Liveslak new features, DAW Live, OBS Studio, logo contest

I wanted to update you about a couple of my projects that I was able to spend time on, now that I took some time off of work. I need to distance myself from my day job every so often to prevent a burn-out and this time I am dangerously close.
I baked bread for the first time in years and it was well-received in the family. The result was a tasty sourdough bread using the wild yeast culture that I am keeping healthy for many years now, even if I had not used it for making bread for a long time. Although a while ago I did share some of the sourdough culture with a friend who is also into baking bread. Even a tiny bit of “starter” can jumpstart your career of baking ūüôā It’s a tedious task to raise a healthy culture of wild yeast and suitable bacteria that create good bread.

But I would like to focus more on liveslak, on my Digital Audio Workstation spin, and some new software for which I created packages.

The liveslak project received some interesting new features.
Most importantly, the hard disk installer of the Slackware Live Edition – called “setup2hd” – was expanded. In the past, it used to allow only the installation of the Live OS to your hard drive. But I received requests to also make it possible for setup2hd to install regular Slackware like the official installer does. It sounded like a good idea, and starting with liveslak release 1.3.7 the “setup2hd” program will let you choose from more package SOURCES than just the Live OS. In addition to the Live OS, you can now choose to install regular Slackware from a NFS, HTTP, FTP or Samba server. In other words, Slackware’s network install feature was added.
Why is this different from the setup program on the official Slackware ISO? Well, the most obvious improvement is that you are working in a graphical desktop environment (the Live OS). You can run the setup2hd hard disk installation in an X terminal while you keep doing other stuff like reading online materials or watching a video to pass the time. Moreover, you can install stable Slackware 14.2 from the Live OS. That means MMC and NVMe drives are supported during installation (which is something the official Slackware 14.2 installer does not provide for).
And to top it off, I am now also adding “setup2hd” to the small XFCE ISOs. Word of caution: the XFCE ISOs do not contain a “huge” kernel which means if you want to install the stripped-down XFCE OS to your hard drive, you will have to do a manual “chroot” after installation completes and before you reboot, to edit /etc/lilo.conf and add a section for the “generic” kernel. and then run the “lilo” command to make it stick. Hopefully the “liloconfig” command will learn how to do that for you, sometime soon. You can always perform a Slackware network installation from the XFCE Live OS of course!

The second new feature is the ability of liveslak to configure a custom background image for Plasma5-based Live OS. The custom image is used when generating the Live ISO, as the background for the SDDM login greeter, your desktop wallpaper, and for the lock-screen backdrop.
What I still want to achieve is adding similar functionality to the XFCE and Gnome based Live variants. The snag is that the configuration needs to be scriptable, i.e. when the “live” user logs in everything must already be in place and pre-configured. For Plasma5 that was not trivial to work out, and I have zero Gnome and XFCE scripted desktop configuration knowledge. Suggestions and code snippets are welcome.

My Digital Audio Workstation project, called Slackware Live DAW, received some updates as well. The blog article I link to describes the generic process to tune and tweak Slackware for use as a real-time audio workstation, but I used that knowledge together with a whole lot of useful audio and music software to create a Slackware “spin-off” if you want – building on a lean Slackware package set plus the core of KDE Plasma5.
Since Slackware Live DAW  is based on liveslak, it profited from improvements in that area too. Most notably the DAW Live ISO now comes with a nice dark black & white themed background Рwhich is better on the eyes if you work on your musical project in a room with low ambient light intensity.

Created with GIMP

The other improvement, or enhancement if you will, is that I have collected all the DAW specific programs in their own submenu “Applications > Multimedia > Slackware Live DAW” and removed them from the “Multimedia” menu. This lets you focus on the audio workstation purpose of this Live OS by having all your tools in one place.
And of course, the “setup2hd” program allows you to install the Live OS to your hard drive. One caveat though: the installation will be pristine, meaning you will get all the packages but not the “liveslak” customizations installed. What you won’t get is: the nice wallpaper, the “Slackware Live DAV” submenu, the real-time tweaks to the Operating System and the pre-configured JackQtl. On my TODO is to create a way (perhaps a package) to apply all of these customizations easily afterwards. For now, best is to run the Live OS directly from a persistent USB stick. If you have a bit of patience and at least 8 GB of RAM, you can load the whole Live OS into RAM when it boots up, and use the USB persistence to write your updates to the USB stick while you work, using the liveslak boot parameter “toram=os“. Loading into RAM will take a few minutes but then you have a lightning fast DAW OS that runs completely in memory.

