Tag Archives: news

Synfig Studio 1.0 released

Patience is one tough lady: after 13 years in development, free 2D vector-based animation application Synfig Studio finally gets the golden badge of v1.0, delivering a sleigh of improvements and new features.

What’s new

The new version has a handful of major changes and improvements. Many of them were crowd-sponsored by Synfig’s community in 2013—2014. Here are just some of them:

  • single-window UI based on GTK+3, with various improvements;
  • full-featured bone system;
  • new Skeleton Distortion layer to apply advanced image distortion;
  • new non-destructive Cutout tool for cutting bitmap images;
  • initial implementation of a sound layer with support for WAV, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3 files;
  • dynamics converter which adds basic rigid body physics: torque, friction, spring, inertia etc.

For a more complete list of changes please read the release notes. Here’s e.g. a somewhat lengthy demonstration of the bones system developed by Carlos Lopez Gonzalezand Ivan Mahonin:

What did it take them so long to release 1.0 then? Well, among many things, there’s a historical heritage involved.

Going back in time

The project started in 2002 as an experiment by Robert Qattlebaum in creating an animation tool that would automate tweening. In 2004, Robert launched Voria Studios, an animation studio that used Synfig as its main in-house production tool.

Even though Voria didn’t last long (it was closed later same year), its first short animation movie, Prologue, was so good that not only it got positive feedback at both AnimeExpo 2004 and ComicCon 2004 — the scenes were used to demo Synfig for years to follow, while Synfig itself inherited the logo of Voria.

In an interview to OSnews, published in early 2006, Robert stated:

I decided to open source Synfig because I had reached a point where I relieved that there was no realistic chance of being able to successfully put Synfig on the market. Ultimately I’d rather everyone be able to use Synfig than no one, so I decided to go ahead and release it to the world. It was actually always my intention to open source Synfig if my business failed.

Indeed, after the studio closed, Robert had different options, and one of them was getting some big company interested in Synfig. He spoke to Apple, and they refused, so during summer 2005, he released the code under GPL. Interestingly, two years later Apple hired Robert to work on QuickTime/CoreVideo, then GameKit, then Display Systems.

From the very beginning, Robert chose a rather modest release numbering scheme for the project. The first release of Synfig as a free/libre software was v0.61.00. For the next 9 years, this scheme was maintained, even after Robert left the project in early 2007.

Now Synfig is finally where it should have been years ago: at v1.0.

What’s next

According to Konstantin Dmitriev, the next big step for the project is improving rendering performance, which is why the team is now refocusing on OpenGL support.

If you are really curious, there are two Git repositories to follow: Exhibit A is a branch of Synfig where main development work on OpenGL is being done, Exhibit B is a code repository where Ivan Mahonin is doing various related tests. Note, however, that for end-users it’s just too early to go knee-deep into unstable code right now.

Synfig 1.0 with Sita character opened

There will be further user interface improvements, but until the whole OpenGL thing is done and out of the way, they are likely to be minor. Mostly it depends on how much busy Yu Chen (main UI code contributor) will be.

Additionally, no crowdfunding campaigns are currently planned. Konstantin explains:

We used to “sell” priorities before, but we can’t do it again yet, we only work on OpenGL right now. We could try to raise funds with this particular feature in mind, but that only makes sense once we have a working prototype. It would be risky though: since hardware acceleration on multiple platforms is involved, we expect all sorts of pitfalls, especially on Mac.

Nevertheless, you can still support the project financially by either donating or paying for a training package which will soon be updated to match the changes in v1.0.

It has to be said that while monthly crowdfunding campaigns were ongoing, the team used to be a inch away from failing nearly every time.

Admittedly, the community of animators on Linux isn’t all that large to safely secure the sponsoring of the project, and Windows/Mac users have other affordable options, which might explain why commercial-grade showcases of Synfig are a rare beast. Hopefully this is going to change now that v1.0 has been released.

You can download Synfig Studio 1.0 for Linux, Windows, and Mac.

