Marco Trevisani talks about  ...

The Debian Multimedia Distribution has been an effort to provide a
Linux distro that arrives with all the apps you need for music
production, and is relatively easy for new users. Right now, in May
02, there is a big new development which will be announced properly
any day now. It is called AGNULA but we can't say more than that
before the official announcement.

Marco Trevisani is one of the team and we talk to him here...

   I was in to witness the inception of DeMuDi on the linux audio dev
   mailing list so maybe I'll lead off with what DeMuDi is - Debian
   Music Distribution.

A little correction:
Debian Multimedia Distribution.

... even if it is true that in this alpha release we focused on the audio field,
because that is mostly the field of the core developers.

Could you say a little about the driving force
to create such a thing?

Well it all started some years ago. I suggested to create such a distribution,
named, at that time, LAOS (Linux Audio Operating System). It was too early but
that started the linux audio mailing list.

Why? A system like Linux is marvelous, but at the same time it is so huge that 
distributions like Debian (which is a wonderful effort) become
really complicated for new users: too many things to care about, too many choices
and decisions to take.

If you work in the Multimedia field, you know what you want and by
consequence many decisions can be taken for you. Many things you need
(audio and video card detection and set up) could be done automatically
during the installation process. If you think a Multimedia distribution
could be installed even without asking a single question, well let's
say: at least the name of your workstation....and if you want to install
from CD or from the net.
Everything in the distribution could be optimized for audio and graphics, low
latency patches and other amenities... :-)

So finally last year, when Nicola Bernardini became Director of Tempo
Reale in Florence as Berio successor, and with the coincidence of the
ICMC (International Computer Music Conference) of which I was one of the
organizers, we decided to put in some effort and try to release an alpha
version of this *dream*, and present it during the conference, and it
worked out well - also considering that it was done in a couple of particular, thanks to Guenter Geiger, who spent a lot of time
in packaging the whole thing (I was very busy with the ICMC organization).

Since then, even if the mailing lists and the site have been quite silent, we
have worked in the background especially organizing this big project funded by
the European Commission. (More to come on this one ... ed)

All the project now goes under the acronym AGNULA (A Gnu Linux Audio).

   The Debian distribution has quite a hardcore following of developers
   partly because of it's non-commerciality. What other reasons
   are there?

Mainly because of the free software direction we took, Free software Foundation
Europe is one of the partners. Then because is quite complete, then because it
is easy to integrate our project with the official distribution.
Last...because Guenter and I use Debian....:-))
Finally because it is the best distribution. The installation is a bit hard, this is
true, but as i explained at the beginning, it is not the case of DeMuDi because
of the specific field.

   In putting together the bits to make a music distro, how did you
   organise the people and tasks?

Well before Agnula it was quite random, Guenter and I we were taking care
of almost of all the tasks...we had some problems with the network repository. 
Our ISP did allow us to update the site and they were too slow in doing that...we
didn't know the future of the whole project because we were waiting for the EC.

Now it is different. Centro Tempo Reale, the leader of the project, has the core
group, in terms of organization. I'm the senior engineer, Nicola Bernardini is
the leader of the project -and keeps the contacts with the EC-,  then we have
people for different task, PR, webmaster, CVS administrator...Plus the other
partners, that coordinated by Tempo Reale, they play this role:

--Pompeu Farba, Barcellona --> with Guenter Geiger and a new audio project
they have.

-- IRCAM France  --> they will mostly work on Jmax packaging and other new

-- Red Hat France --> they will take care of the RehMuDi distribution and

-- KTH Sweden   -->  QA part for offering a 10Mbit connection....:-)) for the
project and they will contribute with software and
they have very appealing projects.

--fsf europe --> our big brother.... they check that everything we do is
absolutely free software ... even the web pages, pictures, everything...I'm so
obsessed that in the morning i'm tempted to check if the milk i'm drinking
comes with GNU GPL license...:-)). I'm joking but I totally agree with them,
also because i learned that is quite easy to talk about free software, but the
issue is way more complicated and deep and we have to work hard on this because it
is really a key point for the future of computer science and software
development in Europe at least.

Do people just 'sign up' for various
jobs or is there a fair amount of co-ordination involved?

.. First, we will ask for contributions from people in the Debian style. We need
maintainers...a lot of maintainers...we can take care of  many things regarding
the core of the distribution, kernel, scripting etc...but we really need
maintainers for most of the packages.
Coordination for the next two years will come from Tempo Reale. After the
project grows, we'll see. It could go ahead with more EC funded projects,
or maybe like Debian, it will live with its own forces and contributors.
..Documentation and easy access is another important issue also related
to the maintainers. It is important that maintainers will take care
seriously of documentation if it doesn't come with the software. The good
thing in this sense is that Dave Phillips will work with us, and with
his experience and his book, where almost all Linux audio software is
documented, we are quite covered on this side.

   Were there any special kernel tweaks done, especially relating to

Yes., but we will have to review all this now ... depends on the kernel we
decide to start with etc.
We haven't taken any decision yet. I would suppose we will work on
2.4.18, and maybe....experiment with 2.5.x. So it really depends on the
number of the kernel.

   Debian has a reputation for being one of the 'harder' distro's.
   Do you think that's fair? Would you say that's true of DeMuDi?

Well as i mentioned before. Debian is hard because it is huge. If you want to
make everybody happy and also are keeping a really full *democratic* style, 
it becomes necessary  to ask many questions, to have many options ...Sure Debian
never developed a cool GUI for installation...but the real problem is that 6
CDs and so many questions are scaring people away....

Of course as I mentioned before, it is not the case for us. DeMuDi/AGNULA is very
specific, so we dont need to ask many questions and the binary distribution
will be all on one CD.

So the Distribution will detect cards, will install *our* software, and the
one or two window managers we decide to use...then once you are on line you can
link to Debian and download the window manager you like if you dont like our
choice... Ok don't ask me which window manager we chose, because we haven't chosen
anything yet....

The first release came with Window Maker ... I use icewm-experimental

We certainly need something lite, especially for the real time software...
so it is not an easy decision.

   What are your thoughts about the future of music production
   with Linux?

great with AGNULA!!!!!!!!!!!
I really want to work in a good integration between audio and graphic and video
production....this is a hard task.

Audio Quality in Linux is now already at a very professional level....and even
better as soon Ardour will be available and a good competitor, in the free
software realm, for Pro Tools, but it is not easy for a a new user to get into this world. 
This is where AGNULA will play its key role...:-)

Thanks Marco... (And more soon on the AGNULA topic)
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