I created a short video to show the boot sequence, the wallpaper and the new submenu:

Now that I am writing about my DAW project, I also want to use the opportunity to ask you – my readers – to participate in a small contest. I am not good with graphical tools, but I would really like a couple of graphics:

  • a logo for Slackware DAW Live. Higher up on this page I used a generic “tux with headphones” image but I want something special for the project. A SVG file would be best but I will settle for a nice PNG.
  • a user icon for the live account. Currently all Slackware Live editions use the purple Slackware “S” icon , but I want an icon that reflects both Slackware and making music.

I welcome your submissions and will create an overview page with all of the graphics I receive. Ultimately I will select the ones I like most and use then in the liveslak project. So please do  not share copyrighted material.
I came up with the wallpaper image myself, and I asked a friend of mine, who is also a producer and a dee-jay, to supply some of his own black & white photography as wallpapers for Slackware Live DAW.

Some of the packages I created or updated lately

I usually update the blog when I have something to share about my high-profile packages like chromium, libreoffice, openjdk, vlc and the likes. But I add stuff to the repository from time to time that serves a specific purpose – either because someone I know requested a new package, or because I expand the list of available software for my DAW Live project. Here are a couple that I did not mention yet.

OBS Studio (formerly known as Open Broadcaster Software) is video recording and streaming software. It is sometimes referenced by people when they email me with requests to create a package for it. Working out the dependencies and packaging those is not trivial. I realized that I could use this myself (to create the above video of booting DAW Live), and have added it to my slackbuilds repository along with a dependency that was not in there yet: mbedtls. The other dependencies for OBS Studio were already in my repository: jack2, vlc  and x264.
I chose not to add “luajit” as yet another dependency. Luajit meant to add Lua scripting support, but OBS Studio already supports scripts via Python3. If anyone needs Lua as well, let me know. I also did not add the suggested “fdk-aac” encoder dependency for AAC audio since Slackware’s ffmpeg package also has an AAC encoder and OBS Studio will use that instead.
I realize that Patrick recently added Simple Screen Recorder (ssr) to Slackware-current but OBS Studio is more powerful and has a lot of features which make it particularly suited for people who stream their video recordings directly to sites like Twitch or Youtube.

Geonkick is “a synthesizer that can synthesize elements of percussion. The most basic examples are: kicks, snares, hit-hats, shakers, claps”. Unfa has a video up on Youtube in which he shows a bit of the interface and the percussion sounds you can create. I added this one to my DAW package list so you can use its functionality as a plugin in Ardour or as a standalone app.

 

QTractor? My DAW package list already contains Ardour and Audacity to use as your main application to record, mix and process music. They serve different purposes and audiences – Audacity is a multi-track recorder with nice post-processing capabilities, and for some people that is all they need when Ardour has a long learning curve.
Qtractor is yet another digital audio workstation tool. It is a multi-track sequencer for audio and MIDI, with a nice QT5 interface and extensive plugin support. I guess it is comparable to Ardour but less complex and therefore suited for somewhat less experienced musicians and producers.

And here is MuseE, another audio and MIDI multi-track sequencer with an interesting feature list and a QT5 interface. Similar to QTractor you can use MusE as a your DAW studio interface or use it to pre-process your MIDI tracks before importing them into Ardour, as shown in this video tutorial sequence by LibreMusicProduction.

It will be a matter of preference which of these programs you are going to use. They are all part of Slackware DAW Live so go ahead and try them out! The Slackware DAW Live ISO image can be found at https://martin.alienbase.nl/mirrors/slackware-live/pilot/ https://slackware.nl/slackware-live/latest/ and I recommend to copy it to a USB stick as a persistent Live OS, using the iso2usb.sh script.
If and when I manage to migrate slackware.nl to a bigger server I will be able to finally host it there along with the other liveslak stuff (Update 2020-Nov-15: I finally migrated to a new server and the old server died in the process, but not before I managed to save all important stuff).

