Category Archives: Android

More on the iPad vs. Chromebook Debate

Tim Holt’s recent article on EdSurge resulted in a lot of debate, including this recent rebuttal (pro-Chromebook). You can find the rebuttal by Joshua Kim at https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-06-30-3-reasons-why-chromebook-beats-ipad-in-1-1-programs

Here are Kim’s main points:

Reason 1: Chromebooks are for Creating, iPads are for Consuming

Kim’s main point is that the Chromebook has a keyboard attached to it, again, something that makes the device generally useless for most music programs.

And knowing the number of apps that can be used for music creation, where doing so is very limited on a Chromebook, music education lives in a reverse parallel universe from the rest of education. But then again, any subject without desks would feel the same way.

In truth, the argument that iPads are for consumption is tiring; and if I was a Chomebook apologist, I would be upset that it was implied that the Chromebook wasn’t good for consumption either (Yes, you can use Netflix on a Chromebook, too). Addtionally, the first touch screen Chromebooks are out, too, which may lead to similar ways of interacting with apps on a Chromebook as on an iPad.

Reason 2: The App Versus the Web

Kim argues that the web ecosystem is better for education. HTML 5 apps are still not mature, meaning that can make more developed apps for iOS or Android, versus what can get on a web app. Furthermore, web apps eventually need to be profitable, meaning that they need to sell annual subscriptions (most common) or be ad driven (dangerous at school…how do you control what apps are seen?). Most iPad apps…in music education…are buy once, use forever (or at least for multiple years–usually at a 50% discount). iOS developers are also very open to feedback, meaning that they are willing to add features at the request of paying users whereas web developers may not. Again, in music education, the app ecosystem is better…and web ecosystems that run on a Chromebook tend to also run on an iPad (e.g. NoteFlight).

Reason 3: The Google Ecosystem for Collaboration

Kim’s argument is that Chromebooks are better for collaboration. iPads can, for the most part, be used in every collaborative way that a Chromebook would be used. Furthermore, iPads can be mirrored via a dongle, Apple TV, or computer program…with new peer-to-peer mirroring without wi-fi this fall. I was never much of a fan of group projects in school, as I usually ended up doing the work for the entire group (to save the grade) or in self-selected groups, we would finish days before other groups. Music is collaborative in a others sense–everyone interacting with each other to create musical excellence, which at its core doesn’t even require technology.

Again, until we see a Chomebook tablet (again, unlikely as Google is still committed to Android tablets), a choice of Chromebooks in your school is a statement that the “core” matters, and that music and other “electives” don’t need technology integration in your school. I do support a hybrid model of Chromebook carts and 1:1 iPads, with the option of students checking out Chromebooks overnight. My guess is that many students would not take advantage of that opportunity with 1:1 iPads.

Sadly, Mr. Kim’s article focused on (hard to believe that. I would use this terminology, but it is accurate) old technology stereotypes, and ignored some of the existing positives of Chromebook, such as IT management, cost, and upcoming features and connections with between Chromebooks and Android L.

Music Scanning and Recognition on the iPad

In January 2013, Musitek released its latest version of its music scanning/recognition software, Smart Score Pro X2.  I own SmartScore Pro X, and downloaded the demo.  I had also purchased Neuratron’s PhotoScore Ultimate, and on the pieces I used for comparison, PhotoScore Ultimate did a better job of scanning than SmartScore Pro X2, so I chose not to buy the upgrade ($99).

I did notice, at the time, that Musitek was promising “mobile devices” in 2013 (see below):

The header from Musitek (captured 10/5/2013)

A techinmusiced reader sent me a post from Musitek that was on Facebook today:

From the Musitek Facebook page (captured 10/5/2013)

From the Musitek Facebook page (captured 10/5/2013)

The text from the Facebook post indicates that this was using Musitek’s NoteReader App on Android, and apparently you still need to pull the data captured from the app into SmartScore itself to edit the data (no indication if NoteReader can export as a MusicXML file to another program instead).  I hope the plan isn’t to force the user back to the computer–that defeats the purpose.

At the same time, Neuratron has just released a music handwriting recognition app, NotateMe (app link with referral), which also promises to add PhotoScore capability to the app in the near future.

NotateMe Coming Soon (captured 10/45/2013)

NotateMe Coming Soon (captured 10/45/2013)

It is about time for music scanning companies to take advantage of mobile devices for their software, particularly as a camera (of high quality) is attached to the device and the guessing game of scanner quality will no longer be an issue.  There is a time coming–in the VERY near future–where a desktop computer will no longer be needed to notate music.  For me, this includes the tasks of writing music by hand (right on the tablet), playing music into the app (with an attached instrument), or scanning a paper copy of music (taking pictures of each page, converting to music notation).  This is going to be even more true with coming 64-bit processors in all our mobile devices.

