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Easy Disk Mounting – Gnome Disk Utility edits fstab for you.

I just wrote about the 5 drives I’m using with my new Manjaro workstation, and managing drives in Linux usually involves editing the file /etc/fstab and set up a bunch of options so they mount on startup, and mount where you want them to.

Usually I’d go to the Arch Linux fstab or Manjaro fstab pages for reference, and I’d copy and paste something from somewhere and edit some of the options to get it working for me.

However, this time, when I typed in “fstab manjaro” in the search bar, I got back “How to Auto Mount A Hard Drive in Manjaro The Easy Way”.

A video showing Gnome Dist Utility can mount drives and edit fstab for you.

I downloaded Gnome Disk Utility from Pamac, and find the “Edit Mount Options” setting. From here you can “Mount at system startup”, and a plethora of other options. It does the fstab work for you!

I also checked the disk utility that comes with Manjaro KDE, “KDE Partition Manager”. I was also able to find the settings here to edit mount points, which updated fstab.

For my simple setups, these are now my preferred way to set my mount preferences and options in fstab.

Installing SWS Extensions and ReaPack for Reaper

For both of these, we’re going to installing .so files in Reaper’s “UserPlugins” directory.

Open Reaper and in the top menu, go to Options -> “Show REAPER resource path in explorer/finder…”

This will open up the Dolphin file browser in KDE Manjaro (if that’s what you’re using, like me) to where Reaper’s “stuff” is.

In the upper right corner of Dolphin, there’s a Split button, and if you hit that, it will give you a side by side file view, making it much easier to install these.

Click your way to where you extracted the files (for me, my Downloads folder) and drag the .so file into the the UserPlugins folder in the Reaper directory.

For me, these Reaper files are located at ./config/Reaper/

Restart Reaper and you will notice an Extensions menu option in the top menu. Yay, now you can do hundreds of more things with Reaper.

Downloading the Linux sws / s&m extension

These extensions really extend what you can do with and how you can customize Reaper. I’m a noob, but everyone says they are a must install.

Their website is sws-extension.com, but I could only find Windows and Mac downloads on there. After some searching, I found a link on a forum to their pre-release page, and I downloaded what might be a slightly unstable but cutting edge build of these extensions, but yolo.

After downloading, extract the file and you’ll see 3 folders. This is basically a template for where you should put these files. Drag reaper_sws-x86_64.so over to “UserPlugins”. I also dragged the other files included to where the folders seem to suggest.

ReaPack is a Package Manager for Reaper

Installing ReaPack is basically the same. Go to the ReaPack website and download the Linux (beta) x86 64-bit if you’re on Manjaro like me, and after extraction, put it in the same “UserPlugins” folder as above.

Now (re)start Reaper and go to the Extensions menu, scroll down to ReaPack, and choose Manage Repositories. I clicked on Options to choose “Install new packages when synchronizing”, before hitting OK and taking a short walk.When I installed ReaPack with the default repositories they suggest, it installed 2,807 scripts.

I can’t believe how easy it was to just add another whole layer of stuff to Reaper, and how easy it is to integrate the work of coders and the community.

Check out this midi note splitter from the Kawa scripts. Seems like the easiest way to do fast hi hat patterns (like in trap, for example) in Reaper.


I’m overwhelmed by the options and tools and extensions and scripts for Reaper, but also completely inspired by the journey of trying to set up this DAW the way I like to work. There is a lot of power here!

Installing WordPress Development Environments in Manjaro.

Before we do anything, let’s make sure you have enough inotify watchers configured in your Manjaro installation. Type this into your terminal:

cat /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_watches

If the number is much higher than 16384 (Manjaro’s default), you’re probably good, if not, check out my article “Increasing Inotify Watchers is a Must after Installing Manjaro” to boost it up to 524288.


Coding Setup for WordPress

A few years ago, I took courses from Tonya Mork’s knowthecode.io site, and the recommended Mac development environment setup is mostly recreatable in Manjaro.

Git comes installed out of the box, and obviously you’re going to want to get Git configured early on. (Personally, I’m trying to host my own stuff at Gitlab instead of Github. I don’t need more Microsoft in my life.)

TL:DR – I’m using Local by Flywheel and PHP Storm. Nothing magic. Desktop Linux is a great option in 2020.

Package Managers, Helpers, etc.

PHP, Composer, npm, node, and gulp

I searched for “npm” in Pamac and installed it from there. It will include node.js and a bunch of other dependencies, so obviously click “yes” when it asks.

To make sure npm works, let’s install gulp globally, which is something I’ll be using with my WordPress theme builds. Type this into the terminal:

sudo npm install --global gulp-cli

I also installed php and composer right from the pamac interface. You will usually be developing in some sort of container that is similar to your production environment, which brings us to…

docker

Next, I installed docker and docker-compose from pamac. After, type the word docker into your terminal and if a bunch of stuff comes up, it installed correctly.