Have fun! Eric

New ISOs for Slackware Live (liveslak 1.3.5)

I have uploaded a set of fresh Slackware Live Edition ISO images. They are based on the liveslak scripts version 1.3.5. The ISOs are variants of Slackware-current “Tue Feb 18 05:20:50 UTC 2020” with the 5.4.20 kernel but without PAM.
The PLASMA5 variant is my february release of ‘ktown‘ aka¬† KDE-5_20.02 .

 

Download these ISO files preferably via rsync://slackware.nl/mirrors/slackware-live/ (or its mirror rsync://slackware.uk/people/alien-slacklive/ but allow that 24 to sync up) because that allows easy resume if you cannot download the file in one go.

Liveslak sources are maintained in git. The 1.3.5 release has some improvements to the ‘setup2hd’ hard disk installer:

  • Include disk partitioning (cgdisk and/or cfdisk) in the setup2hd.
  • Create a non-root user and set the root password through dialogs.
  • Attempt to speed up the rsync from the squashfs files to the hard drive.

The Plasma5 variant has a nice customized “About the distro” dialog:

Please be aware of the following change in the Plasma5 Live Edition. The size of the ISO kept growing with each new release. Partly because KDE’s Plasma5 ecosystem keeps expanding, and in part because I kept adding more of my own packages that also grew bigger. I had to reduce the size of that ISO to below what fits on a DVD medium.
I achieved this by removing (almost) all of my non-Plasma5 packages from the ISO.
The packages that used to be part of the ISO (the ‘alien’ and ‘alien restricted’ packages such as vlc, libreoffice, qbittorrent, calibre etc) are now separate downloads.
You can find 0060-alien-current-x86_64.sxz¬†and 0060-alienrest-current-x86_64.sxz in the “bonus” section of the slackware-live download area. They should now be used as “addons” to a persistent USB version of Slackware Live Edition.

Refreshing the persistent USB stick with the new Plasma5 ISO

If you – like me – have a persistent USB stick with Slackware Live Edition on it and you refresh that stick with every new ISO using “iso2usb.sh -r <more parameters>”, then with the new ISO of this month you’ll suddenly be without my add-on packages.
But if you download the two sxz modules I mentioned above, and put them in the directory “/liveslak/addons/” of your USB stick, the modules will be loaded automatically when Slackware Live Edition¬†boots and you’ll have access to all my packages again.

What was Slackware Live Edition and liveslak again?

If you want to read about what the Slackware Live Edition can do for you, check out the official landing page for the project, https://alien.slackbook.org/blog/slackware-live-edition/ or any of the articles on this blog that were published later on.

Extensive documentation on how to use and develop Slackware Live Edition (you can achieve a significant level of customization without changing a single line of script code) can be found in the Slackware Documentation Project Wiki.

Have fun!

New ISOs for Slackware Live (liveslak-1.3.4)

I have uploaded a set of fresh Slackware Live Edition ISO images. They are based on the liveslak scripts version 1.3.4. The ISOs are variants of Slackware-current “Tue Dec 24 18:54:52 UTC 2019“. The PLASMA5 variant comes with my december release of ‘ktown‘ aka¬† KDE-5_19.12 and boots a Linux 4.5.6 kernel.

 

Download these ISO files preferably via rsync://slackware.nl/mirrors/slackware-live/ because that allows easy resume if you cannot download the file in one go.

Liveslak sources are maintained in git. The 1.3.4 release brings some note-worthy changes to the Plasma5 ISO image.

PLease be aware of the following change in the Plasma5 Live Edition. The size of the ISO kept growing with each new release. Partly because KDE’s Plasma5 ecosystem keeps expanding, and in part because I kept adding more of my own packages that also grew bigger. I had to reduce the size of that ISO to below what fits on a DVD medium.
I achieved this by removing (almost) all of my non-Plasma5 packages from the ISO.
The packages that used to be part of the ISO (the ‘alien’ and ‘alien restricted’ packages such as vlc, libreoffice, qbittorrent, calibre etc) are now separate downloads.
You can find 0060-alien-current-x86_64.sxz¬†and 0060-alienrest-current-x86_64.sxz in the “bonus” section of the slackware-live download area. They should now be used as “addons” to a persistent USB version of Slackware Live Edition.

