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Agnula: What Is It?

The Objectives of the AGNULA Project


This page refers to the old status of the project, when it was financed by the European Commission. EC Financing has ended in April 2004, but AGNULA has been continuing as a mixed paid/volunteer project. See the Who's who for more information on who's currently working on AGNULA.

AGNULA: A GNU/Linux Audio distribution (IST-2001-34879)

AGNULA (acronym for Ā«A GNU/Linux Audio distributionĀ», pronounced with a strong g) is the name of a project funded by the European Commission (number of contract: IST-2001-34879; key action IV.3.3, Free Software: towards the critical mass).

AGNULA's main task is the development of two reference distributions for the GNU/Linux operating system completely based on Free Software (i.e. under a FSF approved Free Software license) and completely devoted to professional and consumer audio applications and multimedia development. One distribution will be Debian-based (DeMuDi) and the other will be Red Hat-based (ReHMuDi).

The project is coordinated by Centro Tempo Reale (Florence, Italy) and sees the participation of a range of actors from the research, university and business arenas.

The project started on the 1st April, 2002 and will end on March 31, 2004.

The purposes of AGNULA can be summarized as follows:

  1. support the development of GNU/Linux distributions completely dedicated to audio applications.
  2. provide coordinated access to the widest combination of Free audio software in a coherent environment. This will enhance state-of-the-art research and development in the audio field.
  3. provide a audio system based on Libre Software which will enhance customized usage (useful in cultural and artistic environments).
  4. help spreading sensibility on the topics of Libre Software (with specific attention paid to audio/video applications and content distribution).

AGNULA will support the development of derived distributions of Debian GNU/Linux and Red Hat GNU/Linux dedicated to audio and multimedia - DeMuDi (Debian [based] Multimedia Distribution) and ReHMuDi (Red Hat [based] Multimedia Distribution).

DeMuDi and RehMuDi will focus on providing a coherent environment for end user (be them musicians, composers, VJs) with specific attention paid to the following features:

  • they shall be easy to install (auto-configuration, automatic hardware detection, attention to human-computer interaction);
  • they shall be full-featured GNU/Linux system (completely configurable and customizable, reliable and secure);
  • most of the software shall be released under the GNU GPL licence and all included programs will be Free Software.

Project Objectives

The objectives of AGNULA can be summarized as follows:

  1. Technological objectives . The main objective is to support the development of GNU/Linux distributions completely dedicated to audio applications. These distributions should solve all the problems related to hardware compatibility and should provide several sophisticated software packages which are available separately but not easily found in coherent environment packages. Another objective is to provide these distributions in a variety of packagings to suit the widest combination of needs. They should feature ease of installation and fully documented system management.
  2. Scientific objectives. The main scientific objective is to provide coordinated access to the widest combination of Free audio software in a coherent environment. This will enhance state-of-the-art research and development in the audio field. There is a wide consensus today over the fact that GNU/Linux systems provide the best, low-latency multitask/multiuser behaviour, winning over all other proprietary and non-proprietary systems: for this reason this platform will certainly become the preferred one for mission-critical low-latency applications such as the audio ones.Furthermore, AGNULA will foster the use of a common platform in university and scientific environments where many of these applications get developed.
  3. Cultural objectives. Providing a audio system based on Libre Software will demonstrate the important contribution of Libre Software to truly creative usage of applications, such as the one expected by professionals and amateurs from audio computing; for the first time, users will be able to completely control, customize and adapt audio applications to their needs and to the fullest extent - reaching far more original and creative results than with pre-canned proprietary software. Users will also have access to special scientific and professional software never previously packaged in complete distributions.

The current situation is that GNU/Linux systems are very rarely used in professional and consumer audio and multimedia, even though they are technologically superior, economically far more convenient than their counterparts using other operating system platforms and they fully guarantee the users against future incompatibilities and other forms of losses. The scientific/academic environment sports a better acceptance of GNU/Linux systems, but it still has to be considered a minority. There are several reasons for this:

  • Audio applications rely very heavily on a large variety of innovative hardware, protocols, standards and file formats; Libre Software distributions must be capable to automatically detect and adjust a large combination of configurations; while proprietary software tends to properly configure single suites in competition with other applications running on the same suite, Libre Software distributions are targeted to exactly the opposite result: applications must be able to cooperate and communicate between them; this is a much more difficult endeavour to achieve, although it is now clear that it is the only possible way to go for professional multimedia workstations.
  • Professional audio applications are generally sophisticated, complex and hard to configure; they imply deep knowledge and know-how of numeric digital signal processing methods and algorithms; while Libre Software is the only paradigm that allows effective knowledge of the inner workings of its applications, the learning curve is very steep and it is professional and amateur users are often scared away by the difficulties; proprietary software solves the problem with pre-canned solutions: Libre Software can of course offer pre-canned solutions, but conscious and original artistic usage implies banning these solutions to find more creative ones - and Libre Software is unique in offering this possibility.
  • Up to now, hardware industries have been very secretive about the technical descriptions of their products because of their fear for clones etc.; this situation has often excluded Libre Software applications and systems from easy and informed development of device drivers, because of the non-disclosure agreements imposed by hardware manufacturers which limits the public release of source code (which is a pre-condition of Libre Software); this is a particularly annoying factor on audio applications which are very hardware-intensive and related; this situation is very rapidly changing because Libre Software systems are now becoming diffused viable alternatives to proprietary ones and hardware manufacturers are becoming more and more interested in the development of Libre Software drivers for their products; a Libre Software distribution like the one outlined in this project will further enhance the interest from hardware manufacturers.

Last modified 2004-10-06 12:49 PM
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