Aniruddha Shankar on Tue, 21 Sep 2004 02:25:17 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> HOWTO: Temporary Media Lab, Setup a

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<nettime>'s one of the first spaces that discussed a Temporary Media
Lab. For those amongst us who're interested, heres a document I've
written on how to set up a media lab:

For those who're not interested in the clicky links, a raw text
version's appended. Note that all the "here"s and references to proper
nouns point to the relevant webpages.

How to set up a Temporary Media Lab*
(using Free/Libre/Open Source Software)

What is a tml ? To find out one viewpoint, scroll down to the fifth
paragraph here. I think a TML is an adhoc encampment of borrowed
components and scrounged up and refurbished hardware that people
participating in an event or embedded in a situation can use to reflect,
remix and report on the environment and locale that they are surrounded
by. Of course, the better the hardware and the more involved and lively
the participants, the more fun, capable and valuable the lab... I set up
a media lab in Hamburg in the beginning of 2004 using Free/Libre and
Open Source software and it was cheap, great fun and a huge learning
experience. This page talks about how I did it. You could do something
like this too, it's really easy. Just remember to plan ahead and
maintain a sense of humour.

A TML is composed of various parts -

~    *
~      hardware
~    *
~      software
~    *
~      processes

3 computers - arranged in a star configuration with the monitors facing
outwards so no one can see everything that's happening in the lab at the
same time - it's an interesting effect. Basically, any computer that has
been purchased in the last 2 years will be capable of being part of the
TML. Even the cheapest of computers purchased in 2004 will be sufficient
and in most respects will surpass the "Recommended" specifications given

Computer Configurations -
Optimal: Pentium4/AthlonXP 2.0 gHz or faster, 512mb RAM or more, at
least 60 GB hard disks, nVidia graphics cards (budget ones will do),
DVD-writer on one of the machines (DVD-rewriter would be great),
CD-rewriter on another one(CD-rewriter on the other two would be great)
, at least 17inch monitors for all of them, 100mbps network cards. For
audio support, an audio card which supports hardware mixing under ALSA
(the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture). To find out which audio cards
do this, go here and look in the notes column for (4) ... I recommend
the Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live or the SoundBlaster PCI 512  - A
soundblaster Live alue can be had for USD 15 or INR 780 (prices from
pricegrabber, currency conversion from XE )

Acceptable: Pentium3 / AthlonXP in the 1-1.5 gHz range, 256mb RAM, 40 GB
hard disks, builtin-graphics cards sufficient (intel 8xx series for
pentium3s, nforce / sis chipsets for athlons), CD-rewriter on one
machine, 17inch monitor on at least one machine, 100mbps network cards.
For audio support, the builtin audio cards are sufficient - but you will
not be able to do hardware mixing so you might not get the support of
all the features in advanced programs like ardour.

Minimum: Celeron / Pentium3 between 600mHz and 1 gHz, 128 mb RAM, 20 GB
hard disks, builtin graphics cards, 15" monitors on all of them, 10mbps
network cards. For audio support, the builtin audio cards will suffice.

Networking -
Recommended a 100mbps switch, at least a 10 mbps hub, sufficient CAT5
cabling for all machines. An extra network card is necessary if the
external network interface (for example to the network) is through a LAN
or standard network - in this case, one computer will have two network
cards and will interface (or act as the gateway) between the external
network and the Media Lab.

Miscellaneous -
Unless you are sure of the quality and availability of the electricity,
I'd recommend borrowing UPSs for the duration of the event.

Peripherals -

Scanner: check the list of compatible scanners in the SANE (Scanner
Access Now Easy) matrix.  Look for scanners with "complete" support.
Compatible scanners can be amongst the most troublesome peripherals to
get for Linux - the ones that have "complete" support are, in many
cases, not sold anymore by the manufacturer - an exception is the
CanoScan LiDE 20 or the LiDE30 (september 2004) so you might have to
hunt around in your local shops or use ingenuity to find one. Make sure
that you get the EXACT model number - I was in a media lab that got the
canoscan LiDE35 (which was incompatible) rather than the LiDE 30.  the
HP 2200c is great, if you can get it. To see if the development version
of SANE (which might be unstable) supports your scanner, go here for a
similar list. An outdated (but still good) list for USB scanners is here
. Find one for parallel ports here.  If you're in Delhi, check out this
site for a good listing of manufacturers.

Printer: if you anticipate moderate to heavy printing, you should find a
laser printer - the cost per page is much less than that of an inkjet.
Almost every printer, be it laser or inkjet, parallel or USB is
supported by CUPS, the Common UNIX Printing System. Check out this list
~ and see if you have access to a printer that is supported in the
"perfectly" or in the "mostly" column. Make sure you take a few reams of
paper and a spare printer ink/toner cartridge.