Refreshing the persistent USB stick with the new Plasma5 ISO

If you – like me – have a persistent USB stick with Slackware Live Edition on it and you refresh that stick with every new ISO using “iso2usb.sh -r <more parameters>”, then with the new ISO of this month you’ll suddenly be without my add-on packages.
But if you download the two sxz modules I mentioned above, and put them in the directory “/liveslak/addons/” of your USB stick, the modules will be loaded automatically when Slackware Live Edition¬†boots and you’ll have access to all my packages again.

What was Slackware Live Edition and liveslak again?

If you want to read about what the Slackware Live Edition can do for you, check out the official landing page for the project, https://alien.slackbook.org/blog/slackware-live-edition/ or any of the articles on this blog that were published later on.

Extensive documentation on how to use and develop Slackware Live Edition (you can achieve a significant level of customization without changing a single line of script code) can be found in the Slackware Documentation Project Wiki.

Have fun!

Slackware Live Plasma5 edition ISO available (based on liveslak 1.3.3)

Yesterday I uploaded a new DVD-sized ISO for the Plasma5 variant of Slackware Live Edition based on the liveslak scripts version 1.3.3. The ISO contains Slackware-current “Tue Nov 12 23:08:45 UTC 2019” with my KDE-5_19.11 and boots a Linux 4.19.83 kernel.

Download this ISO file slackware64-live-plasma5-current.iso preferably via rsync://slackware.nl/mirrors/slackware-live/ because that allows easy resume if you cannot download the file in one go.

Liveslak sources are maintained in git. The 1.3.3 release has some fixes for PXE booting older hardware.
If you want to read about what the Slackware Live Edition can do for you, check out the official landing page for the project, https://alien.slackbook.org/blog/slackware-live-edition/ or any of the articles on this blog that were published later on.

Extensive documentation on how to use and develop Slackware Live Edition (you can achieve a significant level of customization without changing a single line of script code) can be found in the Slackware Documentation Project Wiki.

Have fun!

liveslak-1.3.0 with speed improvements

blueSW-64pxThere was no August release of a Plasma5 Live ISO as you will probably have noticed. The reason was that around the time when I released the August update of Plasma5 for Slackware, I was working on new liveslak functionality and wanted to finish that before releasing new ISOs. The testing took some more time than I anticipated due to increased work load in my day job. But I finished what I wanted to have in a new liveslak release, and today I want to write a post about the new stuff.

To accompany the new liveslak-1.3.0 I have uploaded fresh ISO images for the Slackware Live Edition. They are based on the latest Slackware-current dated “Fri Sep 7 23:00:06 UTC 2018″.
The available ISO variants on https://slackware.nl/slackware-live/latest/ are:

  • Full unmodified Slackware (64bit).
  • Stripped-down XFCE (32bit as well as 64bit), this ISO will fit on a CDROM medium.
  • Slackware with MATE 1.20 instead of KDE4 (64bit). Thanks to Willy Sudiarto Raharjo for the packaging.
  • Slackware with Plasma 5 instead of KDE4 (64bit) to showcase the KDE Plasma 5_18.09 desktop. This ISO also contains Calibre 3.30.0, Chromium 69, LibreOffice 6.1.0, and VLC 3.0.4 among many others.