I, however…

I Had an Oopsie?

This section isn’t necessary unless you have this problem, but I just thought I’d share what happened as I was installing and writing this. Skip to adding your user to the docker group.

For whatever reason, on my next restart, I tried to do something with docker, and would get a messages that the docker daemon wasn’t running. Umm…dang.

I found the command to start the docker daemon manually:

sudo dockerd

and I also found a way to configure docker to start on boot, which solved the problem I was having above:

sudo sysemctl enable docker

In the dozens of times I’ve installed Manjaro, I’ve never had this problem with Docker before. It’s possible I missed the next step…?

Adding Your $USER to the docker Group.

The docs recommend adding yourself to the group “docker” to run docker commands without sudo. To check all of the groups on my system I typed less /etc/group into the terminal. It was a long list and docker was at the bottom. So I used the following command to add myself to the group:

sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

After logging out and in, and typing groups in the command line, you’ll see a list of groups that your user belongs to, and docker will be on there.

(Adding my user to groups is also something I’m going to do when setting up Jack for audio production on my workstation.)

A few relevant Docker docs:
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Docker
https://docs.docker.com/install/linux/linux-postinstall/#configure-docker-to-start-on-boot
https://docs.docker.com/config/daemon/


WordPress Dev Environments

On Mac, I used MAMP for years, and then Local by Flywheel. On Linux, at first, I tried Xampp for a while, then I switched to VVV, then WP Local Docker by 10Up. Just a few months ago, Local by Flywheel was finally ported to Linux! Here are some notes and links for setting these up.

Local by Flywheel

I’ve only begun testing this, but it’s so simple to use, and seems much faster than the version I used years ago on a mac. I’m going to make it my day to day environment for a while, and hopefully it works out. If not, I have no problem going back to WP Local Docker, which I’m still happy with.

I installed Local by Flywheel from the AUR (Arch User Repository), and it failed, at first. I realized I was missing a couple of dependencies.

Installing Dependencies

When you are installing something from the AUR, you’re going to want to pull up its page and see the comments and notes. The Local by Flywheel AUR page helped solve my issues, when I realized the package I was installing was asking me if I wanted to install any dependencies. Luckily, those are also listed on the AUR page.

Dependencies: Search and install/build the following apps one by one – ncurses5-compat-libs (AUR),
nettle6 (AUR)
numatcl
rpm-tools

(check to see if any other dependencies listed are mising from your machine).

After those dependencies were in place, I had no problem installing Local by Flwheel from the AUR.

Permissions

The AUR page contains a pinned comment that says:

“You’d need to do: sudo chown root:root /opt/Local/chrome-sandbox and: sudo chmod 4755 /opt/Local/chrome-sandbox for it to work.”

Might as well hit f12 and run those.

First Site Fails for me – Permissions thing?

I hit the super key and type “Local”, click the icon, and get through the prompts and try to make my first site. On both my workstation and on my Thinkpad, I had problems with my first site. There seemed to be a password popup to give Local some root permission for localhosting stuff, but as soon as it becomes visible you get an error. Try to find that dialogue box and get that password in there anyway, and the rest of your sites will work fine. It’s a one time thing.

So far, liking Local by Flywheel, and officially making it my day to day now.

WP Local Docker by 10Up

This is a comand line docker environment that gets close to the feature set of Local, and was indespensible to me while Local by Flywheel was unavailable for Linux. The mailcatcher was a difference maker for me the few times I used it.

Since we set up Docker above, installation for WP Local Docker went smoothly for me by following the docs.

Just remember that if you’re going to switch back and forth between any of these environments, you should probably log out of Manjaro and back in, otherwise they might be fighting for hosting redirects.

VVV

The official way to test WordPress plugins and themes and to contribute to WordPress core development is this environment called Varying Vagrant Vagrants.

I used it for a few months and it felt pretty slow, but I know I’ll be testing things on here at some point.

Install vagrant from pamac and then use the following line to install vagrant hosts updater:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-hostsupdater

Now we get to install Virtual Box.

First, had a failure here because I forgot to enable virtualization on my brand new Ryzen computer. So I booted into the bios hitting f12 when seeing the splash screen and went to M.I.T -> Advanced Frequency Settings -> Advanced CPU Core Settings -> SVM Mode and turned on AMD-V. (You may have to enable virtualization on Intel computers, too. Check your bios).

Next type this into a terminal to see which Linux kernel you are running:

mhwd-kernel -li

I was at linux55, so I installed virtualbox and linux55-virtualbox-host-modules (this number should match your kernal version.). Restarted and installed virtualbox-ext-oracle.

Add yourself to the vboxusers group with

sudo gpasswd -a $USER vboxusers

Now VVV is ready to install by following their docs.

