Friday, October 14, 2011

Ubuntu Studio Upgrade "Oneiric Ocelet"

So... new release of Ubuntu (and related Linux distros like Ubuntu Studio and Kubuntu) came out October 13 (2011). Since I mainly use Ubuntu Studio, I'll talk about the upgrade I did on my graphics & animation workstation.

The Specs

The machine in question is dedicated for multimedia production, specifically, animation and digital art. It's by no means a top of the line machine, but an off-the-shelf HP Pavilion desktop machine I bought at Microcenter because a previous machine had died. I say off-the-shelf because I just ran out to Microcenter one evening, grabbed a box off the shelf and paid for it (avoiding a sales drone completely).

Here's the machine:

HP Pavilion a6500f desktop
Intel(R) Pentium(R) Dual  CPU  E2220  @ 2.40GHz
NVidia GeForce 7100 graphics w/512MB video RAM
300G system drive
1000 GB projects drive (mounted under /home)

Attached peripherals:

  • Wacom 9x12 drawing tablet
  • HP Scanjet 4370
  • Logitech HD webcam
  • External SATA HD 2-bay dock
  • Logitech USB stereo headset w/microphone
Since I don't do audio work on this machine, I use the USB headphones for sound output.

The Software

As I said before, I use this machine for animation and digital art. So the main apps installed are:
  • Blender v2.59: CG modeling and animation (native app)
  • Anime Studio Pro v6: vector animation (native app)
  • Synfig Studio v0.63.00: vector animation (native app)
  • TVPaint Animation Pro v9.5.20: traditional handrawn animation (native app)
  • GIMP: image authoring (native app)
  • MyPaint v0.9.1: natural media painting (native app)
  • Artrage Studio Pro v3.5: natural media painting (Windows app run via Wine)
  • Sculptris Alpha 6: digital sculpting & modeling (Windows app run via Wine)
  • ZBrush v4R2: digital sculpting & modeling (Windows app run via Wine)

All of these ran fine under Ubuntu 11.04, with some peculiarities with some of the apps that run under Wine, which are known issues.

The Upgrade

I kicked off the upgrade early in the evening, knowing it was going to take a while. I think it finished after about 90 minutes. No problems here, went very smoothly (which has always been my experience with Ubuntu).

The Aftermath

Previously, I'd used the default Gnome desktop. The new Ubuntu wants to use Unity instead, which I had looked at before but didn't like very much. I gave it another spin after the upgrade and am still not impressed with it. It's probably good for people first starting out with Linux, but I didn't much care of it's look and layout.

The Gnome desktop seemed "weird"... I think it's the new Gnome 3 but I didn't like what it had become,  the fonts were too big and something just didn't seem right.

I noticed XFCE was also available by default. I'd used this window manager/desktop environment in the past, it was lightweight and clean, so I ended up using that as my default desktop.

One thing I noticed immediately was that some things seemed to take forever to start up. In fact, my initial reaction was that some of the apps I tried starting, like Anime Studio Pro or Blender, might have had library issues because I clicked on their launchers and nothing happened after even 30 seconds. After another minute or so, suddenly all of the apps showed up on my screen (sometimes multiple copies as I had clicked on the launchers multiple times). Clearly something was amiss.

I did a full system reboot to get everything back to a sane state. I tried going online and found something was messed up with the network, but I quickly fixed that. All of the apps started up quickly now, with the exception of TVPaint Animation. It was still taking forever to start. I did an strace of the running process and provided the output to TVPaint Animation support. 

Eric Scholl, one of the TVPA developers, said there was an issue with the webcam and to try starting the app with the webcam unattached. Sure enough, TVPA started up instantaneously... in fact, I daresay app startup times seem faster than they did previously, now that the issues have been ironed out.

Everything seems to be working OK now -- audio works, all of my peripherals work, the Wacom tablet works. All in all a pretty smooth upgrade.

The one exception is ArtRage Studio Pro. It seems to lockup completely immediately after startup. The other apps that I use under Wine (ZBrush & Sculptris) run without issue. I'll have to investigate the ArtRage issues this weekend.

I have a second studio machine  (an old 32-bit Dell XPS model) also running Ubuntu Studio, this machine is dedicated to audio production. I'm not going to upgrade it since I am planning on replacing that machine entirely with something newer and 64-bit.

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