New version of openArtist released: an annotated multimedia Linux distro with focus on ease of use

An artist friendly Linux distro

One great thing about open-source is that it allows you to remix your own operating system, build something that really fits e.g. a communities needs.

openArtist, based on the latest Ubuntu KarmicKoala, focuses on making sure that everything an artist will need

– is included in the standard installation
– comes with at least a short description or a longer help text
– is ready to be used “out of the box” or can easily be installed with an extra script

The distro’s maintainer is basically also doing a conferencier’s job, guiding you through your new virtual home, explaining almost each single menu item (hover with the mouse over an app’s icons in the menu for the extensive tooltips). This is an interesting and user friendly approach: an annotated Linux distro that really makes you want to explore everything…

From the openArtist online documentation:

Help and documentation is provided via “extended tooltips for the program launchers, documentation for (nearly) every program, ordered by appearance in the menu structure”. And the “applications are not only installed: They are configured”.

“openArtist features a streamlined interface (gnomebased), with integrated mousegestures, custom menus, reorganized and extended system configuration tools, terminal-on-desktop integration (guake, ctrl+esc), dropbox for collaboration between artists (…)”

For example video editing with Blender: the Blender VSE (Video Sequence Editor) comes with all those extra plug-ins already installed! (Installing these plug-ins is not a trivial task for new Blender users…)

See the openArtist website for the full list of 2D, 3D, Audio, Video, VJ etc. software that you get with openArtist.


Less is more: no PulseAudio (by default) in openArtist!

There is also one important difference between openArtist and KarmicKoala that matters a lot to me: there is no PulseAudio in openArtist. Here is why this is important:

I switched from OS X to Ubuntu (and standard PC hardware) about one and a half years ago when Ubuntu HardyHeron (8.04) came out. It took me about a year to figure out that I could solve most of the audio problems that I kept having (e.g. sound in only one app at the same time or no sound in Blender at all) by simply getting rid of PulseAudio. While you can easily remove PulseAudio in 8.04 this gets harder and harder with every Ubuntu release after that and this is one of the main reasons why I am still using 8.04.

There have been long discussions about why PulseAudio does not work for all users, some blame Ubuntu’s implementation of the technology, some blame PulseAudio’s design itself. As a user I am looking for a solution that works, Ubuntu without PulseAudio works for me.

OpenArtist now finally gives me a new Ubuntu version that I can actually use, it’s basically KarmicKoala but minus PulseAudio and plus a very fine selection of multimedia apps that are ready to use! (The documentation says a script will be provided later for those who want to install PulseAudio in openArtist.)

Getting started and some tips

Download openArtist directly from:

MKL Graz or
openMaterials or
groundhog media

Or download the torrent here.

If you need help with burning an ISO have a look at this Ubuntu help page (includes instructions for Ubuntu, OS X and Windows).

Like Ubuntu openArtist also works as a live disc, meaning you can simply boot from the DVD and have a look at everything without the need to install it.

Make sure to read the readme before/after installation files on the openArtist desktop!

As always with new software: before installing anything make sure to have recent and fully working (tested) back-ups in place!

The download is 3.47 GB and you will need about 12 GB of hard disc space. Have a look at the openArtist documentation for “how to make a persistent (=writeable) live USB stick” if you want that!

Also note that as with Ubuntu, due to legal reasons, you will still have to download the codices for multimedia playback separately. (This is e.g. done when you first attempt to play back an .mp3.) Just make sure to have an internet connection after installing openArtist for downloading everything else that you might need!

Current limitations

At the moment openArtist does not have a 64-bit version and is bound to one user (“tux”).


openArtist also features my own Blender presets/tutorials (“Video Editing Preset”, “2D Title Presets”) for quickly getting started with open-source video editing using Blender. (See the “Vid” menu in openArtist.)

I have great interest in promoting Blender (works on all major platforms/.blends can be shared, see here for a list of features) as a video post tool since I am using it myself: a larger user base will attract even more developers, even more features will be added to this great, minimal style yet very powerful non-linear video editing solution…!

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