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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Making Music(Beats) on Linux/Ubuntu with Hydrogen

I am going to review a couple of Music Making Softwares for Linux and am starting with the simplest and one of the best!HYDROGEN. Hydrogen basically is a pattern based drum programming software which in layman terms means, it allows you to make your own beats.And in case you aren't much into music, you might be wondering “what the hell will i do with this piece of software”...well here is a word from my friends who've tried this: “Its pretty fun playing with this software, n even without knowing much, you could actually MAKE SUM MUSIC!!!”

There was this software called Acoustica Beatcraft(for windows) which actually introduced me to this beat making stuff and I was quite interested, but sadly it was too costly for me to buy it. So i was stuck using the trial version of the software and sadly as soon as i got the grip of the software the trial expired, and so my search began for software which would do the stuff for me and luckily i found this amazing piece of software HYDROGEN.Hydrogen is extremely user friendly and it didnt take much time understanding the me it was very easy n at the same time it was producing professional quality beats!

About the software:(technical:from the software's website itself!)
  • General
  • Very user-friendly, modular, fast and intuitive graphical interface based on QT 3.
  • Sample-based stereo audio engine, with import of sound samples in .wav, .au and .aiff formats.
  • Support of samples in compressed FLAC file.
  • Sequencer and mixer
  • Pattern-based sequencer, with unlimited number of patterns that can be chained into a song!
  • Up to 64 ticks per pattern with individual level per event and variable pattern length.
  • 32 instrument tracks with volume, mute, solo, pan capabilities.
  • Multi layer support for instruments (up to 16 samples for each instrument).
  • Ability to import/export song files.
  • Unique human velocity, human time, pitch and swing functions.
  • Multiple patterns playing at once.
  • Other
  • JACK, ALSA, PortAudio and OSS audio drivers.
  • ALSA MIDI and PortMidi input with assignable midi-in channel (1..16, ALL).
  • Import/export of drumkits.
  • Export song to wav file.
  • Export song to midi file.

Some more nice points about Hydrogen that I've collected:
  • Ardour (another Linux DAW) supports import of Hydrogen files directly...n even some other softwares are implimenting support to its song format...
  • There are plenty of drumkits and drumloops available all for FREE in the Hydrogen community.
  • Support for LADSPA plugins, that let you add more effects for your beats!
  • Its cross platform, so you dont have to bother about losing your audio data when you switch between operating systems(i found this point really useful!)
  • Really lightweight, so you can happily work on Hydrogen and other music making software simultaneously!
  • Best of all: Its completely FREE!
This is how HYDROGEN looks


To install Hydrogen issue the following command in the terminal window (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal)
sudo apt-get install hydrogen
that will install the basic hydrogen with a default drum kit..if you want a few more drum kits(actually a lot more!) issue the following command in the terminal window.
sudo apt-get install hydrogen-drumkits
Now that you've got the software installed, you can find it in the (Applications-> Sound & Video)

Simple Tutorial: (for people with absolutely no knowledge about making music!!!)
Well those people who already know a bit of music making and create electronic music, I m sure you guys will definitely know how to get some help for yourself..for you guys this tutorial is nothing more than a stupid long procedure to introduce the hydrogen's interface...this tutorial is intended for all those, who want to make music, but know nothing about it's technical aspects, and want some initiation to get started.

And in case you need some initiation: here is

U2's song, Sunday Bloody Sunday 's drum beat..(taken from:

Some more drum loops:

Or simply checkout the Hydrogen's Demo song from it's file menu! Open it and click play...

First lets get comfortable with the interface:

Here are a few tips that might help you.

1)As per the Hydrogen's interface, basically every beat(song) you make in it comprises of “Patterns”.

2)The pattern editor is where you can edit each individual pattern.

3)The song editor is where you can arrange your patterns...(which comes when and along with which others!)

4)The mixer is where you control the volume(of both:the individual instruments and the master volume)

5)The Bar Below with the buttons: is the main control you can set the tempo, and mode(which one to play?either the individual pattern or the whole song itself...)and a couple more features...

6)You can toggle the visibility of the various windows inside from the View menu.

Step 1: Listen to the completed song.
open the file and simply click the play button!

I know it sounds crazy to even call this a song but, for a newbie, this was the simplest thing that i can think of...

Step 2:Create the song:
Basically the song comprises of 2 patterns:Pattern 1 and Pattern 2, one comes after the other and in Pattern 1: click on the lines on the grid to make black marks appear as shown in the screen shot. To put a mark, simply click on the vertical lines.(click on the mark to remove it) the resolution option on the top of the box, lets you see how dense you want your lines to be packed:(for this tutorial, let it be at 16) the higher the resolution, the more the lines you see.I suggest you play a bit with the resolution and you will understand what i am saying.
Set the tempo to 90bpm(beats per minute). Click on the tempo place shown in the screen shot and set the value.