I just realized that I used two different commands in this article to add a #USER to groups. They both work, but Usermod -aG vs gpasswd -a as a best practice can fill you in on the differences.

$USER is a variable for the user you are logged in as, if you iddn’t know.

Xampp

This has its own installer you can download right from its site. I feel like this has the least features of all of the WordPress development options, but it’s a no frills, basic package that gives you the minimum software stack you need to run WP. One issue for me was permissions, since your sites by default exist in the /opt/lampp/htdocs/ folder, and not your user folders. Nothing against Xampp, I’ll fire it up to practice PHP tutorials, for sure.

Code Editors

Another deeply personal choice. Editors like Sublime Text, Atom, and VS Code (Microsoft, tho…) are all available from various repositories on Manjaro. And mentioned above, Manjaro KDE comes with the Kate text editor, which I’ll gladly open up config files with.

PHP Storm

I’m newish to PHP, and WordPress, and need an IDE right now. I tested PHPStorm a year ago on , and it worked great. Obviously I’m finding even better performance on my 2020 Rzyen workstation.

JetBrains, the makers of PHPStorm, have one of the best installers on Linux with their Toolbox app, which allows you to install and manage your JetBrains apps really easily.

Just download Toolbox .tar.gz from that page, go to your Downloads folder and extract it, and double click.

Question for Manjaro KDE Pros – am I missing any KDE / Manjaro specific gui integrations by installing PHPStorm from the JetBrains Toolbox App? Would PHPStorm from the AUR be better in any way?

This is NOT free, unlike the editors I mentioned in the intro to this section. I paid like $90 for a year of PHP Storm, and what’s cool is the price goes down every year if you renew it. I’m very happy to support companies who support Linux!


That’s all for today. I was working on a theme for this site for a while, but now I’m having trouble with the build process. Hopefully when I get that ironed out I can jump full on into looking for clients to build WordPress sites for. Looking for the right clients!

Broke Boy System Snapshots and Cloud Sync on my Manjaro Workstation

This is a work in progress. I’m finally confronting file structure on my system so I can do “pro work”. The options and solutions are plentiful – I just need a plan.

Right now, however, I’m broke. I’ve got to work with what I’ve got, and hopefully when I land my first gig, I can get a NAS, and more portable storage to keep physically “offsite”, in case of fire or theft, etc.

None of this is advice and everyone’s needs are different. I’m just trying to blog every day about Linux, and thought I would share if anyone is thinking about switching from Windows or Mac.

And of course for any coding I do, I have to use Git. I should set up my Gitlab right after I publish this, another thing I’ve been procrastinating about.

TL;DR – I’m using TimeShift for system files and testing MEGA for cloud backups and sync.

My Current Drives.

Four drives (totaling 3.5tb) are in my computer:

Two 1tb NVMe drives on my motherboard (wish I got a motherboard with three!) – “1. System” and “2. Work”.

Two ssds – one 500gb (“3. Samples”) and another 1tb (“4. ?Unknown”).

Nobody curr, but “3. Samples” is the only drive with a lot of stuff on it right now – about 230gb of samples I rescued from my Macbook Pro that died in 2017, and I still plan on curating this drive often. It’s oddly overwhelming to start from a blank slate.

My two external drives:

4tb external usb mechanical hard drive “5. Backupy” – Backups and ‘dumps’, to be sorted. Stays offline. I need at least one drive to duplicate this to asap.

500gb “6. Usb-c Portable SSD” – To mirror my internal “3. Samples” drive, so I can take my samples on the go, have a backup, have presets and configuration file saved, etc. For a while, there should be space on here for other stuff, but I need more portable drives for actual project backup.


TimeShift for Operating System File Shapshots.

For backing up my system files, I’m using Timeshift. It ships with Manjaro KDE, and I set it up to do a ton of snapshots (Monthly – keep 2, Weekly – keep 3, Daily – keep 5, Hourly – keep 10. And I should probably do a manual snapshot before I do any big system upgrades).

Overkill? Probably / yes, but the point is to get up and running as soon as possible if I screw something up and can’t boot anymore. This is my work machine!

In theory, I should be able to install Manjaro fresh and get up and running ASAP, but that doesn’t always go as smoothly as planned when there is a deadline. I need to test restoring a snapshot from booting off of a live usb stick, as if my system was hypothetically stuck. If I can get that down, that’s one headache I won’t have. Manjaro, while community tested, has rolling release updates. But also I’ve been able to fix most things. Probably overkill…

I’m doing the snapshots to the 4tb external hard disk (5. “Backupy”), and I will keep an eye on the size (so far 2 days of Snapshots is only 18.7gb). Is this the best place to keep them?


Cloud Storage and Sync Choices on Manjaro.