The new liveslak version 1.3.0 has several memorable updates:

  • Support for a new compression tool ‘zstd’ that will increase the speed of extracting squashfs modules greatly (and ‘paying’ for the increased decompression speed with an increase of compressed size with around 10%). The “make_slackware_live.sh” script was enhanced with a new commandline parameter “-c” with which you can indicate a non-default compressor (xz being the default and zstd, gzip, lzo as the alternatives).
    Raw decompression speed is up to¬†5 times faster using zstd compared with an xz-compressed squashfs modules, but due to the nature of the storage medium, OS kernel and program execution times, the observed speed gains for the actual Slackware Live Edition vary from 20% to 80%. Largest speed gains are found when you boot a Live ISO in a virtual machine; the smallest speed gains will be found when you boot Slackware Live from a USB medium where the medium’s read speed is the limiting factor.
  • During ISO creation you can now specify your own custom default country/language. The script default is still “us” but you can select any of the other languages that are supported on boot, for instance to have a Live OS that boots into German localization and language settings without any input.
    A new commandline parameter “-l” to the “make_slackware_live.sh” script enables you to specify the ISO default language.
  • Due to changes in package lists (mostly adding new packages introduced in slackware-current) make it hard to keep the XFCE ISO below 700 MB. That was not different this time. Continuous pruning in the filesystem is unavoidable. But I think I have reached the limit of what I can cut away in relation to unneeded libraries and stuff. The ever growing footprint of Slackware-current’s applications demands that eventually I may have to start removing complete packages from the XFCE live ISO. Any thoughts as to what you find least relevant in a small ISO? Is it the GCC compiler? Is it the Asian TrueType fonts? Is it Firefox, ImageMagick, …? To me all of those are equally important and yet I may have to decide on their removal eventually.

Compression of the ISOs

I have used ‘zstd’ compression for the SLACKWARE, PLASMA5, MATE ISO images. You will notice substantially reduced boot-up times.
The XFCE images are still compressed with ‘xz’ but as a curious test, I have re-compressed the “min” module of the 64bit XFCE ISO with zstd. That increased its size with 21 MB but it’s still below CDROM size. There is a noticeable speed increase even by just using zstd on the “min” module – I get a 10% faster bootup of the XFCE Live OS in a virtual machine.

In order to keep the PLASMA5 ISO fitting on a DVD, I had to take the multilib module out. If you need multilib in a Slackware Live Edition and you are running it off a USB stick, you can simply download the module from the ‘bonus‘ directory on the mirrror server, and copy it to the “/liveslak/addons/” directory on the Linux partition of the USB stick so that it will load automatically when the Live OS boots.

Wayland?

The ‘testing’ branch in my ‘kown’ repository is currently identical to the ‘latest’ branch, so there is no Wayland support in it now. For a future ‘testing’ release I’ll most likely re-visit Wayland but I want Patrick to add Plasma 5 to Slackware first so I can do my own stuff in just the ‘latest’ branch again and use ‘testing’ for actual tests.

Where to get the ISOs

Some download locations (mirrors may need 24 hours to catch up) for the Live ISOs are:

A copy of the liveslak sources and scripts can be found here:

You can follow the liveslak development in git: https://git.slackware.nl/liveslak/

The use of zstd

The ISO images which I created with zstd compression are all using Slackware-current. Because zstd support for squashfs was added to the Linux 4.14 kernel and Slackware is using these kernels. no modifications were required for the Live ISOs to work with this new compression type. A package for ‘zstd’ or a recompilation of ‘squashfs-tools’ to add zstd support is only needed when creating the ISO. When the Live OS boots, the Linux kernel¬† takes care of the compressed squashfs filesystem transparently.

In order to extract data from a zstd-compressed squashfs module you will of course need a squashfs-tools package with support for zstd. Therefore I have both a ‘zstd‘ and a ‘squashfs-tools‘ package for Slackware-current in my repository. I am not providing these for Slackware 14.2 because its older kernel (4.4.x) is not supporting zstd anyway.

Refreshing your USB stick instead of re-formatting

If you already use¬†a Slackware Live USB stick that you do not want to re-format, you should use¬†the “-r” parameter to the “iso2usb.sh” script. The “-r” or refresh parameter¬†allows you to refresh the liveslak files on your USB stick without touching your custom content. If you want to modify other parameters of your USB stick, use the script “upslak.sh“. It’s main feature is that it can update the kernel on the USB stick, but it also can replace the Live init script. As with most (if not all) of my scripts, use the “-h” parameter to get help on its functionality.

Historical info on liveslak

More detail about the features of Slackware Live Edition can be found in previous posts here on the blog.

Have fun!