX7 modeling synthesizer||A software synthesizer that models the sound generation technology of a Yamaha DX7. It can load most DX7 patch files.|
|Hydrogen||Drum sequencer||User-friendly, pattern-based drum sequencer.|
|ZynAddSubFX||Realtime polyphonic synthesizer||Has microtonal ability.|
|TiMidity++||General MIDI synthesizer||Can play MIDI files by converting them into PCM waveform data. It can also save the generated waveforms in various audio file formats.|
|LADSPA, DSSI, and VST plugins||Audio plugins||Hundreds to choose from.|
|Also included are a video player, web browser, email client, PDF viewer, and other programs, including internet/network connection software.|
Although first-timers may be leery of Linux, its day-to-day desktop operation is not much different from Windows or the Mac OS. Today's Linux desktop managers, like KDE and Gnome, are very easy to use. On the other hand, installing and configuring a PC for Linux audio can be a daunting task for the beginner. It still requires a bit of hocus-pocus and patience. Some even compare the process to black magic.
It is here that Fervent pulls the rabbit out of the hat. At boot time, STG will not only configure Linux for you, it will also search your system for audio cards, MIDI systems, USB drives, and the like, automatically configuring support for each hardware and audio device it finds. The result is a no-hassle, portable DAW.
GNU General Pubic License (GPL): Known as a "free software license" that grants the user the right to run the application for any purpose, to copy the application, and to study, modify, and redistribute modified versions of the application.
Linux kernel: The fundamental core of the Linux operating system. The latest release in Studio To Go! contains the latest Linux kernel, with additional low-latency patches for realtime audio.
Distribution: A package comprising the Linux kernel, system utilities, and applications assembled and usually tested before release to the public. Red Hat, Debian, and SUSE are popular Linux distributions.