Oslo Laptop Orchestra

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The Oslo Laptop Orchestra (OLO) was started by Kjell Tore Innervik and Alexander Refsum Jensenius in 2007, and has been carrying out workshops and concerts at irregular intervals ever since. OLO is following in the tradition of PLOrk, where each performer has a laptop, speakers and controllers.

Contents

Hardware

Computers

We have been using both mac and windows laptops in OLO, and sometimes also combinations of the two in performance. Using different computers every time we performed, as well as having to deal with small differences in hard/software that made it necessary to make adjustments here and there, seemed to be a less than ideal situation. So we decided to buy a bunch of computers that would be dedicated to the orchestra. Our decision finally ended on these ones:

  • 8x Lenovo Ideapad S10 red 10" netbooks

Here are some reasons for this choice:

  • Price: we got three Ideapads for the price of one MacBook
  • Weight: one person has no problems carrying all 8 Ideapads at the same time!
  • Size: they fit on top of our speakers, so no need for extra stands
  • Cool: while PC laptop generally are not considered cool, most people find netbooks cool (and ours are red!)
  • Performance: the performance is sufficient for our needs they look really cool (red), they are much easier to carry around
  • Connections: they have a built-in SD-card reader, which may prove very useful to update them
  • Dual-boot: while we are mainly using Windows XP at the moment, we have also installed Ubuntu and will be testing that more in the future

Speakers

We are using one active speaker (Genelec/Yamaha) per laptop. It could be cool to use some kind of multichannel speaker one day (e.g. the Electrotap hemispheres or New PLOrk speakers), but for the moment we have been quite happy about what we get out of the active speakers. It also makes the setup much easier, since we don't need any external sound card, amplifiers, etc.

Peripherals

  • Mouse
  • Gamepad
  • Phidgets interfacekit starter set
  • Phidgets USB accelerometers (2x)

Software

We are currently running Windows XP home. The main reason for that was that the computers came preinstalled with that. If there is any performance benefits we will probably update to XP Pro next time we clone the computers. In the long run we will probably convert to using Linux instead, and we have already installed Ubuntu on all computers to start testing how that works in an educational laptop orchestra context.

Install

Installed the following software:

  • Max/MSP/Jitter: powering around half of the pieces we play
  • Chuck: powering the other half of the pieces we play
  • PD extended: we haven't used PD much in OLO yet, but will try to move some of the simpler patches over to PD instead of Max
  • Phidget library: required for the Phidget interface kits and USB accelerometers
  • Audacity: not sure if we need this, but always good to have the opportunity to record and edit audio files
  • QuickTime Pro: is needed to make Jitter work properly
  • Tortoise SVN: for updating from the SVN repository (not sure if we will actually use this)
  • Cygwin: could be useful to run command-line stuff instead from the terminal
  • Adobe Reader: in case we end up writing documentation as PDF files
  • Firefox: always good to have a web browser other than IE
  • 7-zip: to pack/unpack various things
  • Java: to make the mxj objects work in Max
  • TweakUI: small MS application for fixing various OS things, including removing the trash can from the desktop

Tweak

  • Windows update is disabled
  • No anti-virus
  • Uninstall the demo version of Office + all extra packages
  • Remove trash can from desktop using TweakUI
  • Set the energy settings to always on, and don't let the system hibernate when closing the laptop
  • Turn off all system sounds, including the hardware beeps

Clone

After installing one computer with all relevant software and set up with the preferences mentioned above, we clone it to the other computers using Norton Ghost 14. While it is reported that the regular version of Ghost does not allow for cloning anymore, it has worked well for us. Here's the procedure we have been using:

  • Install Norton Ghost on the computer that will be cloned
  • Create a restore point on an external hard drive
  • Create a Ghost-CD to boot Ghost on the computer that will be installed
  • Boot the CD from the external CD-ROM, after setting the boot order in Bios (we have had to use an external CD-drive to boot the Ideapads. Life would certainly easier if we could make hard drive bootable in itself.)
  • Hook up the external hard drive and select the restore point to install from
  • Choose to make the cloned drive bootable, and write the MBR
  • A memory problem occurs and the installer quits. Try again and it should work...
  • Wait for 30 minutes and restart


Using linux - to be tested

Instead of using Norton Ghost, it is possible to use Linux dd-comand (disk dump?) to copy an entire volume to another. Currently this method has not been tested. If it works, it will be preferrable to using Norton Ghost, as it avoids installing anything extra.

NOTE: at 25MB/sec (typical value) copying the whole disk of 150GB will take about 100 minutes.


Copy the first laptop to the external drive

  • Boot the preferred laptop, using the USB-Finnix/Linux-stick.
  • (select norwegian-latin1 keyboard using kbd-config)
  • plug in the external drive that will carry the data (note the device name [sda/sdb/sdc/sdd]
  • find out which device you are copying from, either of these commands:
cat /proc/partitions
cat /proc/scsi/scsi
  • copy the entire volume to the extarnal disk using dd (typically) as follows
dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdd bs=1024k &
while sleep 10; do pkill -USR1 -x dd; done

[translation: if--input file, of--output file, bs--buffer size.] [the second line is not strictly needed, but it displays the progress nicely]

  • if the operation runs slow: Try a larger buffer size.
  • if you want to stop the copying process, use CTRL-C to break the reporting, then find the PID (process ID) for the dd-command and kill it.
ps -ef
kill PID

Copy the external drive to the second laptop

  • Follow the same procedure as when copying the laptop to the external drive, only switch sda and sdd in the dd command. You will also need to make sure that it still is sda and sdd

FURTHER TESTING: copying only the correct partition, using an external HDD with Finnix installed.

Setup

Here are the things to remember to set up on freshly cloned computers:

  • Computer name: under system/computer name

Check also the list from the PLOrk Rep list.

Performances

  • 11 October 2007: Ultima 2007, Norwegian Academy of Music
  • 30 November 2007: Nettverk 2007, Radisson SAS
  • 31 January 2008: PhD Disputation, Schaftel√łkken
  • 28 February 2008: Vinterlydfestivalen, Norwegian Academy of Music
  • 21 August 2008: Semester opening concert, University of Oslo
  • 7 October 2008: Ultima 2008, Norwegian Academy of Music
  • 27 February 2009: Vinterlydfestivalen, Norwegian Academy of Music

Links

Sound

Laptop orchestras

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