New Ardour Logo

Ardour is an application for recording, editing and mixing music. It is licensed under the terms of the GPL 2.

The upcoming 3.0 release seemed like a good opportunity to take another look at the logo I designed in 2006. A selection of drafts from back then, ending with the final design:
ardour_process_old

I had to ask myself: Is this logo (still) appropriate for Ardour?

The upcoming 3.0 release will be a digital audio and MIDI production application, available for Linux and Mac OS X. It is designed for frequent and prolonged use, being able to deal with huge amounts of material, complex signal pathways, precise and intense editing. Reliability, correctness and precision are of utmost importance.

The logo should take a matching stance, be sharp and have a strong presence. I think the old version does a fine job in this regard. It also happens to be well established and liked by the community (of course not by everyone). Back then I decided to use a free-form wave shape, less stylized, more realistic. Now I think a shape with even subdivisions will make the logo appear more precise.

I worked my way through variations of the curves that describe top and bottom of the wave, the number of teeth, their shape, relative height of the type and its consequences on letter spacing:

ardour_process_new
PDF of above image, in case you’d like to take a closer look.

ardour_logo_old_and_new

Application icons, first column are the old ones. I reduced the number of teeth for the smaller versions, keeping them at least 1 pixel wide.
ardour_app-icons

The new logo is already in use on the new website that went online about a week ago. I helped a bit with color selection, made a few suggestion and provided 3 icons:
record-edit-mix

Music: Gleshnor

Sugar-coated electronic rasp.

This project started as a test of Ardour 3’s new MIDI and synth-plugin features (still in beta). In this role, it served in uncovering and fixing a number of issues and grew into something a little more ambitious over time.

The kick, bass and lead all come from instances of Calf‘s Monosynth.

When thinking about what I could draw as a cover image, Driddee jumped into my mind. Similar to the music, creating this image was a test run, with Krita. Took a bit to get comfortable with it, but now I’m rather pleased. I need more practice, obviously :)

Other formats, the entire Ardour session as well as a track-by-track export (wavpack format) are available via archive.org.

Creative Commons License
Gleshnor and Driddee by Thorsten Wilms are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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Get on Board the Blues – Guicussion Remix

Dave Phillips recently published a great Blues track in a not so great mix and made the material available on request. Since others covered the gentle just bring out what’s there (by Fons Adriaensen) as well as tasteful addition of drums (by Jason Jones), I just had to do something a little different.

Online player, choice of different formats and the entire Ardour session packed up on archive.org.

All additions are created from the original material, no samples added. Both the original and remix have been produced with pre-release builds of what will become Ardour 3.0.

Lyrics

More music from Dave
More music from yours truly

Switches in Unity menus

Plans for the next iteration of the network status menu in Unity include the use of switch widgets.

As has been brought up on the unity-design list, their placement on the right is likely to make the issue of diagonal movement often opening adjacent menus worse. Independent of improving the menu mechanics, enabling/disabling could be handled differently in style and placement of the widgets.

I think the adoption of light-switch style widgets in point-and-click interfaces is a mistake. Their look implies a sliding movement, not just a click. They are unclear about whether the labels refer to the current state, or the state to change to (only the use of bright coloration for the On state helps here, but does nothing, if all you see is an Off).

If all you have to communicate is On/Off, what is wrong with checkboxes? They do have unclear target areas (in proper implementations, the label is clickable, too), but are well established and do not suffer from the problems switches have, as listed above.

In the middle: a different take on the switch widget, trying to do without separate label and state-labels. The state that can be switched to is represented by a button, while the current state is flat, as it is not clickable.

Finally an experiment, to see whether a strike-through approach could work for a very compact solution. It is hard to find a balance between legibility of the label and making the stroke clear.

Fun with graphics card drivers in Ubuntu 12.04

Summary: If you have performance problems using the JACK Audio-Connection-Kit and the fglrx ATI grpahics card driver, switching to radeon may solve them. Unity 3D and radeon can work, but leftovers of other drivers might get in the way. Also: Proprietary, binary blobs smell bad and Ubuntu’s infrastructure around those drivers is dodgey.

On Ubuntu 11.10, I switched graphics cards and thus drivers from nvidia to fglrx without much of a problem.

