The Musix Linux Live and Install build was originally built strictly for music creators of all kinds, but with the release this week of the stable version of Musix GNU+Linux 3.0 they have expanded out to include some graphics and video creation software. One of the strong points of this Distro is that everything included is completely free, with no proprietary programs or modules, so you do not need to pay any licensing or other fees for things you make with it. This live disk is Debien-based, so there is a huge world wide community constantly developing and debugging everything included.
This distribution was created primarily by the Spanish speaking computer aware musical community, headed up by Marcos Guglielmetti (or at least, he is the person doing their announcements these days, and his name is all over the disc; I have even fewer words of Spanish than I do of Japanese, so I don’t know more than that). Don’t let that put you off if Spanish is not your first language. They have done an excellent job of translating everything into English, as well as French, German, and several other European based languages. Their User Forums likewise support both English and Spanish to give you all the help, tips, and hints you could ever require with your projects.
When you boot from the DVD and the initial selection screen pops up, be sure to scroll to your two letter language indicator; it defaults to /es for Spanish, I went for /en for English, and so forth. If you have problems seeing it on your monitor, they have a VESA selection for the English selection to give you legacy hardware support, on some others it is identified as 800×600. Make sure you see “live” in the boot name so you run it directly from the DVD. Once it all finishes loading the log-in is “user” with the password “live”.
I should probably mention that this Distro used to be a geek-oriented package, requiring a Linux nerd to operate it. Things like knowing you had to launch the JACK server to give the various music programs a way to talk to the hardware meant you were doomed to failure without such an expert. They claim they have corrected that issue, and to a goodly extent they have (there are still some “gotcha’s” in the collection; us geeks have a hard time remembering which are the bits other folks don’t know about). Now, the JACK server launches on boot, and if you run something that conflicts with it, it gets shut down automatically.
The menu system launches Icons in the task bar at the top of the screen, and each time you pick one it gives you another set of icons on the screen to access a different set of programs. This visual interface structure gives you a way to access the basic core programs of this build organized by workflow, but does not give you access to the entire collection. If you prefer a smartphone this is perfect, it has that look and feel. In order to get past the icon interface and have access to the actual menu, select the calligraphy M at the left of the icon menu; it will give you the traditional drop-down Linux menu, complete with the usual organized sub-directories.
This particular build takes a unique approach to helping. They created the folder /home/user/demos/starters/ and packed it with .starter demos (yes, the dot indicates a file extension; Linux has a longer string than Windows for extension names). Use the File Browser to go to the folder, right click on the demo you want to check out, and open it with -> musixstarter. While the process may not be as mindless as doing the same kind of things in Windoze, the price tag will be a world smaller for the same capabilities, which seems like a fair trade off to me.
The last stable release for Musix came out in 2009, so the operating system it runs on and the various software packages themselves have both gone through some major improvements over the last half decade. But to me, what makes Musix special is the thought the developers have put into trying to make it the best one-stop solution for musicians/composers and recording artists/producers. While some of the included tools still require a bit more of a learning curve than some people may want to devote to the effort, the complete toolkit is a rival to anything else you will find online for these tasks, and often better at the same task for the price (did I mention it was free?).