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RME Hammerfall on Ubuntu 14.04

Remember 2002? No? Well, that's perfectly fine because nothing in particular happened in that year, except for one important situation: The RME Hammerfall was pretty much without alternative for audio on linux at the time, mainly because Paul Davis (the man behind Ardour and a Linux Audio pioneer) owned one and is the only person on earth to know how to write reliable realtime drivers and willing to do it for free.

The Hammerfall itself, however, like much audio gear of the day, could be bought only by remortgaging your house and also accepting "Jus Primae Noctis" for your female relatives.

These days, much beefier and cheaper devices exist, but, lo and behold, the original Hammerfall is still available in garage sales, and the greatest garage sale of them all, eBay! And, apparently, "Jus Primae Noctis" is only required of th original purchaser.

Further, the RME was built before the German government introduced a law mandating planned obsolescence for non-essential technology (everything except tractors). So all the unnecessary quality they put into the original RME, guess what, still works! For cheap!

There is a catch, however (there always is). The Laptop version of the RME requires Cardbus, which is a ghastly 2cm wider than the slot your laptop probably has. Buuuuuuut, if you don't mind a chunk of hardware sticking out the side, you can get a Cardbus-To-ExpressCard adapter and use your RME pretty much as it is. No latency boost either, because the two cards have the same wiring, the adapter just puts a small chunk of metal in front of the large chunk of metal that is your mobile RME adapter. Plus, because your card is outside your laptop, you get to stare at the RME logo and awe at it.

Soooooooooooooo, plug and play, no? No. Not if have Ubuntu 14.04. Ubuntu 14.04 requires you to manually install your alsa firmware, but it's not that bad if you know you need to do it. Here's how:

# The easy part: Get the tools
sudo apt-get install alsa-firmware-gui alsa-tools-gui

# The manual tinkery stuff
wget ftp://ftp.alsa-project.org/pub/firmware/alsa-firmware-1.0.25.tar.gz
tar -xvzf alsa-firmware-1.0.25.tar.gz
cd alsa-firmware-1.0.25
./configure
make
# This way only RME firmware gets installed
cd hdsploader
make
sudo make install

The line that starts with 'sed' simply replaces /lib/firmware with /lib/firmware/hdsploader in a way that you can put in a copy/pastable script like the one above. The latter is where the hdsploader stuff needs to go for Ubuntu 14.04 to pick it up. You could also leave out that step and move some .bin files, but this is nicer, somehow.

Reboot, and you should be up and running.

But you aren't. You need to start up hdspmixer at least once to initialize the volume. Speaker bust alert! Turn down your external volume knobs first.