The Pattern number and Name beside the resolution options shows us which pattern we are editing.For (y)our song we need to bother only about 2 patterns, so i chose Pattern 1 and Pattern 2 . So You have to make the pattern 1 and pattern 2 as shown below:

and now you have to place both the patterns in the song editor as:same principle again:clicking on the boxes toggles btw. The blue box means that that pattern will be playin during that time in the song....

Step 3:
and now its time to listen to what you have made!!!Simply click on the play button (make sure that song mode is selected)...

You might not be that impressed at your first creation, but trust me thats just the “hello world” program for you!. All i wanted to do with this tutorial was to create a basic motivation towards making music and am sure you will build upon this.I myself am no master at making music. infact what i just showed you was born from a lot of trial and error experiments, it's been a lot of time fiddling with my computer and my keyboard to teach myself a bit of musical concepts and make some good music and i know there is a lot to do, in order to produce professional beats...and basically good music..

I am also including a few resources that might help you learn a bit more....

Hydrogen's homepage

Why should i leave out the really good tutorial in hydrogen's documentation???check out the hydrogen's help menu!!

A series of articles for people who want to learn more about hydrogen and make really good beats...

All d best n Happy Making Beats!!!

Article Written by : Sai Dinesh (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Sai Dinesh

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Convert text files to MP3 under Linux

Even though I am not a fan of audio books and the only thing I use my iPod for is listening music still while exploring Festival(which is basically a General multi-lingual speech synthesis system) I found out that it's very easy to convert normal text files into mp3 using festival . Now this could be especially useful for people who either listen to audio books or people who have difficulty in reading.

First we would need to install festival. We can install festival with the following command :

sudo apt-get install festival

Now we need to install voices which would be used to dictate the text (install any one of the following ) :

To install British Accented male voice issue the following command :

sudo apt-get install festvox-rablpc16k

To install American Accented male voice issue the following command:

sudo apt-get install festival festvox-kallpc16k

Now once you have installed festival and voice package we are ready to convert text files .wav files .

Lets say you want computer to read file named kaddu.txt you would need to pipe(send output of one command to other ) the cat command to festival. You can do so by issuing the following command :
cat -A kaddu.txt | festival --tts
Now instead if you want to convert kaddu.txt to kaddu.wav you can do so by piping the output of cat to a tool that comes with festival text2wave. You can do so by issuing the following command in the terminal window :
cat -A kaddu.txt | text2wave -o kaddu.wav
Now however if you want to remove special characters and want festival/text2wav to read only a to z,A to Z, space, “,”,”.”,”!”,”?”. You can do so by piping the output of cat to sed and then piping the output of sed to text2wav/festival.
cat kaddu.txt |sed 's/[^a-zA-Z .,!?]//g'|festival --tts

cat kaddu.txt|sed 's/[^a-zA-Z .,!?]//g'|text2wave -o kaddu.wav
Now the (.wav) file produced is uncompressed and are huge in size so you might like to convert it to mp3 to reduce it's size and to allow the files to be played on iPod or any other mp3 player. You can convert .wav files easily to (.mp3) file format by using lame .

To install lame issue the following command in the terminal window :
sudo apt-get install lame
after istallation is over to convert say kaddu.wav to kaddu.mp3 issue the following command :
lame -f kaddu.wav kaddu.mp3
NOTE : I am using -f switch here which basically encodes mp3 file faster and in lower quality .

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Be in sync with your GMail Inbox with CheckGmail

I use GMail as my primary email account. I receive lots of email everyday from comments on blog post to university assignments and lecture notification . Now whenever i am using windows I usually keep myself signed into GTalk, as GTalk has this nice feature of showing a small notification window whenever new email comes into your inbox. However even though Google has been porting a number of their programs from Windows to Linux platform till now they have not ported GTalk on the Linux platform .

Now since i spend significant amount of my time on the Linux platform i had to keep my GMail account always open in the browser and keep refreshing it periodically to check for any new mail this was frustrating as well as tiresome till i discovered this nifty little application CheckGmail.

CheckGmail basically stays in your taskbar and whenever any new email comes it shows a small window informing you about it and clicking on the window actually opens the browser and takes you to the email.

To install CheckGmail issue the following command in the terminal window (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal )
sudo apt-get install checkgmail
After installation is over you can launch CheckGmail from (Applications -> Internet -> CheckGmail ) .

The first time you start CheckGmail it will show a dialog box similar to the one shown below asking you for a number of different information about account things like how often it should check for new messages , whether you want to run some application whenever new email comes , command to execute when you click on email etc .
CheckGmail Preferences dialog box

Now once you complete configuring CheckGmail it will reside in the taskbar at the top of the screen.
If you hover your mouse pointer over the CheckGmail icon it will show all the unread messages as a list on your desktop.
and finally and most importantly whenever new email comes into your inbox it will show a notification like one shown below.

