More specialty Linuxes to the rescue

Whether your focus is security, storage, music, or religion, there's a flavor of Linux that fits the bill

The Musix user interface is organized as a set of eight "desktops" (also referred to as "pinboards"), each providing a view of a select subset of the full complement of available applications. You can choose a desktop by clicking on one of a set of colored buttons in the taskbar. The desktops include: General, comprising KDE's Konqueror file manager/Web browser, a link to XCHat, and an Xterm window; Help, consisting of manuals and tutorials in a variety of languages; as well as Office, which includes word processors Abiword, kwrite, and leafpad, a PDF reader, the gnumeric spreadsheet, and several calculators. Root is another desktop, presenting primarily configuration applications -- everything from wireless configuration and sound-card configuration to the KDE control panel. It also offers directory links to boot scripts.

Additional desktops include MIDI, which, as the name suggests, comprises MIDI-related tools, including Timidity, Bristol, Qsynth, Rosegarden, and much more. The Internet desktop serves up Iceweasel, aMSN (MSN chat), BitTorrent, Konquerer, amule (peer-to-peer file sharing), KDE mail, and more. Finally, the Graphics desktop offers xine, gimp, xaos (fractal calculation and display), the kuickshow image viewer, and others.

MIDI is the most densely populated desktop. Musix's selection of audio production and music performance software seems to go on forever. Though an exact package count would be difficult, Musix appears to provide more musically related software than does Ubuntu Studio (though I imagine that an intrepid user could download and install whatever is needed to make the two equivalent).

The crown jewel of the Musix MIDI desktop appears to be the Rosegarden music composition environment. Rosegarden has its own submenu, loaded with links to about 20 different startup configurations. Each configuration loads a different set of plug-ins: one with the Hydrogen drum machine, another with Qsynth, another with the ZynaddsubFX synthesizer, and so on. Rosegarden is a massively capable composition package that can juggle a mixture of MIDI and audio and can even serve as a score-writing system. It's no wonder Musix devotes menu space to it.

Another important characteristic of Musix is that it employs a low-latency kernel referred to as the "--rt patch," (It is called a patch because, until recently, it has been available as a patch for Linux kernels. However, its capabilities have been slowly working their way into the standard Linux kernel.) The --rt patch gives Musix's kernel deterministic behavior and a superior responsiveness to asynchronous events (as compared to a similar kernel without the --rt patch). In short, Musix's kernel is particularly suited to audio-processing applications, whose performance quality degrades with increased application and kernel thread latencies.

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Rick Grehan

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