I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 and was quite pleased by how smooth that went and glad for not having to reconfigure and reinstall a bunch of stuff. As with every release so far, some issues might have disappeared, but a very noticable new one arrived: focus-follows mouse combined with auto-raise does no longer work reliably. So far I failed to identify the pattern for the cases where windows are not raised, when they should be.

After a while, I wanted to get back to music production with JACK and Ardour. My system was still configured for JACK to run in realtime mode, but I got many disconnects, often right when Ardour brought up its main window. I found out this only happened with Unity 3D, not with 2D. So it seemed like either one or the combination of Unity 3D and the fglrx driver interfered with realtime mode. A fellow #lad inhabitant knowledgeable about this realtime kernel business suspects that the 3D accleration part of the fglrx driver is not preemptable.

Where does one even report bugs about that proprietary blob? And how would one diagnose what exactly goes wrong?

Now I could use Unity 2D, but I really miss window drop-shadows, dislike the look and different notification animations for the Launcher icons and hate the fact that the Dash doesn’t react to the same shortcut I configured while using the 3D version.

Initially, I thought I would need the fglrx driver for Unity 3D, but still wanted to try switching to radeon. The Additional Drivers dialog claimed that neiter of the 2 ATI options were active, but lsmod told me otherwise. I have some Wacom-related stuff in my xorg.conf, which had to be moved out of the way, to get that thing to work. After a reboot, radeon was in use, but Unity decided to drop back to 2D. The cause: Xlib: extension "GLX" missing on display ":0.0". The solution was purging any trace of fglrx and nividia(!) from my system. Also, for good measure, but I suspect it’s unnecessary: sudo apt-get install —reinstall libgl1-mesa-glx libgl1-mesa-dri xserver-xorg-core; sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg.

Now I have a working Unity 3D, using radeon, no disconnects or xruns galore using JACK and Ardour. Only new problem so far: shaky mouse pointer on the login screen.

LinuxMaya

José Luis Romero L. asked me for a Logo for LinuxMaya, the honduran Linux users group. I said yes, mainly because it was an interesting opportunity, stylistically, and a welcome break from my currently more layout and interaction-design heavy job.

From their self-description, they are a group of professional and enthusiast users of Free Software and GNU/Linux, who want to spread the word about Free Software and offer expertise in Honduras and Central America.

Now it would be cute if one could express such ideas in a logo, but it’s all so damn abstract and shared by many projects. The first responsibility of a logo is to be recognisable. So I focused on the name and found inspriation in mayan symbols and stone carving.

A few small sketches:

The final result:

3D printing to the rescue

I bought a new bicycle, recently. My first with drop-bars. The additional brake-levers ease my mind, but make it more difficult to attach any more stuff. So I went looking for a well-reviewd, certified (German Straßenverkehrszulassung) headlight with a clamp that would fit into the space right next to the stem.

The Busch & Müller Ixon Pure seemed to fit the bill. It comes with a too small clamp, but a larger one can be bought separately. Only after doing so, I realized the the lamp is put on in the opposite direction for this oversize clamp! This means the business end has to be in front of the bar, where I do not have enough space thanks to the cable connection-thingys of the brake levers.

What a great opportunity to see how far the Free Software parametric solid modeling application FreeCAD has come! The 0.12 release didn’t cut it, but with a checkout a while later, I managed to model what I call the sled, with the relevant part put on in reverse. There were a few issues I had to work around, but except for some fillets I had to do without, I suceeded. Not production ready (not that anoyne claimed that), but very promising. Kudos to the developers!

After having a quick look at the mesh in Blender, I went to shapeways.com. They claim their strong & flexible material can be used for living hinges and springs, and as far as it is required in my case, it works fine.

The quality of the surface and the corners is not great, but aside of the those ridges on the lever, overall precision seems to be excellent, as far as I can tell with such a small part. It fits very tightly, but so does the original.

The original sled has a metal inlet for the screw thread. I simply modeled a tunnel with the smaller diameter of the screw. Required some force to screw it in but seems to fit well now; only time will tell if this is a durable connection.

It took 10 days from order to shipment, $ 12.05 for the part and $ 11.31 for shipping, resulting in € 17.73. Edit: The model available for printing or download.

From a pure filling a need point of view, this was a bit expensive in time and money, but I just had to try it and enjoyed the process. On to a future with free/open modeling tools, model libraries and affordable 3d printing! :)