First, I just want to say be careful what you put in cloud storage. Think about your long term privacy and security.

If I’m producing music or mixing tracks, I should probably have those projects sync’ed to the cloud. Any Blender projects I’m working on, why not? In theory I will sync my Reaper Production folder to my Thinkpad and be able to build tracks from any computer, and save the heavy duty mixing for when I’m at my workstation, everything sync’ed up and ready to go.

If you’re going to be sync’ing files, remember to make sure you have increased the number of inotify watchers.

Google Drive and Dropbox are out.

Google Drive is out, because they don’t even have an official client for Linux (even though you can get sync to work). If I can find something that syncs my photos on Android (a Pixel 2XL is my main camera), I might be able to replace Google’s Photos app, too.

Dropbox does have a Linux client, but they are out because I don’t trust them. If I have clients that demand I use Dropbox because they are used to it, I will reconsider, but I doubt it will come up.

MEGA Checks All the Boxes.

Mega is the first cloud storage service I’m trying. End to End privacy made this an easy choice. Many services don’t offer it, or it’s an add-on in the case of pCloud.

Mega came with 15gb of storage out of the box, but gave 90gb worth of bonus space (35gb of that expires after 30 days, and the rest expires after 6 months), which gives me a chance to honestly evaluate the service.

So far, I’ve sync’ed 19gb+, more than the original 15gb alotted. So I’m paying soon…

MEGA
400gb$5.59
2tb$11.19
8tb$22.40
16tb$33.61
Mega pricing tiers
Google Drive
1tb$9.99
2tb$19.99
10tb$99.99
20tb$199.99
Similar Google Drive tiers

The price also makes it an easy choice, though.

If you pay for MEGA for a year, you can get 2 of those months for free, so I hope I stumble onto a spare $220.40 soon for the 8tb. 2tb would probably work for me, as well.

The MEGA apps on both Manjaro and Android are simple and useful, and offer exactly what you want to do with cloud storage.

I installed the sync app on Manjaro from the AUR, and it failed the first time. I went down the list of dependencies one by one and checked if I had them, and after installing what I needed, no issues so far.

pCloud Was Runner Up.

pCloud also has good deals. They are a contender. If anything goes sideways with MEGA, I’m turning to pCloud. The reviews are great everywhere I’ve looked (top tier, usually ranked above MEGA), but they do charge $50 a year to encrypt your files end to end like MEGA does. Do I even need that?!

pCloud also has lifetime plans which cost about 3.5x the yearly plans, as I look right now – $350 for 2tb for life + $150 for the end to end encryption for life.

Yandex Disk and SpiderOak

Really, I think I’m going to be happy with one of the first two, but just wanted to mention these because they both apparently work on Linux.

Yandex Disk got some good reviews in blog posts, even though they all warn that it’s a Russian service, so one should be wary of Russian privacy laws, without elaborating. Hmmmm….

SpiderOak got a shout out from Edward Snowden in like 2014. That’s pretty much all that anyone says about it.

NextCloud is Probably the Choice for Personal Sync.

Someday, I want to set up my own Nextcloud Sync on a rapberri pi or whatever the cool kids do. There are providers who will install NextCloud for you for free with a few gb to try out, too, I think. Ultimately, this feels like the right direction for alot of my needs, but now is not the time.


Welp, that’s where I’m at right now….

Thinking of My Next Steps.

I should have ample local and cloud storage to keep things safe for the moment, but I will still need to invest a few hundred dollars a month for a little while to build up clones and redundancy.

The immediate plan is to buy one of these desktop Western Digital usb drives that goes on sale all the time. I think 8gb comes down to $140, 12gb $200, and 14gb $250 (don’t quote me on those prices). At this point I could easily clone everything onto one of those and keep it in the secret location. That’s easy mode.

Obviously, I want a more sophisticated desktop solution. I would love a NAS. I would love more usb drives. And I would love maybe another 2 tb’s of internal storage.

I have to figure out where to dump my footage when I record videos and how to store it. And the same with photos. Where do I dump my sd cards. How do I process and tag and sort and store them? I have a lot of internal space, so for now, there.

Piece of Mind

I’ve made a lot of mistakes with data over the years. I had a recording studio in the 00’s, and I lost a disk in a harddrive raid that devastated me. I went into a severe depression. I still dream about having that work back and the lost opportunities.

Also in 2017, when my Macbook Pro died…and another time I had a weird Git error where I typed the wrong password and my files disappeared for a respository I was about to start for a project I was working on for a long time. etc.

These were painful, avoidable mistakes. I know it’s peace.