Overall CheckGmail is a nifty little application that helps you remain in sync with your GMail inbox and could actually help you concenterate on your task rather than worrying abt checking your inbox periodically in browser for new emails.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Put Widgets/Applets on your desktop with Google Gadgets

Google has officially released Open Source version of it's popular Google Gadgets application on the Linux platform . Google Gadgets allow you to put small interactive applets/applications/widgets on your Linux desktop/sidebar providing host of functionality as well as making your desktop more attractive . A number of open source applications have been available that provide you precisely this functionality like Screenlets , SuperKramaba etc, However they have been somewhat unstable as they are still under development . Google Gadgets is also under development but i found it more stable and friendlier than Screenlets. Also a lot of widgets are available for Google Gadgets that's another plus.

Note : Installation Instructions below have been tried on Ubuntu 8.04 so you might have to change the instructions for earlier versions of Ubuntu.

Google has not released binary packages for Google Gadgets so we would need to download the packages and compile them. Since Ubuntu does not come with any developmental tools pre-installed, we have to install them before we could compile Google Gadgets . To install these developmental tools issue the following command in the terminal window :

sudo apt-get -y install libtool automake autoconf libxul-dev libghc6-mozembed-dev libcurl4-gnutls-dev libxml2-dev zlib1g-dev xulrunner libgtk2.0-dev libcairo2-dev libdbus-1-dev libdbus-glib-1-dev libgstreamer0.10-dev libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-dev libqt4-dev build-essential spidermonkey-bin libmozjs-dev
Now we need to download Google Gadegts source archive :
Now we extract the downloaded package :
tar -xvzf google-gadgets-for-linux-0.9.1.tar.gz

Now we need to compile and install Google Gadgets, we could do this with the following commands :
cd google-gadgets-for-linux-0.9.1

./configure --prefix=/usr
sudo make install

After compilation process is over issue the "ggl-gtk" (For GTK Version of Google Gadgets - For Gnome desktop environment ) or "ggl-qt"(For QT version of Google Gadgets - For KDE Desktop )

Note : There was some problem running the Google Gadgets GTK version dunno for some strange reason it did not show the gadgets. However QT version worked perfectly well. Also i noticed a number of Gadgets did not work :'( .

Google Gadgets Icon
Right Click on Google Gadgets icon this will show a menu , here click on "Add Gadgets " which will open a dialog box similar to one shown below allowing you to add number of Widgets/Gadgets on your desktop.
Finally this is how my desktop looks after adding Google Gadgets .

Google Gadgets Project page :

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Related Links :

Installing Google Applications in Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

Weather Information on your Ubuntu 8.04 desktop with Weatherbug

Monday, June 02, 2008

Download YouTube videos with UTube Ripper

Youtube is no doubt one of the most popular website on the internet. YouTube by default does not provide option for downloading and saving videos though there are website and tools available that allow you to do this and UTube-Ripper is one such tool available for the Linux platform.

UTube Ripper is a gambas2(gambas is somewhat like Visual Basic available on the Windows platform allowing easy creation of GUI based application with minimal coding in basic styled language) based simple application and allows you to easily download videos from YouTube and convert them to different format.

UTube-Ripper SourceForge page :

Installing UTube Ripper on Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

Since UTube-Ripper is based on gambas2 we would need to install gambas2 to run UTube- Ripper properly. Fortunately gambas2 is available in Ubuntu 8.04 repository so it could be installed easily by issuing the following c0mmand in the terminal window (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal ):

sudo apt-get install gambas2
After gambas2 is installed you can either download UTube Ripper from the following website :

or issue the following command in the terminal window to download , install and run UTube Ripper :
sudo dpkg -i utube_1.7-1_i386.gtk.deb

Now you can launch UTube Ripper from (Applications -> Internet -> Utube-ripper )

UTube-ripper in Action

Interface of UTube Ripper is very user friendly and self explanatory . Paste the link of YouT
ube video you want to download in the text box at the top of th window and press the "Download" button to actually start downloading youtube videos.

Downloaded YouTube videos are stored in $HOME/.utube directory by default. However one thing i have noticed is after you download file it is named video.flv and stored in above mentioned directory and if you download another file from YouTube previously downloaded file is over written.So it would be advisable to rename the downloaded YouTube videos or move them to different location immediately after downloading to prevent them from getting overwritten.

UTube-Ripper in Action : Downloading file from YouTube

UTube-Ripper options for converting downloaded flv files

If you want you can also convert downloaded youtube videos into number of different formats or rip audio from the FLV stream by using the "Convert" option. However UTube-Ripper only acts as a front end to ffmpeg and you need to have ffmpeg installed to use this option.

Overall UTube-Ripper is an extremely user friendly and lightweight application that simplifies the task of downloading and converting downloaded YouTube videos.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney