Musix Linux: Sweet Strains Jarred by Sour Notes

The Musix Linux distro is a specialty OS with an impressive collection of tools for users with a passion mostly for audio and music production.

The Musix distro turns the Linux OS into a sound studio in a box.

That same collection of tools should be included for video, given the blending of music and video popular in distributing entertainment on the Internet today. Yet it is missing from Musix.

If you have a passion for a well designed, general purpose Linux OS, Musix will leave you tapping a beat for something else. More is neglected in musix that would make this distro more suitable beyond music mania.

For instance, Musix lacks its own software repository. It also is too lightweight out of the box to serve typical non-artistic computing tasks.

The installed software covers the basics. Newcomers to Linux, however, will be at a loss for support in getting problems solved.

Part of this is the result of the Musix developers not having much of an active user forum. This is a common problem when straying this far from the more established Linux communities.

Musix Primer

The Musix distro is based on the Debian Wheezy distribution. It is designed for music production, graphic design, and audio and video editing, and it includes some general purpose applications.

Musix’s core community of developers hail from Argentina. A major grouping of its support community is located in Spain, Mexico and Brazil. The initiator and codirector of the project is Marcos Germn Guglielmetti. Thus, Musix has a community of users who speak Spanish, Portuguese and English.

The main language used in development discussion and documentation is Spanish. This may contribute a bit to a language disconnect among English-speaking Musix users.

This is more of an annoyance than a problem, though. In several sections of the menus and support files, descriptions of visual displays and demo files are in Spanish.

Under the Hood

Musix 3.0.1 was released in late March. It is mainly a bug fix release, but several significant improvements are included in this latest version.

It now runs Kernel 3.4.14-gnu-RT23, which is still a bit out of date. That could explain why it could not detect the wireless firmware in two of my test laptops. The ISO image now supports booting from USB or DVD media. However, there is no UEFFI support, so installation is trickier on some of the latest hardware. This is particularly a problem if you plan to install Musix in a dual-boot setting.

Without its own package management system, Musix relies on the Aptitude Package Management system. This is a text-only process that runs in a terminal window. Another installation option is the Synaptic Package Manager.

This arrangement makes it more inconvenient to keep Musix updated. The distro lacks its own software center and software update process. Even with a fresh installation of this latest version, much of the bundled software is not the latest versions. For example, LibreOffice is version 3 rather than the current available version 4.

Environmental Options

Musix has a confusing assortment of desktop environments. Some of them have a specialty Musix theme. Others do not. This gives a mixed user experience. Even the default LXDE desktop is barely recognizable as such.

Musix’s default desktop is LXDE with an unconventional top panel bar.

Other desktop options include Fluxbox, IceWM, KDE/Plasma Workspace, KDE/OpenBox, Openbox and GNOME/Openbox. It is nice to have so many options available from a common installation ISO. Not having to do separate downloads to try out each version is a nice touch that other multidesktop distros no longer do.

Selecting the desired desktop is simple from the log-on screen. Just click on the down arrow.

Look and Feel

The LXDE default desktop is the best option in Musix. It is the most theme-integrated of the available options. Once you get used to its anomalies, it is the most pleasing user interface included.

The LXDE panel bar sits at the top of the screen and can not be moved. Its appearance is not typical. The menu hides behind a script letter M in the far left corner of the panel bar.

A series of different colored block-style icons launch a software category. Clicking on a block icon puts the icons for applications in that category on the desktop.

For instance, h for Help screen, o for Office applications, r for General, m for Midi, i for Internet, g fro Graphics, a for Audio. This is similar to the concept underlying the KDE desktop, but the design is much different.

Patchwork of Options

By default, four virtual workspaces are accessible in most of the desktops. Just click the numbered space on the Workplace Switcher applet in the center of the bar. The Cntrol + Alt + left or right arrow keys also navigate to each workspace.

The right side of the LXDE bar has displays for connection status and system performance. Hover the mouse over each area to activate the readout. Depending on what environment is running, the time/date display and logout button hug the far right corner of the panel bar.

The Fluxbox desktop environment has a more basic appearance. A much more basic bar sits at the bottom of the screen. It lacks all of the Musix look of the top bar in the other desktop options. Use the right-click anywhere on the desktop or bar to access the various menus.

The KDE desktop uses a non-Musix theme as well. It is the least appealing option. Some of the labels on the KDE panel bar are in Spanish. This occurs in some of the menu options as well.

The IceWM desktop lacked much differentiation from the default LXDE environment. It had a very similar look and feel, especially with the design of the panel bar and the workspace.

Software Sway

As a specialty OS for musicians and sound editors, Musix strikes a pleasing chord. For production tasks involving text and graphics, though, the selection of bundled programs falls a bit flat. The same goes for video.

Musix’s strength is in its audio production and mixing tools.

The best stuffed software menus deal with audio and music tools. For example, packages include music notation tools MuseScore and Rosegarden. Recording software offers Ardour Digital Audio Workstation, Audacity and Qtractor. Sequencing software includes Hydrogen and Muse.

Eight more titles handle sound synthesizing tasks. Plus, Musix includes eight more sound-mixing tools. About one dozen additional sound specialty programs are included.

The specialized audio apps in Musix are professional quality.

The video toolkit is disappointing, however. The only major video-editing package is Kdenlive. Other graphics packages include Blender, Okular, Inkscape and GIMP.

Standard Wares

As a general OS, Musix sounds a few sour notes. It has a meager collection of text editors, word processors and Web tools. You can do some real work with the software that is provided, but you might resort to manually installing some of the programs typically available in distro repositories but missing here.

For example, Musix comes with Iceweisel, Konqueror and Chromium Web browsers. It has older versions of KWrite, LibreOffice Suite, Knotes and Leafpad. The accessories menu includes some low-end note taking and organizing offerings. System tools are paltry as well.

Menu Maze

One area where Musix provides a poor user experience is with its menus. They are poorly designed and repetitious.

For example, in the default LXDE menus, only two main categories are in the primary list. These are Musix and Debian. Musix opens into general categories, most of which have nothing to do with the specialty packages of the distro.

The Debian category slides open to a similar list of software categories. The result is a repetition of the same software catalog as found in the Musix main trunk. The same menu overlap exists in the other desktops as well.

Bottom Line

Musix is a mixed melody of offbeat and hip software. It would have potential for better adoption among musicians and multimedia users if its tool set were broadened.

If you check it out, be sure to go to the link provided above. Another Web URL in some search engines will take you to an outdated Musix GNU+Linux website that is no longer maintained and does not have the latest download.

Even to load the live DVD session, you will need the user name and password. If you do not carefully read the entire website’s two-column layout in Spanish and English, you might miss the clue. So here it is: The user name is “user.” The password is “live.” Do not include the apostrophe marks.

Want to Suggest a Linux Application for Review?

Is there a Linux software application you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him onGoogle+.

1 Comment

  • The real reason that Musix did not detect your wireless card is that it is a fully free distro and as such does not include the binary blobs necessary to communicate with your wireless hardware. This is a feature, not a bug and has nothing to do with the kernel version.

    This review would have benefitted from a few paragraphs about the philosophy behind fully free distros like Musix and the work that goes into creating such a distro.

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