The hidden places where Linux dominates

Routers and switches

In the big brave world of the enterprise, networking and storage is what Linux does best, and some of this technology has filtered down to the home and small business market. If you need a wireless router, the OpenWRT firmware has become something of an unofficial standard.

This is because it includes many advanced routing features that, while common to the Linux desktop, can cost a small fortune if you want the same system embedded into a box. As a result, you'll find that many boxes from the likes of Linksys, D-Link, Buffalo, Gateway and Asus will have user-reported compatibility with the very latest releases.

linux router

Some, such as Netgear's WNR3500L, are designed specifically to run both Linux and OpenWRT, making them the perfect solution if you've got the skills and confidence to use it.

Audio engineering

There are several high-profile synthesizers that are using Linux because of its stability, low latency and development ease. Your first thought might be that Linux isn't exactly renowned for its library of brilliant synthesizer software, but this isn't what these devices attempt to do.

The Receptor racked synthesizer, for example, developed by a company called Muse Research, is actually designed to run synthesizers created for Windows. It enables many popular software synthesizers that would otherwise need a screen and keyboard to run within a box with only a few knobs and a small screen for control – just like most other racked synthesizers.

It manages this through the use of Wine and an old version of Red Hat Linux. What's most impressive is that, in these Receptor devices, Linux beats Windows at its own game, running VST software synthesizers at a lower audio latency and with more reliability than the operating system they were developed to run on.

This is why they've proven so popular, and why so many musicians prefer to have software synths running Linux rather than Windows.

KORG oasys

Another high-profile Linux-based audio generator is Korg's flagship keyboard instrument, the OASYS. Korg is a Japanese company with a long history of synthesizer success, and its OASYS platform is a mythical hotbed for sound engineering development, long talked about before its release in 2005.

It's a modular system that's capable of running various types of synthesizer algorithms, all from its touchscreen, controller-rich hardware. And despite its £5,000+ price tag, it's proved to be a success with musicians who need results.


First published in Linux Format Issue 140

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