Linux on the desktop


I wonder if stali could be made to work with Xenomai, which is a big part of’s secret sauce.


The big downside to static linking (especially with much larger distros that Stali) is that you have to recompile a lot of software every time there is a security update in a library.

I’ve started buying parts for my new Linux computer, so far just an HHKB and a 27" 4K monitor, neither of which have arrived yet. I’ve got most of the parts spec’d out for a i7 system, but I waiting to see how the new AMD Ryzen processors pan out.


Stali talks about dynamically linking specific libraries for pragmatic reasons.


really into spectrwm right now. ‘awesome’ was too complex/brittle (with its lua, &c.) ‘dwm’ doesn’t have quite enough flexiblitiy. this one is juuust right


oh for sure.

as a not totally appropriate comparison, my mac is asking to download almost 2gig worth of files to do a minor point upgrade for security.

in other news, i found out (by ditching gnome) that the synaptics trackpad driver has something like a dozen parameters, whereas the gnome interface exposes only two of them. there are a bunch of people who seem to have tuned the macbook trackpad to some approximation of apple-ness. will post my config file after tuning.

is anyone else using linux on a macbook air?


Not a macbook air but I just wiped my 2010 17" macbook pro 6,1 and put straight debian 8.7 w/ xfce on it. Overall it seems to be working reasonably well. The process went roughly:

  • install rEFInd
  • copy debian install iso onto a usb stick (using another linux vm)
  • boot mbp off the usb stick (and an ethernet cable)
  • follow the instructions on the debian wiki to install the non-free driver for broadcom wifi chipset
  • install the nouveau drivers to get basic support out of the nvidia chipset

I would love to know more about how to synaptics trackpad configuration. What I have now works but is far cry from whatever the apple configuration is.

Update: sigh. just booted the machine for the first time since getting it all “working” and I have no graphics; text console works but that is it. I guess I have more work to do.


Very interested in hearing more about this! What things did you stumble on to? Been longing to switch to Nixos for a while now as reproducibility is something I really want in an OS. I know some friends who have successfully switched, but they are not musicians with sound hardware to control.


so I tried installing archlinux with dwm, but frankly got so bored of configuring it I gave up…
whilst im familar with linux, so could get it to work, Id prefer to spend my time coding/making music, than tinkering with linux configs :wink:

any recommendations on a minimal installed, with a tiling wm, that I can just install from a distro.


I’ve experimenting a lot with Linux in the last years, did my first install by compiling kernels many years ago, and have toyed with the idea of running linux either as a graphics workstation (I work in graphic design) or as an audio DAW. for one reason or the other, I’m still stickingt with OSX for both, but I keep an eye on it. Linux does a great job at being my fileserver. I do have a small Asus EeePC (an older Intel-based model with 1024x600 display and I think only 1 or 2 Gb of RAM). So I was wondering if I could turn that into something useful by running Linux on it. I do have a certain need for a more computer-based MIDI sequencer, something that one can use to write whole songs on, so maybe that could be a good use for it. Any suggestions on that? I’m planning to test an old version of Puppy Studio (which some people highly praised, but is no longer in development).


i periodically love the idea of a very minimal system tailored to very specific needs, and indulge into esoteric unix config rituals that revive my interest in an old machine, but tbh these days i’m like you, prefering using my time to make music or music-related code; moreover my very specific minimal system always end up as a general purpose laptop with python, node, apache, wifi, scanners and printers blobs, aso;
so my (TL;DR) advice is, start with a standard desktop debian (stable) install, apt-get any tiling wm you want to try and just ignore the gnome3 session when login in. Or even use linux mint debian edition as a base system.


I never got as far as doing any audio work…

I really really like the idea of NixOS. But… Nix seems to be both an OS and a way to configure your dev environment, and it’s the second bit that I struggled with. My disks/Dropbox/GitHub/BitBucket are full of tiny little programs that I use on a regular basis, each one tends to be written in whichever language was best suited to the task. Having to create dev environments for all of it just seemed too much for me to want to deal with. Especially as most programming languages have very mature tooling for dealing with dependency management these days.

