Distro Spotlight: Ubuntu Studio
Ubuntu Studio is a spin of the mega-popular Ubuntu Linux distribution. Ubuntu Studio began in 2007, shortly after the release of Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn, as a standalone Linux distribution. Version 10.10 is the latest, and the one we used for Image, Audio, and Video Apps.
Ubuntu Studio is available as a bootable DVD image. This distribution can only be installed onto the hard drive; there is no live environment to test. Unfortunately, trying Ubuntu Studio in a virtual machine will not really give an indication of its multimedia capabilities, since A/V production often needs full access to real hardware. A full installation on a spare hard drive is really the only way to give this distro a proper test drive.
The installation process for Ubuntu Studio is a stark contrast to that of its parent distro. Instead of a slick GUI, complete with a feature set slideshow, you're greeted by a DOS-style blue, red, and yellow installation screen. This is not a quick installation, either. Installing Ubuntu Studio will take a chunk out of your afternoon. If you opt to install the additional packages or enable real-time processing, it will take even longer.
Ubuntu Studio broke with the theme of Ubuntu long ago, and the new purple and orange theme didn't make the transition. The default desktop theme of Ubuntu Studio is black and blue. Although still GNOME, the standard dual toolbar configuration has been modified. The bottom toolbar is completely gone, and an Ubuntu Studio icon replaces the Application/Places/System menu in the upper toolbar. The trash can and window list are moved to the upper panel, and virtual desktops are disabled. Thankfully, the window buttons are on the right-hand side.
Other major changes from Ubuntu include a lack of the Ubuntu Software Center. Instead, Synaptic serves as the default package manager. The addition of the Ubuntu Studio Controls utility contains settings for memory management.
Overall, Ubuntu Studio doesn't do anything that Ubuntu can't. But setting up real-time processing and installing all of the extra multimedia-related packages is a painful, time-consuming process in vanilla Ubuntu. The best use of this OS is as a workstation for the audio and/or video production enthusiast, though we saw no real benefit for those involved with image-related work. Because of the need to preserve the all-important audio settings for production, Ubuntu Studio should be given its own dedicated machine, or set up in a dual-boot configuration with its own drive. You can download a copy of Ubuntu Studio here.
Other A/V Production Distros
64 Studio, ArtistX, and Musix are three other free audio/video production-oriented Linux distros. Like Ubuntu, both 64 Studio and Musix are based on Debian, while ArtistX is actually based on Ubuntu. Therefore, any of the DEB links and many of the Ubuntu icons appearing underneath the applications listed in this article mean that the applicable software will work in these three distros as well. You can download a copy of 64 Studio, ArtistX, or Musix by clicking on the icons above.