Some Stuff I have to Check Out / Learn

This is just a random list to end the blog post. Part 2 someday, when I actually have some data.

rsync

clonezilla

duplicati

deja dup

duplicacy

restic

unison

aptik

freefilesync

syncthing

backintime

2 good Manjaro threads:

Increasing Inotify Watchers is a Must after Installing Manjaro

When I first installed my WordPress development setup in Manjaro, and typed npm run watch to run some gulp thing in the background, the process would stop and give me an error like “User limit of inotify watches reached”.

If you are doing anything that watches files, often in coding or ide’s or even some music software, you are probably going to have to raise the inotify limit.

To check your max inotify watchers in the terminal, type:

cat /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_watches

The default for Manjaro is this line found in /etc/systemctl.d/50-max_user_watches.conf

fs.inotify.max_user_watches = 16384

Yeah, 16,384 is not enough, based on how fast my gulp process crashes.

We’re changing it to 524288.

fs.inotify.max_user_watches = 524288

Easy Mode in Dolphin and Kate

I manually updated that line above by clicking on the “/” in the top breadrcumb in dolphin, the graphical file browser, and then navigating to the etc and then systemctl.d directories. Clicking on 50-max_user_watches.conf opened it with the Manjaro KDE default Kate text editor.

I changed that one number, hit save, and typed my password. (because you need root privelege to edit systemctl stuff).

Or just type this into the terminal:

echo fs.inotify.max_user_watches=524288 | sudo tee /etc/sysctl.d/50-max_user_watches.conf && sudo sysctl --system

Raising the number of inotify watchers is probably a must for professional work. You’ll see this question dozens of times on stack overflow and github issues.

Now, this is one of the first things I do when I do a fresh installation.

Hat tip to Donny Kurnia on github.

Setting Up Manual Fan Speed Controls for Nvidia GPU’s in Manjaro

I’ve been using AMD rx480 / rx580 graphics cards for a few years because they are the bang-for-the-buck champs at under $100 used. They’re even sold in current Mac Pros still!, and are extremely capable for professional work.

But when I built my workstation earlier this year, I had about $400 to invest into a GPU. My choices were between the AMD Radeon 5700xt, Nvidia RTX 2070, or a used Nvidia 1080ti (last gen’s flagship).

I picked the 1080ti, because I know there will probably be a 3070 this year, and it should trounce the 2070 (and my 1080ti). All things being considered, the choices I had were pretty similar, but unlike most gpu’s that top out at 8gb of vram, the 1080ti (and 2080ti) have 11gb. This means I can work on slightly larger projects.


When installing Manjaro, on the first options screen choose the “non-free” drivers. (Usually when I install Manjaro on an rx580 system I choose free). This will install the Nvidia software you need to set this up.

This is not necessary if you don’t have an Nvidia card or if you don’t ever want to manually control the fans. I wanted the option to blast the fans if I’m doing an intense render, for example.

Adding Fan Control To Nvidia X Server Settings

Hit the “super”/windows key, and type “nvidia” into the search, and click on the title. In “Thermal Settings”, you’ll see the fan speed, and we’re going to add a slider to to manually control these settings if you want to.

I went to /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d using the dolphin file browser, and opened 90-mhwd.conf by clicking on it.

In KDE’s Kate text editor, I scrolled down to Section “Device” and added Option "Coolbits" "4" to the end of that section, as found here: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/NVIDIA/Tips_and_tricks#Set_fan_speed_at_login

Obviously you can do all of that in the terminal, too. But this is a part of my newb series.

Switching to Reaper on Linux – Which Plugins? June 2020.

Three months ago I built a Ryzen 3800x + Nvidia 1080ti workstation for making stuff on Linux (Manjaro is my OS). So far I’ve beeen learning Blender and working with WordPress, but in May I started to get my audio production setup working. Here are some notes on the software choices I ended up making.

The goal is to make soundtracks for videos and games.

I also need to pay bills, and would love edit podcasts, work on sound design, or mix music / albums for money. If you’re interested in a 1-off, or seeing if we mesh, send an email. If you just want to send me money so I can try to blog about Linux daily (this was a lot of research!), please paypal me at bobby at tech dot haus. I accept.

I’m going to be working at 96kHz, btw. I kind of want to do 192kHz, but we’ll see how the 3800x and my nvme drives hold up. My desire to use high sample rates has to do with a lot of the plugins I’m going to be using not having “oversampling” or proper anti-aliasing filters. It is my understanding that at a higher sample rate, you get less nasty bounce back aliasing by raising the nyquist limit. Also, shorter latency. I should be able to afford a $100 1gb ssd every month if I plan to take this seriously, so I’m not going to worry about the extra storage space higher sample rates use up. Quality first.


Digital Audio Workstations (DAW)

I was a Mac user for 19 years. I used Logic to record bands since before Apple even owned it, Reason from version 2.5, all the way up to Reason 10, and Ableton Live for a time while I lived in Brooklyn (because of course). None of those work natively in Linux.

