As everything in life, all good and bad things go to an end. That is also the case with the 5th International Linux Audio Conference, which took place at the Technischen Universität Berlin, TU-Berlin for short, during the four whole days, March 22 through 25. It is now over and I am now back home safely. I do congratulate everyone, including myself of course, but specialy the conference organization team who had a terrible of a job to make and keep things up and running during the whole event.
Comparisons to previous conferences are always subjective and comparing the TU-Berlin with the past ZKM-Karlsruhe venues are not quite fair. To say the least, let's stick with the fact that Berlin is a big and busy metropolis while Karlsruhe is a cute and calm city. Distances between conference rooms and concert events were in fact measurably bigger in the former than on the latter. Just note that previously, everything were being held on only one and the same building, the ZKM-Karlsruhe.
Nevertheless, it was rather interesting. If there wasn't for those distances I couldn't never had the chance to look around Berlin, as granted I didn''t get to know a single little interesting spot on Karlsruhe. But that's me. I just preferred to hang around with the LADs, instead of going tourist wise. Geeky, eh? :)
OK. This year, I believe apparently, the whole conference had more attendance, probably more during the week days when the university students were still around to scratch over the curiosity of what's going on there. Overall, the conference program was bigger and busier than previous years, with more demo tracks, workshops and sound installations. Personally I could not attend more than one tenth of all the events, if that much. I must confess that most of the time I was just wandering around in the Lichthof, where the people gathered over some coffee and many of the out-of-track demos took place. For example, Hartmut Noack's dream machine was there all the time for we to try out, as was Ron Stewart's Trinity field recorder prototype. Both are exciting systems, all Linux based.
And there I was. On the very first day, Thusday 22, I even opened the whole talk season with my own presentation slides over the "Qtractor - An Audio/MIDI multi-track sequencer" paper, on which everyone could watch and certify how really nervous I was. But it got trough all right and naturally, or so I like to believe. It was my first time appearance at the LAC as an author. (Un)fortunately video footage has been allegedly lost in the void, mostly due to some untried setup and so things didn't just got quite right at first chance. At least that's what I've been told by Jörn Nettingsmeier, one of the heads of the StreamTeam. So, I am the first to say on how I am terribly sorry why documental evidence won't probably be available for you rejoyce from my premiere, which is too bad and pityful. Damn. Anyway, let's hope for a miracle and something shows up here.
[UPDATE] So it seems that only the very final and Q&A part of the presention is available as evidence.
After my premiere talk I've come to meet Ronald Stewart, from Trinity Audio Group, who was very excited about the prospect on stuffing in Qtractor as one of the many software tools bundled with his brainchild, a portable field recording studio (DAW), all based on Linux, of course. So he just dragged me over to the Lichthof and look at his working prototype, which he was demoing at the place. Yes, it is still a prototype that Ron was showing to everyone, but already functional and impressive. I just deeply regret that, while trying myself for the very first time some UI gestures with my own "gentle" geek hands, I suddenly broke one of the device buttons. Ouch. Fortunately it could be fixed without major hassle, or so Ron let me believe :) Sorry pal.
The "famous" Linux Sound Night (LSN) was taken at a club venue, C-Base, way far from the TU-Berlin central, at least to my standards. This was one of the big changes, if you count it as such, as the LSN used to fill the Saturday night and now it was over the first Thusday one. C-Base is kind of a geeky club, small form factor. I guess, but also heard some gossip from some of the LSN performing artists, that the place was a little bit too cozy for doing some effective plug-and-chilling. But was fun anyway.
On the second day, Friday 23, it was scheduled the hands-on demo/workshop for the Qtractor thing. Nothing really fancy but me failing from showing off all the distinctive software features in some proper fashion or another. Funny enough, I even let some of the attendees to discover for themselves some of the most interesting features from current Qtractor development state. Now call that intuitive software ;)
By the end, while I was shutting down the shop, someone just aproached the front desk and calmly cheered about the "nice application you made". That was when I just choked when read the name in his badge: Chris Cannam.
Mr. Rosegarden was there watching me very closely all the time and I almost fainted when got to know him in person. That's right, once again one of the main LAC features of putting real faces on e-mail addresses went sky high. After some lousy and stuttering apologies about the non-competition direction of Qtractor development regarding Rosegarden's, we went on to a pleasant evening diner and then to the night concert performances.
Paul Davis, the always master-in-command of all modern Linux Audio things, had just arrived. I wonder if there can be a LAC without him being present. I've also got to meet Karsten Wiese in person for whom I'm hugely thankful for all his work on the Tascam US-x2y kernel module (ALSA), for making the device such a fun to play with, and with remarkable performance (cf. JACK "rawusb" backend). A great kudos, rather special to you Karsten.
Third day. Saturday 24. Paul's keynote on the 80/20 phenomenon started the weekend, followed later by a panel debate over open-source development in general and Linux in particular. And that was the moment one of the mysteries of this year's conference was unvealed. Ableton, the makers of the awesome and rather complete music production software, Live, has been announced as one of the leading partners for the LAC2007. So what would a closed-source, shrink-wrapped commercial software, be ever interested in sponsoring such an event? Nothing more than that, one of the top company officers and former coder I believe, graduated on TU-Berlin. Mystery solved, all buzz and gossip may stop now. Ableton is not really interested in opening the source, God forbids that, as they're actually happy with their current business model alright. I can't even think how someone could ever thought about such an earthquake happening :)
I wonder whether Gerhard Behles, the guy in the panel who is Ableton's CEO in fact, ever heard of myself saying that my original plans for Qtractor was about to crash landing into Live's backyard. Oops. Me and my big mouth. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that he can keep his sleep over the next couple of years. There's no chance I can keep pace on developing such a marvellous piece of software, as I could ever come any close. And if I ever, ever get that far, Ableton already will be ruling the music-making software market with a greater and even better product, which I'm sure it can ;)
Fourth and last day. Sunday 25. Daylight savings time change has made its due and everybody popped late. Or else, it was just Saturday night partying still wearing out. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) audio system presentation, which was held with remote speach, seems to have raised a larger audience than the one that followed, about the present and future of FireWire Audio on Linux, championed by Pieter Palmers. It is somewhat strange why a child's errm... toy, made almost on consumer level technology, is ever more interesting than real, top-notch developer oriented one. Go figure.
And then there was relax time: the rest of that last Sunday afternoon was dedicated to free ideas and mind exchange, or just chit-chatting on the Lichthof. Evening came and with it also the traditional last supper before farewell. It was a great of a time.
Last but not least, for all and others that I've crossed the eye and chat, for whom I've also failed to mention, in one way or another, I'll send a big hug and kisses (to the girls:) and hope that all you got back home safely and confortable. And with the very best wishes on letting us meet again for the LAC2008@KHM-Köln, as I've been told.
Ah, a small gallery of all the photos I took during this period can be found here.
See you all on the maillists, until next year.