Digital Camera: As far as I know, any camera with an interface to a USB
port in a computer will be supported under Linux as a USB storage device.

LCD Projector: An LCD projector is fantastic, if you can arrange one -
the basic idea is that once it's plugged into the computer, you can
display the actual work process in a node of the media lab - great for
demonstrations, playing movies, music and for displaying webpages,
animations or publicity material. When you're getting a projector, try
and find out the make and model of the projector beforehand and google
and see if there are any reports of incompatibilities with Linux.

Sound Recording : a cheap microphone to record the pearls of wisdom that
drop from the lips of the medialab participants... it's fun when you use
audacity or hydrogenaudio to remix the voices and chop, cut and paste
the things that people say.

Linux :) kernel of the 2.6.x series - a sample config file for the
kernel can be found here. I used Gentoo Linux for the media lab because
it's fun, fast and very very customisable but you're free to use more
administrator-friendly distributions such as KNOPPIX, Mandrake or SuSE
which have excellent hardware detection and tools for administrating the
machines. I recommend KDE for the interface if you have computers that
are at least "Acceptable" or "Recommended". KDE can be easily set to
display an interface in almost every language on earth as can GNOME,
which is also a very good choice. If you're running a restricted
hardware setup, check out XFCE4 or iceWM. Google is your friend.

Servers: make sure sshd  the secure shell daemon is running on all  of
the machines so you can administer them remotely and use SAMBA or nfs to
share files between computers. If you don't have access to the Internet,
you can use boa as a light web server to demonstrate what the webpages
that you'll be creating will look like...

Text: for simple composition, kedit or gedit are great. For text with
formatting, try abiword or kword. For a full-featured word processor
that can, in almost all circumstances, match the best in the field, try Writer version 1.1.2 or later. For near-professional
quality Desktop Publishing, check out Scribus :)

Image: for creating/editing animations, photos or images, use GIMP
version 2.x (comparable to Photoshop). Rudimentary image editing can be
done in kpaint. To view images as a slideshow, use kuickshow. Inkscape
is great for creating vector images and Blender is a very good 3D
rendering and drawing package.

Web Pages: Use Mozilla Firefox to view webpages. Konqueror is also a
very good browser. I use the Mozilla suite for my work as it's a very
stable and full-featured browser, if slightly slower than firefox. To
create web pages, I use Mozilla Composer and have been experimenting
with an experimental version of it called N-VU, in which this web page
was written. Make sure you have the netscape-flash plugin installed if
you want to see flash animations in the web pages that you visit.

Email: It's unlikely that people will be using anything but webmail to
check their email in a temporary media lab. If this is not the case, you
can use Mozilla Mail, kmail or Evolution.

Sound: XMMS is still very good at playing audio files. Under KDE, you
could use JuK. To edit audio files, try Audacity or the more advanced

Video: For the entry level video editor, try Kino. Try Cinepaint or
Cinelerra if you want heavy duty tools that have been used to make and
edit top-quality movies.

Burning CDs and DVDs: To do this, use the superlative K3B.
A TML is empty without processes to animate it. The environment that
surrounds the lab - a festival, a conference or a meeting should produce
a cacophony of media - text about the conference, web pages by passers
by, photos, images, animations, scrawls, remixed speech, background
music - anything at all ! Here are few process that you can use to
animate your lab - and of course, there are many more...

blog: A blog is short for a weblog, and refers to a form of personal web
publishing with an emphasis on a chronological notation or flow. it's
wildly popular these days and there are many free weblog servers that
are available for people to use - try blogspot or livejournal.

streetlog/herelog - a herelogger observes the environment around the lab
- - the conference or festival and makes periodic entries in a weblog -
this provides us with a very rich and "non-official" picture of the
event. it can be made very fascinating by embedding the following media
forms inside:

pictures  - can be taken using the digicam and edited, played with,
filtered, morphed, colour-shifted using the plethora of image editing
and manipulation tools that the lab provides. Try making a collage of
the participants, I've seen one and it's great!

music and sound - it's fun to work and play with music in the background
and you can take recordings using the microphone and remix them in
audacity, add drum effects using hydrogen audio and even embed them in
the weblogs.

lab newsletter - use scribus and inkscape to put together a single-sheet
newsletter at the end of the conference - this can be printed out using
hte printer and photocopied and distributed.

Open Source / Free(dom) software was created by people mixing and
matching pieces and ideas in a environment very like a crowded street
festival or a bazaar - the same method that's used to create extremely
interesting media. Have fun with the TML and mail me your suggestions
for this document.


Aniruddha "Karim" Shankar
The Sarai Programme, New Delhi

Document made with Nvu
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Version: GnuPG v1.2.4 (GNU/Linux)


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