This month's music player was formerly called "Babe." Based on Qt, it's a rather neat little player that doesn't demand much of your system and manages to look great and support nearly every feature you'd expect. All of this might even start to sound familiar, because we've looked at Babe before – way back in May 2017 (Linux Magazine, issue 198). But Babe has been rapidly maturing, even maturing out of its infantile name, though sadly into a new one that's worse than a teenager's nickname – VVave (that's two Vs, for those with bad eyesight). This comes with a rebranding and a lovely website with a new design aesthetic and hopes of becoming a standard KDE application. The KDE integration is well justified now that the application has lots of KDE native notifications, use of KDE controls, and even the ability to send your music to your phone via KDE Connect – something that you need to sell your soul to do with iTunes.

Even better is a new Chrome extension that goes alongside the main application. With this installed into your browser, you're able to add YouTube music videos to your collection with a simple click, adding the music to VVave, which enables you to play without the added distraction of moving pictures. VVave's main feature is still a brilliant one – you can remove all the distractions of the excellent playlist manager, or the contextual music details and links, and simply have a tiny window for playback, augmented perhaps by an album cover or maybe only the list of songs in the playlist. You've got lots of options on how many panels are visible and what the application does. It's really come a long way.

Project Website

Babe has become VVave, and although the name is no real improvement, the application is.

Virtual Studio

SoundStage VR

You can't have failed to notice that virtual reality (VR) has had something of a long-awaited renaissance. It hasn't been as dramatic or as life changing as many had hoped, but it has resulted in real and relatively affordable hardware, as well as a new Steven Spielberg movie. Unfortunately, despite the initial promise, the enterprise that literally kickstarted this renaissance, Oculus (now owned by Facebook), has failed to deliver any Linux support for its hardware, but its competitor, the Valve-backed SteamVR platform, has. If you have the money, you can buy an HTC Vive headset with a high-end Nvidia graphics card, install Steam and SteamVR, and play a handful of games in VR on your Linux box. It doesn't work as well as the Windows version, mostly down to input latency, but it does work. Strap the headset on and wave the controllers in the air, and you can play amazing games like The Talos Principle, or Windlands, or the incredible physics simulator, Universe Sandbox. These games are totally immersive, with the headset imperceptibly updating as you turn, walk, and jump to generate a three-dimensional view of your surroundings. It's still relatively crude and prone to inducing nausea, but there seems little doubt that when the technology improves and prices tumble, VR may become the standard computer interface.

Unfortunately, there isn't much room for open source in all this software. OSVR is a very promising platform that is open source and includes its own hardware, but there aren't many fully fledged games or applications that use it. One exception is Safespaces, a virtual desktop with a terrible name. The SteamVR platform is open, as in anyone can start writing for it, but it's not open source, and that means compromises will need to be made. If you are going to make a compromise, there's no better place to start with than SoundStage VR, a commercial application that was so brilliantly designed and effective in what it attempted to do that the developer was quickly hired by Google and the project abandoned. Before it was abandoned, though, the developer did the right thing and fully open sourced the project, which can now be downloaded and built for free (alongside the free, not open source, version of Unity).

There's even a pre-built binary if you don't want to build the code yourself. Just make sure you've got Steam VR running and run the executable from the command line. SoundStage will appear right in front of your eyes. It's not exactly a game, but this is an environment you can play in for hours. It's a virtual music and recording studio with a completely performance-driven modular approach. From a 3D palette, you can construct a complete virtual drum kit, for instance, linking drums in 3D space to prerecorded samples. Synthesizer elements can be connected with virtual wires, just as you might with a Moog modular synthesizer, all of which can be recombined, reconnected, recorded, and played in real time. You can even use external MIDI equipment and the JACK audio connection layer to get sound into and out of your virtual environment. It's a lot of brilliant fun, and if you're lucky enough to have a compatible VR headset, it's a must.

Project Website

Open source virtual reality app, SoundStage VR, lets you build your own studio and make as much noise as you want.
Connect synth elements, effects, keyboards, mixers, samplers, drums, and sequencers together in any way you choose.

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