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Indicator SysMonitor Now Available for Ubuntu 15.04

indicator sysmonitorA new version of the handy system resource monitor ‘Indicator SysMonitor‘ has been released. The utility makes keeping an eye on CPU load, RAM usage and battery capacity a snap. Although similar to Indicator MultiLoad, a tool we featured in our list of 11 must-have Ubuntu power-ups, SysMonitor eschews fancier graphical touches, like usage graphs and theming options. Instead, the […]

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Ubuntu 15.04 Flavors Now Available for Download

Arriving with the final stable release of Ubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet are downloads for a colorful array of official community flavors. And this year there’s an extra spin in motion. Ubuntu MATE (pronounced Maah-tay) was formally welcomed into the official Ubuntu flavors club earlier this year. Ubuntu MATE ships with a fork of the older GNOME […]

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SuperTuxKart 0.9 Released — The Best Racing Game on Linux Just Got Even Better

super tuxA brand new version of the hugely popular racing game SuperTuxKart has zipped past the release line to land on download servers.  SuperTuxKart 0.9 is a huge update over earlier versions, running a hot new engine (awesomely named ‘Antarctica’) under the hood that aims to deliver richer graphical environments , shading and depth of field plus better kart […]

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Ardour 4 brings sleeker UI, new editing tools, native CoreAudio/ASIO support

Paul Davis et al. released a much anticipated major update of Ardour, free digital audio workstations for Linux, Mac, and, for the first time, Windows.

What’s new

Updated user interface

With this release, Ardour begins moving away from GTK+ to embrace Cairo, a state-of-the-art library for drawing 2D graphics on display. The benefit of using Cairo is that it greatly simplifies making sleek, appealing interfaces.

SCREENSHOT

For now, Ardour still uses GTK+ for laying out user interface elements, for the file browser, and a few other things. However, all of the editor’s window, all the faders, meters, buttons, dropdown lists — pretty much all widgets are Cairo-based now.

Additionally the color scheme for tracks and regions was rewritten, so now, as you can see, by default you get way cleaner background colors for waveforms.

SCREENSHOT

Note that this is only the beginning; a lot more “sights for sore eyes” will come in due time.

JACK, CoreAudio, ASIO

At some point in the past Paul Davis changed his opinion about the architecture of professional audio on Linux, and how JACK should expose itself to users. In 2008, he wrote this in a reply to a user at Gearslutz:

There will be a version of Ardour in the future that merges JACK into Ardour itself, so that there is no reason to think about running a separate program at all, and we will likely attempt to even hide the possibility for inter-application audio routing from this version. I think its a shame to limit one’s possibilities in this way, but given that Ardour is a user-driven effort, I imagine it will happen anyway.

In a way, it just has.

First of all, Ardour 4 no longer depends on JACK on every platform it runs on.

Are you a Windows user? You can choose between ASIO and the Windows port of JACK. Are you on Mac? CoreAudio or JACK for OSX — make your choice. Are you a Linux user? ALSA or JACK. Seriously.

For all these options you retain at least basic hardware connectivity for both audio and MIDI I/O.

SCREENSHOT

The Audio/MIDI Setup dialog has been enhanced accordingly. E.g. you can now calibrate and set per-port MIDI latency.

MIDI editing

Improvements in working on MIDI tracks and regions have been scattered all over the user interface. But what it actually means is that you are getting an overall better experience working with MIDI in Ardour.

One such example is that MIDI signal now flows over the entire chain of processors. Robin Gareus added this tweak to circumvent limitations of the linear signal flow in Ardour’s plugin chain and make it possible to feed a plugin’s MIDI output back to a controller.

SCREENSHOT

That way, you can pick a different preset for e.g. setBfree organ simulator, and your MIDI controller will be sent a CC message to adjust the positions of motorized controls accordingly.

There’s also a working solution for merging MIDI regions via bouncing MIDI. Ardour doesn’t do simple joining of MIDI regions, because this cannot be reliably done in a non-destructive manner, but you can bounce and use the resulted cumulative MIDI region.

Removing gaps between adjacent notes is now possible thanks to Legatize command available in the right-click menu when at least two notes are selected.

SCREENSHOT

A new Transform dialog provides ways to make time-based transformations (e.g. velocity crescendos) of note properties such as velocity, length etc. It’s a quite versatile tool.

SCREENSHOT

Fixing the way automation for sustain pedal is handled by Ardour eventually has led to a general improvement in the MIDI automation department. Whether you do any serious virtual piano playing or just use MIDI a lot, this will be extremely helpful. A lot of work here was done by David Robillard.

General editing and control improvements

One of the nice features backported from upcoming Mixbus 3 (commercial fork of Ardour), is the ripple edit mode. With this mode, everything you do with a region or a selection affects whatever data is to the right of that region/selection.

Say, if you delete a section, everything to the right will shift to the left by exactly how much you deleted. If you push a region forward or backward, everything to the right of it will move accordingly.

SCREENSHOT

Another handy little feature is sequencing regions. Instead of manually aligning multiple regions in a track so that they had zero gap between them, use Region -> Position -> Sequence Regions.