The three top DAW options on Linux I narrowed it down to are Reaper, Tracktion Waveform 11, and Bitwig Studio 3.

For now, Reaper is the one. I’m watching Reaper Mania videos on Youtube by Kenny Gioia and doing tons of research. If you have 11 minutes, he made a video called “Why Reaper?”

Kenny Gioia breaks down why Reaper is awesome.

Pretty much everything you can think of is customizable in Reaper, allowing the user to make it the perfect tool for most tasks. I couldn’t be more psyched to switch to Reaper. I feel like this is going to be a long-term tool for me.

As far as Tracktion’s Waveform 11 Pro goes, there’s a FREE version, as well, and I need to spend some time with it someday. I’ve started it up and played a few synths in it, I just don’t have the time to learn two DAW’s right now. (Tracktion sends me 40% off coupons a lot in their emails, btw.).

Bitwig is so fun to demo, I just wish I had $400 to get it (Bitwig sends me $299 sales often in their emails, and the 8 track version comes with the keyboard controller I want to buy). To me, Bitwig is a step up over Ableton Live, but after spending time learning Reaper, I know I want to be mixing and editing in Reaper. If I need a different workflow for production, though, maybe I will turn to Bitwig someday.

All 3 were available to install from the AUR. All 3 are awesome choices. I just think Reaper is the one.

I know you can use Windows software on Linux through “Wine”, and there are also Windows vst wrappers, and many have reported great success with those solutions, but I’ve decided to try to run as much as possible with Linux builds, buy from companies who support Linux, or use software from open source projects (and also contribute to those projects even if it’s just by promoting them or by reporting bugs, etc.)


Synths and Sounds

Some of my goals for this year include getting much better at left hand synth bass playing, and getting much better at sound design, especially long evolving soundscapes and stuff that would work for movie or game soundtracks.

For now, I’m working with free vst synths that I was able to install and get running in Manjaro. An underrated aspect of using free synths is the amazing wealth of presets other people have made. It’s worth having these installed to scroll through for inspiration from time to time (you can also learn these synthesizers by backwards engineering patches that catch your ear).

Vember Audio Surge is Open Source!

I actually used Surge back in 2010 or something on my old white Macbook. I think it was like $199. Now it’s free and hopefully will keep being developed and improved.

Setting Surge up and playing with it conjured up a a lot of good memories. I read the manual and I feel very confident that I can produce with Surge, which is loaded with sound sculpting features and capable of amazing digital sounds.

The version I installed is a VST3, which is rare for Linux – mostly VST2’s here.

u-he Synths Are a Blessing

If you’re only going to be limited to a few plugin makers making plugins for your operating system of choice, you couldn’t do better than that company being u-he.

I have 4 (soon to be 5?) free synthesizers made by u-he: Podolski, Triple Cheese, Beatzille, and Tyrell N6. I’m going to try to install their flagship Zebra demo because I think the free “Zebralette” comes installed with it.

I’m eager to buy a few of their synths someday: Bazille (after I learn Beatzille deeply) and Repro (because I just sold my Korg Monologue and I dig their analog emulation in this plugin). Maybe others like Zebra or Hive someday. Hans Zimmer is supposedly a big user of Zebra, so if I’m getting into soundscapes, that should be on my long list.

Installation was super easy on the free ones. There’s an install.sh file in the downloads folder, and you just run the following in the terminal:

./install.sh

I see plugins for sale “used”, and you can transfer the licenses, but I want to support companies who support Linux, so I’m going to try to buy “new” licenses for any u-he stuff, which means I will be waiting a while, due to lack of funds, unfortunately. Luckily the free stuff is awesome and it will take me a while to explore the limits of them.

Other Free Synths

Can’t overlook OB-Xd, an opensource Oberheim-a-like that DiscoDSP is now maintaining (just download it, pretty sure it’s free). Again, there are just so many presets for this, and it covers a lot of bases for classic 80’s sounds.

Speaking of 80’s, Dexed is an FM synth modeled after classic Yamahas, and yes, it can load DX7 patches. There are a lot of synths that do FM now, but think about the thousands of patches for DX7’s that have been made over the years. Oxe is a very ugly FM synth that had some presets that made me want to revisit it in the future, too.

Free Chiptunes Synths Galore

If you’re into chiptunes or bleepy blops, Soca Labs made a little series of emulations that are called 8-bit Treats on the Tracktion site (check out the audio samples to see if these are your cup of tea), but I got them from the Manjaro software installer (pamac), i think.

DiscoDSP also maintains the free OPL Yamaha synth emulation that was used in old Soundblaster PC cards, and can do some awesome fm video game sounds.