From the GitHub page (emphasis mine):

On the other hand xmonad has great defaults, key bindings and xinerama support but is crippled by not being written in C.

Them be fighting words! :stuck_out_tongue:

XMonad has switched to a more GitHub centric development workflow recently, and there seems to have been a recent uptick in activity (plus a new release). It’s great for someone like me that just wants to submit small patches, I like projects that are easy to contribute to (Nix seemed to be good for that too).

Anyway my config seems to be getting to a pretty decent place:

I’d only strongly recommend it for Haskellers, but seeing as there are a bunch of tidal users here now…

There is a video here from Ethan Schoonover (of Solarized fame) going through his config from which I have liberally stolen things. For me it’s too configured, but it does go to show what is possible. XMonad really is more of a DIY window manager than anything else out there.


Isn’t this only necessary when you want those dev envs to be isolated? You can have a global nodejs, python etc, right?


The last time I had Nix installed was over 6 months ago, so take what I say with a grain of salt as I may be mis-remembering or things may have changed…

You can have a global python or node or whatever, but if they need a C header then you need to create a nix shell or something similar. And really you should use a nix environment for python/node stuff too, anything else is going against the grain and just leads to other headaches.


To clarify, when a tool, such as Make, is not installed in our environment and we type make in a shell, an error will be displayed, telling us that “make” does not exist.

Coming from a traditional unix environment I understand the concern. But we don’t install headers for C packages, so you’re forced to use Nix tooling to build software. Same goes for Python, except the line between usage and development is very blurred.

Invoking clang++ from the nix store won’t bring in all the headers and libraries you need. You either need to create a derivation for your test program, or write a short shell.nix file in your source directory with something like the following:

with import {}; {
testEnv = stdenv.mkDerivation {
name = “test”;

and then use the nix-shell command. Now you should be able to just run

clang++ hello.cpp



Just found out there are two active forks of the promising-sounding seq24:

A release note for sequencer64 from > 1 year back boasts headless operation from arm board with external midi control. Kind of excited to try these - will report back on usability/workflow!


Cool! Sad that S3 is currently down, so I can’t see the screenshot. Not that it matters for headless operation, which is pretty exciting on its own.


Well that’s good news!!! Will have to check them out both. Too bad none of them got rid of the “floating window” layout, which is a pain to deal with…


Looks like I might be able to make use of my MOTU 828mk3 under Linux…

The MOTU bits from the above repo have been merged into 4.12.


I don’t have a laptop, and so I’m looking at picking up a new 2013 Choromebook Pixel for cheap. (They’re ~300 on ebay.) I’m after the good keyboard and very nice screen to run as a frontend for cloud-based latex composition in Overleaf. Besides the less than stellar battery life, it looks like there’s nothing better out there for the price.

It’s a Chromebook, so there’s only 32GB of storage. But it looks like dual-booting Linux is easy with Crouton. Is there annyting I should look out for? I figure the HiDPI screen might be a problem, but maybe scaling in Linux is ok now? Has anyone tried this with the Pixel?

The only reason I’m considering Linux on the machine is that it’d be nice to learn a program like Csound, Supercollider when I’m away from my desktop.


My partner has a Lenovo laptop with a HiDPI screen. It came with W10, and I’ve installed Ubuntu 16.04 on it. In my experience, the scaling works about the same in W10 and Ubuntu. Most apps work, some apps don’t, and then you are required to switch the resolution from the display settings in order to use the app. It’s very quick to do, so not a major hassle.

I think I read somewhere that Ubuntu 17.10 will have improved scaling functionality.


AFAIK, GTK (i.e Gnome desktop) isn’t that great with fractional HiDPI scaling (e.g. 1.5x), but is fine with integer scaling (e.g. 2x).

QT (i.e. KDE) is supposed to be fine with either.