SCREENSHOT

Pressing Shift will limit direction of moving a region. This is helpful, when you have a lot of tracks in the current view, and you don’t want to

Yet another cool little feature is session locking, which came from Tracks Live. If there’s a slightest chance someone can inadvertently knock over your workstation’s keyboard or tap-dance on your laptop and mess the ongoing recording, use File -> Lock command. This will lock all access to the window except the Unlock button. Suck it up, cats!

SCREENSHOT

There are also several improvements in transport and control department:

  • You can configure Loop to become a playback mode rather than a separate command.
  • You can tap tempo now. Right-click on the timeline ruler to create new tempo marker, then in the newly opened dialog continuously click the “Tap tempo” button to set the new value.

Finally, QCon controller and original Mackie Control device support was added.

Reliability

As much as users adore useful new features, one can’t deny the feeling of a deep relief when your “work horse” application reduces memory usage, especially if we are talking about -80% at startup time. Ardour 4 does just that.

The new version also correctly reads the amount of open files it can realistically handle and gives you a warning sign, when you are trying to work on a large session that your computer is likely to choke on.

For a more complete list of new features and improvements please refer to official release notes.

Financials and sustainability

Paul Davis has been relying on subscriptions for supporting Ardour since early 2007. The initiative was looking promising: in February 2007, 211 people donated $8000 to support the project, which gives an average of $38 per donation.

Since beginning of 2014, donations to keep the project afloat have be on steady decline. This is partly due to PayPal fiasco, but if you look at the current stats, you’ll see that (at the moment of publishing this) 559 people have donated $2135 for the next month of development, and while there are still nearly two weeks ahead, this gives us an average of mere $3,8 per donation.

Simply put, while the user base expanded, the average donation dropped to 1/10th of its original bar in the past 8 years.

Between 2001 and 2015, the project was sponsored through consulting and development contracts by SAE Institute, Solid State Logic, Harrison, and Waves. For now, the “underfunding” is more or less compensated by the consulting work that Paul has been doing for Waves who used Ardour as the foundation for Tracks Live, a proprietary DAW of their own.

A new major Ardour release, as well as cautiously providing Windows builds, may or may not fix the situation, but it looks like the project will need some new approach to stabilize cash flow and thus keep Paul focused on Ardour rather than devote his time to friendly forks.

The status of the Windows port

The origins of Ardour for Windows go back to a Google Summer of Code 2006 project by Tim Mayberry. His work was later picked by John Emmas of Harrison to make Mixbus available on Windows. At that point, Ardour/Mixbus were still relying on JACK for hardware/software connectivity.

Two years ago another commercial entity, none other than Waves Ltd., approached Paul Davis about creating a new DAW on top of Ardour’s source code. Grygorii Zharun and Valeriy Khaminsky wrote a lot of code to get Ardour to use ASIO via PortAudio, and a lot of help came from both Tim and John, with assistance from Robin Gareus and Paul Davis.

SCREENSHOT

While Ardour reportedly works with ASIO (Tracks Live is shipping by Waves, after all), Paul Davis isn’t ready to provide full support to users of this operating systems without being backed by several volunteers willing to answer platform-specific questions to a whole new user group.

Hence initially, the Windows port will only be available as a nightly build with the new limitations to unsubscribed users: muting all outputs after 10 minutes of work. As soon as all infrastructure and human resources are in place to fully support Windows users, the Windows port will become official.

If you are interested to help Paul, please read this page on Ardour’s website and take action.

What’s next

Shortly before releasing v4.0, the team started making various improvements, some of which have been in the roadmap for a while, e.g. the Save As feature. Robin Gareus explains:

The general idea is to do more small/short-lived ‘feature branches’ in the future and keep git master branch clean(er).

To which Paul adds:

The three key areas of further work are likely to be media management and extending mixer capabilities, as well as general improvements throughout the application.

By now the amount of various small changes is reaching the point where the release of v4.1 may become imminent, although, of course, there is no rush.

Downloads

All current downloading options are listed on the project’s website.

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Tomahawk 0.8.4 Released, Plugin for Tidal On The Way

Tomahawk supports the Sound Menu

Tomahawk supports Ubuntu’s Sound Menu

A new update to the meta-streaming desktop music player Tomahawk has washed ashore, with a bunch of bug fixes firmly in tow.

News of the update, the fourth since the first 0.8.x series release last year, also reveals that a new plugin is in the works for musician-owned streaming service TIDAL.

