Hack 82 Pump Up the Volume with Mediainlinux

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Hack 82 Pump Up the Volume with Mediainlinux

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Mediainlinux is the live-CD Swiss Army knife for multimedia. It's a free ready-to-go kit for the multimedia professional to carry with him at all times .

8.4.1 Birth of Mediainlinux

During 2003, I was working at the Virtual Reality & Multi Media Park (http://www.vrmmp.it) help desk. Some students attending the school (http://edu.vrmmp.it) wanted to know how to configure and use the multimedia free software (basically Gimp, Blender, and OpenOffice.org) under the proprietary operating system in use on their computers.

They were already conscious that those applications had real advantages over their commercial counterparts, and at the same time, they had a strong interest in the GNU/Linux operating system, its possibilities, its politics, and its social implications.

The problem was they had neither the time nor the will to try and test Linux. They had made some very early attempts with homemade installations or other experiments with the help of friends who were already using GNU/Linux, but they obtained very poor results. I gave them some advice on the installation and configuration of some major distributions, like Red Hat and Mandrake, and later Debian. However, they still couldn't use Linux, because they didn't want to install the new operating system. They were afraid that they would lose all or a major part of their data stored on their hard drive (often never backed up).

Besides the installation, there was still the problem of configuring peripherals, audio and video subsystems, and restoring the previous operating system.

Teaching those students a new and free way of doing multimedia became a hard, repetitive, and time-consuming activity. After several unsuccessful attempts, I started to investigate live CDsCD-ROMs containing a ready-to-use and self-configuring GNU/Linux, including Knoppix. Unfortunately, Knoppix has plenty of system administration software, but multimedia applications are particularly scarce , with a few exceptions for some audio, graphics, and video tools (more or less 10 applications).

So I decided to learn how to modify the Knoppix live CD-ROM, and used and exchanged ideas, tips, and tricks with the community that was forming on the unofficial Knoppix forum (http://www.knoppix.net).

8.4.2 Mediainlinux Today

Mediainlinux is a working prototype of a Debian Multimedia Distribution, based on the last version (v3.4) of the Knoppix Linux Live CD. Mediainlinux supports most of the GNU/Linux-compatible graphic, audio, and TV/satellite computer cards on the market. It comes with more than 200 graphical applications and hundreds of command-line tools that cover all the complexity of the multimedia production process: acquisition, conversion, compression, and mastering.

Most of the multimedia applications in the GNU/Linux world are covered, but there are some tools that we don't want to distribute with Mediainlinux either for legal reasons or for the integrity of the code (code covered by copyrights, etc). You can, however, use the Synaptic package installer to install these applications once Mediainlinux itself is installed on the hard disk.

8.4.3 Short-Term Goals

The Mediainlinux project has a number of goals; some have been achieved and some are being currently tested . Technical goals

Among the technical goals is the creation of a multimedia kernel that is modified to gain more responsiveness from the system with low latency, preemption, and real-time patches, and is focused on support for a variety of graphic and audio subsystems with a better recognition of peripherals. In addition, the kernel is going to be openMosix-enabled to distribute rendering with Blender and Yafray. As always, there is the continuing goal to develop a customized multimedia CD. Nontechnical goals

One of the main nontechnical goals of Mediainlinux is to include multimedia applications that are not yet a part of the Debian distribution. Speed in the free-software world creates a situation in which hundreds of projects start in a year, but for many projects, it might take two or three years to be included in the major distributions. Part of this goal is the continued support for package maintainers to promote the diffusion of applications that haven't already been packaged by Debian. One of the goals of Mediainlinux is to find economic support for Debian multimedia package maintainers who aren't already sponsored.

Another goal is to increase Mediainlinux use within other organizations. We had contacts with some organizations, like ONU and UNESCO, with Italian (Turin, Padova, Bologna, Siena) and international (Bristol, Oslo, Zlin, Tampere, Georgia) universities, and with some other organizations in the audio and video fields, like FESTPACO and the African Women Media Center. Mediainlinux was introduced with the goal of collaboration that goes from simple testing and reporting of bugs to requests for new characteristics and development of additional software.

A community of particular interest to Mediainlinux is art academies. Many institutions, like MULTIDAMS of Turin, the school of Art and Media of Tampere, or the Brera Academy of Art in Milan, provide two roles for Mediainlinux: a public place for experimentation (and therefore contamination between technology and art), and the potential for demonstrations and examples of Mediainlinux use by artists and collaborators. User goals

The look of Mediainlinux is a key aspect of the whole project. One main goal for the end user is to make Mediainlinux a better-looking distribution. The more stylish the distribution is in its design and in its graphic and artistic ideas (from the CD-ROM to the manual, from the web site to an exhibition stand), the more success it gains in the artist community. The project must also continue to surpass the look of proprietary systems. This requires graphics for icons, desktop themes, wallpapers, and screensavers, and audio/video materials (like desktop sounds and video tutorials).

There is a continuing goal to make Mediainlinux simpler. We must provide more integration between different applications (for instance, an Ogg Vorbis file should have a contextual menu to play, edit, record, etc.). This should be done for most of the file formats in the multimedia field, and it is an operation that requires very intensive configuring, programming, experimenting, and daily use. Part of the process to make Mediainlinux simpler is to make better configuration tools. Most of all, we need a good configuration of the automounter to automatically create the icons for peripherals on the desktop.

Another ongoing goal is to improve documentation. We need a manual for the primary applications on the CD (the Mediainlinux documentation page, which is almost done, can be found at http://www.mediainlinux.org/index.php/mediainlinux/documentation) and, in turn , we need to translate that document into English, French, Spanish, and German.

To help the end user utilize Mediainlinux to its full potential, one goal is to organize training. We organize many courses on subsystems included in Mediainlinux, ranging from the commonly used (audio and video streaming, 2D and 3D graphics, and musical composition) to the less commonly used (multimedia installations and physical and acoustic simulation). In addition to improved training, we want to continue to improve support. This requires a concrete way to support our users with a mailing list, a forum and a satellite program with tutorials, examples, and demonstrations of creativity.

8.4.4 See Also

  • The official Mediainlinux page at http://www.mediainlinux.com/.

Marco Ghirlanda

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Knoppix Hacks. 100 Tips and Tricks
Knoppix Hacks. 100 Tips and Tricks
Year: 2004
Pages: 166

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