Tuesday, December 31, 2013

musescore - sheet music on linux

Recently I was helping a friend who had written a song. We wanted to produce some sheet music so I though it would be worth checking out any open source music authoring software.

Many years ago I looked at software in this space and some promised much but in the end, none seemed to deliver on any front. At that time, shareware windows software was all that could be found.

This search was a lot more successful. It did not take me long to find MuseScore. This is a cross platform, open source sheet music editor (with playback). The windows version worked out of the box and we soon had the basics mastered; chords, notes, repeats, lyrics etc.

My next instinct was to get it to work on Linux, specifically CentOS-6. After installing a few requirements from rpmforge, I had the code compiled and running (with just a few minor bugs). Once I know that it worked, I wanted to make an RPM. Unfortunately, musescore (or mscore as it is called under Linux) uses an unusual build procedure based on cmake. Adding that into an RPM seemed a little daunting so I found the closest thing I could on the internet to use as a starting point.

Opensuse has an RPM but it would not build on CentOS. After a few simple tweaks I had the package building but it was not being packaged correctly. The %makeinstall macro was trying to install files into the filesystem and not the package buildroot. After much internet searching and testing, I found the answer (which is quite simple. So simple I don't know why no one had written it down before).

The same as you might use for a normal Makefile, just set the DESTDIR environment variable. My %install now has:
export DESTDIR=%{buildroot}
cd build && %makeinstall

And with a few more minor tweaks I had the RPM finished.

Now I just have a few issues to sort out with playback on Linux. musescore does not like the default ALSA settings or ALSA devices (like my USB headset) disappearing and reappearing when I suspend and resume. Portaudio might fix that but it does not seem to work on my home machine.  The topic for another blog no doubt.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lazarus has come to life

Most of my windows programming is still done in Delphi 5. This was released in 1999 which makes it positively ancient. (Even more scary is that some programs started life in Delphi 2).

Not long after Delphi 5, Borland lost the plot (or prehaps they already had when they changed their name to Inprise). Although Delphi 7 was available, when I looked up upgrading the .net experiment was under way and it seemed like the end of the road for Delphi. I had hoped for a cross platform modern version to appear but that never really happened. Eventually the crazy was transferred to Embarcadero (whatever that is) and I still don't understand what works with what.

While all that was going on, I kept an eye on another program, Free Pascal. Free Pascal always showed such promise but the IDE was reminiscent of programming c++ under DOS.

Finally it seems though, I might have found what I have been looking for.  Lazarus, the Delphi styled IDE for Free Pascal. Matured enough for a 1.0 release and soon to be 1.2. Native unicode support and cross platform (Linux, Windows, OS-X).

Although there are a few sharp corners (don't import a unit called strings!), I am planning on converting my projects over to Lazarus and hopefully bringing them back from the dead too. My initial testing has been positive.

With any luck my programs will be playing nice with Windows 7, running on Linux and being recompiled without having to pay any license fees. It has taken a long time but I think it has been worth it.

Now if I could just press for Android support too...