October 24, 2005

An open Studio to Go

Author: Tina Gasperson

Open source software developer and musician Richard Bown wanted to make Rosegarden, a popular MIDI sequencer for Linux, available to all people, even if they weren't fortunate enough to be using an open source platform. That was the genesis of Studio to Go, a Knoppix-based CD that allows Windows users to access a wealth of open source music creation and notation software without installing Linux.

Rosegarden started as a project created by Bath University students Chris Cannam and Andy Green. It was originally written for the Irix platform, but Bown came along to help with a Linux port. Green apparently attempted a Windows port about the same time, but lost the only copy of the source code in a nasty computer crash.

The developers still wanted to provide something for Windows users. "As we progressed with development, we realized there was a need," Bown says. "I'm a computer guy, but I'm a musician as well, and Chris is very much driven from the score notation perspective. We wanted to make some simple software available. Lots of people look at Linux and think it's too complicated to do."

The question for Bown and friends was, "how?" When Knoppix appeared in 2002, it seemed that the Debian-based live CD provided the answer. "We thought, 'this is a good platform for us to build software around,'" Bown says. "We spent a lot of time on the kernel and making sure the foundation was right."

Why was Knoppix good? Beyond the obvious possibilities that a live CD format presented, Bown liked Debian because "they are very thorough with their releases -- they spend a long time getting things right, and it's stable."

Bown has just released version 1.5 of Studio to Go. It runs on any recent Windows PC, without taking any hard drive space, and configures itself automatically to the hardware. In addition to Rosegarden, the CD contains LilyPond score typesetting software and various mixers, samplers, and other MIDI packages.

Once purchased, Studio to Go can be used over and over again on any PC without limitation, as long as it is run from the live CD and not installed on the hard drive. The software may be installed on only one computer. Most of the software on the CD is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), but the documentation and tutorials are not. "There's a lot of stuff in there that is copyrighted," Bown says. "We've done a lot of work to make it a point-and-click experience, and we don't allow it to be redistributed."

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