Once again and surpassing the least gloomy expectations, tradition has been kept alive and kicking. Even on these times of global economic turmoil, or so they say. One could blame it on the crysis if things would have gone less than regular. That was not the case however.
In spite of it all, I am proud to report that this years attendance and overall content and (in)formal exchange was not weaker that the previous events. In fact, it hasn't lost its spirit even though it's the first time ever that the international Linux Audio Developers meeting, officially known as the Linux Audio Conference has moved outside of Germany. No regrets, quite the contrary and as many of so unforgettable experiences.
All that to say that the Linux Audio Conference 2009 held on the La Casa della Musica (CdM) Parma, Italy, from April 16th to 19th, is now over and I'm already a little bit late to report about my attendance. So there it goes...
Parma is pleasant city. If it doesn't make justice, let me say it is a very pleasant city. All contact with the local citizens have been heartedly cordial and first-hand warm and grateful. However (ain't that always one?) weather was diffuse, with sun, rain, slight chill and moderate hot being the rule. No reason at all for any distress, though.
Keeping up with the tradition, first evening got it to Don Alfonso where pizza was served. No news in that front, we're in Italy and pizza is a must ain't it? At least until one gets to know a little bit more about the paraphernalia and diversity of combinations of cheese, pasta, fresh crispy vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, meat, fish and what not, as only the richness of an Italian cuisine can give. So that was the single time I had pizza in Parma, noblesse oblige... so much for that fast-food. From then on, I've greeted, tasted and praised many other delightful offerings a quick brunch or a long diner can give you. Life is good, indeed, specially if you're in Italy and do appreciate the joy of the slow-food and wine, oh, the wine, in all kinds and colors, provided it is red;)
But I'm here to write about the LAC so let's get it going. First day come and the assembly got it started alright. Fons Andriaesen was in charge and brought the opening session to the front. Then followed by presentations which versed about the current states of art regarding two of the most essential projects in Linux audio world, past, present and future: JACK 2 and LASH, presented by Stéphane Letz and Juuso Alasuutari, respectively.
Feeling the urge to LASHify my own applications, which are long due for almost a half a decade now, I do catch the hidden message to get myself taught in the process. So there I was in the LASH workshop, in the afternoon, where I tried first-hand to put the new LASH into use with code flowing directly into Qtractor, from both horses mouth, so to speak. However (ain't that strange?) things disn't work out as so eagerly expected. Jusso, who was in charge of the workshop, finally tells me that the new LASH implementation needs to mate with JACK 2 and that wasn't to find installed on my laptop. Yeah, JACK 1 still rules here. Add that (inter)net connectivity was nowhere to be found on the room. No sweat. I'll get the chance to try that again at home, however I thinking about doing it with old LASH first. We'll see.
But let's get some thoughts out of this tortuous mind. The LASH stumbling raised the discussion about making it simple enough for general adoption from audio application developers, and I must agree that ALL applications AND developers are elligible to this task, is surely must be seamless to users. Quite frankly, the LASH API ought to be simple and fit to purpose of any serious audio (and MIDI) application, at least as simple as JACK API goes. That was and still is the consensus. However, digging up the nuts and bolts of the new LASH generation, I seem to feel uncomfortable regarding its direction towards the Desktop integration and dependency--yes, I'm talking about the dreaded D-BUS thing. My thought goes like having D-BUS is a good thing but, hey, not the whole of the thing. D-BUS seems a nice and appropriate solution for service discovery, hand-shake and/or reflection, only and where available. Making it a replacement to the a more general network socket protocol, which is already in place and purposedly fits the most, is pushing the stress out of the fun.
As one well known quote says, one should make things simple as possible, not simpler. The LASH API should be made simple enough for developers adopt it, and fast. One must have it that LASH is or can be the distinctive infrastructure that glues all fantastic others in the Linux Audio/MIDI world. Let's stick with that promise, shall we? Speaking on my skeletons in the closet, I assume my lack of support to LASH. That's gonna end, sometime soon. I hope ;)
First opening concert. Enough said about electro-acoustic stuff but I would be slaughtered if I did not mention Malte Steiner performance. Yes, it was a live act indeed. I always tend to prefer live acts the most but that cannot infer about the huge quality of the other pieces which was quite and redeeming good. Nevertheless. And there's something I cannot leave without mention, though: the venue organization staff was, lacking a better adjective, impressive. Difficult to get on par in times to follow. Top staff, indeed. My inner child would say: awe, this almost looks for real. Seriously. To Fons, Francesca and to all others I could not catch their names, I bow in the most sincere reverence. Just one single day you already raised the LAC standards over the top, for at least a decade ;)
Seconday day went perfect and eagerly ended in the (in)famous Linux Sound Night at the near outskirts of Parma, in a cozy place called Tosco. Great place, great food, great drinks and great fun indeed. Linux geared live performances was the poster and did surely match the fun part. As expected, this was my longest night in Parma ;)
Predictably waking late on the third day, I missed John ffitch keynote, which is a real pity as he's one of my preferred speakers in the lineup. Playing catch-up later, through reading and listening to the echoes and gossip, it all mattered to the final but fundamental question that we keep asking ourselves deep: which is the role of the LAC and Linux Audio. Is there a consistent future? I do believe there is, as long as LADs strive. Although this year's LAC doesn't show any increase in content (quantity) it surely blows the past away in quality. I might say, personally speaking, this is the best I've attended so far. Period.
Closing concert at Paganini Auditorium, same astonishing place as on the first evening. As before, the live performance had prominence in my attention, as Fernando Lopez-Lezcano took the stage and hypnotized the audience with his fractal cat, algorithmic-assisted performance (a term I've just invented).
Forth and final day. Rainy Sunday and business as usual I say. Final talks, informal stuff and evening come with late night moments shared with the LADs, dining in Parma. What a great time it was!
In the line of conclusion, there were many interesting talks at this year's Linux Audio Conference, on a fair variety of topics. As already mentioned, the contents of the conference were very good and overall quality was even better. Conference organization was just perfect and smooth. I won't get tired to repeat my congratulations to the organization team: big thanks to Fons Adriaensen (LAD) and Francesca Montresor (CdM) for this year's event and also to Frank Neumann (LAD) and Joern Nettingsmeier (LAD) for setting up such a great conference every year! There are many unnamed others who surely deserve my full gratitude. Cheers!
Ah. You can find some lousy pictures from this year's photo gallery. Enjoy.
P.S. Not confirmed yet, but maybe next year we'll meet again in Utrecht, Nederlands ;) [EDIT: typo corrected; SCNRT; was "Nerderlands"]