It’s funny, after a few minutes of playing with Surge the other day I had my own chiptunes sounds coming out it. I mean I love the Castlevania soundtracks like everyone, but I have no specific desire to produce chiptunes. Keeping an open mind. Maybe I’ll reach for them. Again, I’m trying to think about the concept of building blocks in sound design. Maybe these are the start to something special I chain together.

There Are More Paid Synths, Too…

Tracktion, DiscoDSP, Audio Damage, and TAL (Togu Audio Design) all offer several paid synths worth checking out.

I got a synth called Biotek 1 from purchasing a Focusrite interface and a Novation controller years ago. Great perk!, but it crashes for me. I wonder if I’m missing a dependency. Regardless, it offers me a cheaper upgrade path to Biotek 2, so I have to see if that works on my system or not.

There are probably dozens of free and paid synths that I’m forgetting, but look how much I have to learn already!

What About Samplers?

Good question. I’m still researching here.

Sitala is a free drum pad style sampler with a few ways to tweak your sounds. I’ll probably make some templates in Reaper that start with Sitala somewhere. When you initiate an instance of this plugin in Reaper, it asks if you want it to have a stereo output or 32 outputs, and it can create them automatically.

There are three commercial/paid samplers that I want to demo, and I can see myself picking up at least two of them.

The first, which I think will be an insta-buy once I have a spare $60, is TAL Sampler. The workflow and sound stand out to me. It’s like a synth where the oscillators are old school hardware sampler engines.

Another sampler that I am intrigued by is Renoise Redux. This is a weird one. Redux is a sampler that comes with the tracker from Renoise built in as a phrase sequencer. This seems really unique and being able to bring that tracker workflow into any DAW as a plugin for only $65 is quite compelling. However, do I know how to use a tracker? No…and I have a lot to learn right now. I want to hear the included effects too.

The third option I want to try out is Bliss by DiscoDSP. It’s supposed to be able to sample your other vst’s easily, and that workflow is interested to me, because building sounds from other sounds is very satisfying. So if that works as advertised in Reaper on Linux, this is a contender for my THIRD sampler.

I feel like if I had Bitwig, I’d probably be super happy with their built in sampler, but the portability of these plugins and different workflows they present still make me want to try and probably buy all of them.

Pianos?

As far as I know, the modeled pianos from Pianoteq by Modartt are the best option here. These are very expensive, but on my list of things to check out. There are a few other pianos and organs and electric pianos etc. to check out on Linux so I’ll report back, as well as testing some of the products I own from my Mac days in a vst wrapper someday.

But as of right now I don’t exactly have to emulate a piano. I just don’t have a need for a “real” one. I like weird synth piano-like things, or whatever.


Effects in Reaper

Reaper comes with some high quality plugins! They don’t have a graphical user interface, so no fancy knobs or wood paneling on the ummm “side” of the plugin, but the sound and functions are there. I’m especially excited to use ReaComp, the compressor, and ReaDelay, their delay that has unlimited taps. (Check out some delay ideas from Sound on Sound. This is sort of how I will be applying ReaDelay)

Included with Reaper are also plugins that are not vst’s, called Jesusonic (JS). There is a lot here. I count at least 6 compressors and limiters, for example. I will post about these someday in the future, just want to note that you already get a large collection of tools included with Reaper. This is a deep DAW.

VST Effects – “Building Blocks”

One of my favorite things about Reaper is that the tracks, routing, and folders system almost encourage you to build parallel processing into your workflow. Plugins start to look like building blocks for signal chains. This is where I’m most excited about exploring. I know I can build sonically exciting mixes with this software.

Airwindows, Another Blessing.

Back in 2009, I bought 7 plugins from this company Airwindows for like $59.99 each. Today, all of their 100+ plugins are free and supported by a patreon account (I just donate $1.66 a month for the past 2 months. I’m not kidding, I’m poor). They were Audio Units only at the time (a Mac-only format I was using in Logic). The fact that these are on Linux now is a gamechanger for me.

This is a truly overwhelming collection of tools, sometimes very similar, but with different flavors and nuances. There are not a lot of jack of all trades here – think niche, specialty plugins. Exactly the kind of stuff I’m looking for to build up some signal chains for mixing!

There is a lot to mess with and learn here – distortions, tape emulations, tone shapers, compressors, reverbs – all of those are plural. And a lot more…

These have no user interface or metering, so their use case really fits this building block idea in that sense, too.

For example, I’m sure I will use some of these “character” plugins from Airwindows in combination with some ReaDelay presets I build, to make some really interesting effects. Maybe throw in some pitch shifters, or some crazy eq to make some sparkling high end soundscape.

I promise I will write about these more in the future.

Reverbs and Delays

There are two paid reverbs I know I will be getting – the reverb from u-he’s Uhbik collection (more on this below), and Audio Damage’s EOS reverb ($59).

Besides the free Airwindows weird space creators (Pocketverbs, Nonlinear Space, MV, Starchild), I installed TAL Reverb 4 and Dragonfly Reverb (both free).