Not that anyone already ponying up the $19.99 subscription fee will be awash in hi-def audio just yet. Tomahawk devs say the TIDAL plugin is not yet ready for prime-time use, and is not included in the compiled builds of the player for desktop users.

It is being made available to those compiling the music player from source, though. Let us know how well it works if you’re a Tidal subscriber and a source assembling ninja.

Bug Fixes in Tomahawk 0.8.4

The bulk of Tomahawk 0.8.4 is made up of bug fixes. Always welcome, these help give a boost to performance, improve memory usage and speed up the browsing of collections.

“Mostly it fixes some annoying bugs and continues to improve performance,” project developer ‘mueslix‘ notes.

A crash in the network code has been fixed, as have inconsistencies with the repeat one/all icons.

Drag and drop of files in the sidebar now works as you might expect, and alternative content sources continue to be sought when a perfect match for the track you want isn’t found.

Among the ‘hawk’s minor feature tweaks is a reordering of cloud collections in the sidebar and what is described as ‘more lenient’ handling of JSPF and M3U playlists.

Windows and OS X specific fixes also feature. For users of the latter this will be the final release to be based on Qt4.

So what’s on the road-map for Tomahawk’s next major release? Compilation support and collection management will see some major improvements. You will finally be able to pick which release or version of an album you want to browse and play.

Tomahawk 0.9 Will Switch to libVLC

Tomahawk developers hope these fixes will tide fans over until the next major release, version 0.9, tentatively set for release next month.

And it should be an update worth singing about.

Tomahawk 0.9 will feature a change to it audio-engine department. The app, like a lot of Qt-based players, currently relies on Phonon. Its next release will switch to libvlc. In doing so the app will offer better handling of content across multiple platforms and support even more audio and stream formats.

Download / Install Tomahawk 0.8.4

tomahawk google music

Google Music integration in Tomahawk

Tomahawk 0.8.4 is not yet available to install in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS an up using the official Tomahawk PPA. Which sucks for a lazy dude like me.

In the mean time you can add the PPA to grab v0.8.2.

To do this open a new Terminal window and punch the following letters on your keyboard in sequence, pulled any broken keys out of your fingers with pliers as needed:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tomahawk/ppa 
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install tomahawk

Arch Linux users can install version 0.8.3 from the AUR. SUSE-based users

Standalone installers for other platforms, source downloads and — shock — more information can be had at the official project website.

Visit the Official Tomahawk Website

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Cirrus7 Nimbini — The Most Stylish Ubuntu PC Ever?

In the market for a new Ubuntu PC? You don’t have to look too hard these days to find a company, both big and small, offering a Tux-friendly product.

While many retailers offer run of the mill plastic boxes or off-the-shelf rebrands of ‘white box’ products from Taiwanese giants, the same can’t be said of German hardware company Cirrus7. Their bespoke Ubuntu-powered Cirrus7 Nimbus won a prestigious Red Dot design award last year.

Today the company is back with its latest offering, the new Cirrus7 Nimbini. 

The new NUC measures a mere 150x150x87mm in size, which is veritable Chromebox territory.

The Cirrus7 Nimbini

The Cirrus7 Nimbini

Like its bigger sibling the Nimbi is completely fanless for silent running and is assembled from laser-cut  aluminum layers that are stacked to form a passive cooling system.

The Nimbini is available as a complete assembled system or in cheaper “kit” form.

The kit (which comes in 90 parts) will allow tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts to assemble the devices themselves to not only save on costs but also tweak the design to suit them, e.g. reducing the height if a mechanical drive slot isn’t required.

The Nimbini is features an Intel NUC board and will offer buyers a choice of fifth-generation Intel Broadwell processor, from an i3 to an i7. An M.2 SSD will ship as standard and there will be space for an additional 2.5-inch drive, so storage for multi-boots, movies and cat photos won’t be an issue.

Connectors include:

  • 2 x USB 3.0 (Front)
  • Audio jack (Front)
  • 2 x USB 3.0 (Back)
  • 2x  Mini Displayport (Back)
  • Ethernet (Back)

But the best part: the Cirrus7 Nimbini will be available to buy with either Ubuntu 14.04 LTS or Ubuntu 15.04 pre-installed. 

When Can I Buy It?

The bespoke, custom design does mean that this device is not going to be cheap as a mass produced Intel NUC offered by other retailers. Pricing for the complete system and kit version will be announced near the end of April, with pre-orders going live at the start of May.

Those of interested in buying can expect to have have the cold, silent box sat on their desk before the start of June.

H/t Fanless Tech

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