If you want something weird, check out Teufelsberg Reverb.

I plan on testing Valhalla DSP reverbs in a vst wrapper someday, but they are Mac and Windows only sadly.

Delays are pretty amazing at creating a sense of space in a mix without clouding things up as much as reverbs can.

However, when it comes to emulating spaces, verbs might come in handy for sound design and mixing for videos or games. Really looking to find the right balance between delays and reverbs.

Reaper comes with ReaVerb which is a convolution reverb. Should i use IR / convolution verbs? Another building block…

There are three “Bucket Brigade” style old school dub delays that I’m thinking of testing out. TAL-Dub-X ($25), Audio Damage’s Dubstation 2 ($39), and u-he’s “Colour Copy” ($69).

Compressors

Besides ReaComp and the JS compressors I got with Reaper, here is a (full?) list of the compressors that you get from AirWindows:

Podcast, PodcastDeluxe, Recurve, PurestSquish, VariMu, Pressure4, Pop, ButterComp, ButterComp2, Logical4, Surge, Pyewacket, Thunder, Block Party.

There may be more that I missed.

AudioDamage has updated their Rough Rider compressor to Version 3, which has a “Full Bandwith” mode that doesn’t dull the sound like the original. I used to use the original a lot, and am happy to have it back in my arsenal.

If / when I have the cash, I plan to pick up u-he’s Presswerk ($129) compressor. This looks like a beast. For now I want to learn ReaComp deeply, and I think any skills I learn using ReaComp will only make me better at using Presswerk.

There are a few smaller companies who also make free and paid compressor plugins. I just…have so much to listen to right now! Learning ReaComp deeply is my priority, and then comparing it to the JS and Airwindows stuff is the next step.

There are also the Harrison AVA compressor plugins but those aren’t currently on my radar. I think these are highly regarded, though, and I just wanted to note that they are available on Linux.

u-he Uhbik Bundle

People rate a lot of the plugins in this collection very highly based on my research. What’s interesting is that people seem to swear by different Uhbik plugins and have different favorites.

I want Uhbik for reverb (Ubhik-A is on a lot of top reverb lists on Gearslutz), but this collection of 9 plugins fits the mixing approach for the parallel / bus processing I want to be doing in Reaper. If I had $150 I didn’t need, I would be buying this first out of everything listed in this article. These are really high quality “building blocks”.

After researching u-he’s product line and reading their section on the KVR forums, I found out they are about to release a 2.0 version of Uhbik with new interfaces, modulation updates, and a compressor. It’s going to be a free update to current owners! So yeah, i need to snag Uhbik asap. You know I like my compressor choices.

Other Bundles

A few free bundles of plugins that I installed, but have yet to evaluate seriously:

LSP VST – stands for Linux Studio Project. This has the potential to fill in a lot of gaps when it comes to utilities. Limiter, Dynamic Processor, Expander, Gate, Graphic Equalizer, Impulse Responses, Impulse Reverb, Sampler, Compressor, Latency Meter, Multiband Expander, Multiband Compressor, Oscillator, Parametric EQ, Phase Detector, Spectrum Analyzer, Trigger, Delay Compensator, etc.

Zam Plugins by Zam Audio (labeled Damien Zammit in Reaper) – these are fugly, but cover a lot bases as far as effects go. Do they sound good? These are easily installed from the official repository from Manjaro.

Xhip Effects – these were originally created to go with the Xhip synth, but hey, I’ll take some more building blocks. Once again, super ugly lol. Includes a clipper, compressor, follower, gate, limiter, modulation delay, multiplier, phaser, quantizer, rc filter, rectifier, reverb, ringmod, tremelo, and vocal filter.

I’m also interested in the Tracktion DAW Essentials Collection. It’s $159 for 16 plugins, which works out the neat price of about $10 each. This has a 90 day trial and the plugins look beautiful. I also see that they are free with a Mackie usb interface, so I might be purchasing one just to get them. I feel like these remind me a lot of the tools I used to use in Logic. For now I’m not convinced I need these, but I’m going to be relying on a lot of plugins with minimal or no visual feedback or interface.


Miscellaneous?

A lot of the best free metering and analysis plugins are Windows and Mac only. That’s a space I have to fill, especially with so many plugins with no graphics or visual feedback. Sometimes I will need to see what they are actually doing.

Midi Helper things

In Reaper, there’s a free thing called ChordGun. There’s a lot in Reaper, actually, if I explore Reapack and scripts and JS plugins.

I’m demoing a “phrase arpeggiator” called Phrasebox by Venomode, which I think I will be buying. Sometimes these things can lead to inspiration.


I mean, that’s it. By no means is this a definitive resource, I just wanted to start blogging daily about Linux.

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