Now, what I find interesting is that both Musitek and Neuratron have adopted an Android-first process (although the iOS version of NotateMe came out within weeks of the Android version).  Perhaps that is because Android programming is more similar to desktop programming than iOS; or perhaps the iOS approval process is longer.  Android apps in music education, to this point, have not been very abundant, whereas the iOS app selection for music education apps is overwhelming.

I am not sure how the world will accept these “expensive” apps.  For example, Notion for the iPad (app link with referral)  is currently $16.   NotateMe (app link with referral) is $13 (which is 50% off).  Anyone who has bought a “full” version of software–notation, music recognition, etc.–will recognize the “deal” these apps represent.  But the marketplace is full of free and ad-supported apps that reach a much wider audience (e.g. how many more people would download Temple Run versus NotateMe?).

At any rate–interesting times lie ahead where your tablet really can be a computer replacement.

Now–if we can only get Apple to let us save audio to the music library!

Note: all app links on techinmusiced include a referral code that sends a percentage of the purchase price of the app to techinmusiced.com.  No extra cost is added to the price of the app, so if you are going to purchase an app mentioned on techinmusiced.com, please consider doing so with the referral link that is provided.

New app: NotateMe

Paul Shimmons already posted about this, but there is a new app that converts written music to “printed” notation called NotateMe. It is by Neuratron, the makers of PhotoScore (the scanning software that comes with Sibelius).

Here is a YouTube link:

And a link to the app (also available on Android) that seems to be a universal binary on iOS (runs on iPhones and iPads)

It is 50% off right now and will have future abilities to do music scanning (PhotoScore) right on your device (for an additional fee).

I am purchasing this now and will blog more later.

Android and Music Education Apps

This post is a request for those of you who own Android devices.  I’ve been working on a new release of my book “Practical Technology for Music Education” which features “key” app lists for a number of devices, including Android.

I’m having a very hard time finding quality apps to recommend for Android.

My list, so far, includes:

  • Mobile Sheets
  • EZ PDF
  • iReal b
  • Cleartune
  • Remind 101
  • Class Dojo
  • Music Theory Lessons Pro

If I can be blunt, I’m looking for the great must-have apps, not just apps that have some component of music education in them.  The sort of apps that say, “Buy an Android tablet just because of this app.”

Yes, I’m an iPad owner and apologist; and no, I’m not asking that question in jest.  There might actually be apps on the Android platform that are unique, special, and powerful when on an Android device (note that a lot of my list includes apps that were iOS first).  I’ve been looking on the two app stores and scouring the web to find apps.  It isn’t easy.  Please, PLEASE e-mail me if you have suggestions.

I’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been an Android version of GarageBand from another developer.  The answer: latency seems to be an issue on Android devices.  Latency appears to be anywhere between 20 times (at best) and 60 times (on average) worse on Android than iOS.

Think I’m lying because I’m pro-Apple?  Don’t take my word for it:

http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2011/12/03/developer-it-is-not-possible-to-play-music-on-an-android-phone/

I didn’t realize this until I was surfing the web for my book.  I just thought that the device and OS fragmentation of Android devices–not to mention where the money in app development lies (iOS)–kept developers away from Android.

I think I had read somewhere that Miselu, the creators of the upcoming C.24 keyboard, were originally trying to design products for Android.  Now I know why they chose to abandon that effort and to move to iOS.

I can’t fathom why Apple would have put a focus on low latency, and why Android would let their devices have high latency.  I don’t see Apple touting iOS as being better for musicians (they certainly could); low latency is almost an afterthought on their part…something that occurred just because they did other things right.

So…if you are an Android owner/fan, and you are a musician…it looks like you won’t be getting any “serious” music apps (note: music playback and music playing are two different things) any time soon. I’m not picking on you; I’m just rather shocked to learn about this.

From Paper to Pixels…a book by AirTurn creator Hugh Sung

I had the pleasure to receive a review copy of Hugh Sung's new book, “From Paper to Pixels.” Mr. Sung is a classical pianist who has been dealing with digital music for the past twelve years. In the process of going digital, he longed for a device that would turn pages wirelessly for him (he explains this at the end of the book), and eventually developed his own page-turning device.

I own an AirTurn device, and I couldn't be happier with it. I originally owned a device from a competitor, and I bought that other device because it was cheaper. As with all things, you get what you pay for. The AirTurn is worth every penny–and truthfully, it isn't much more expensive than its main competitor. As a side note, if you need an AirTurn at a bargain price, there are occasionally a few reconditioned models available at a discount from the AirTurn website.

Hugh Sung is the world's leading expert on converting paper scores to electronic scores. His book details every step of that process–both his own conversion to digital scores, as well as every aspect to the process of your movement to the use of digital scores. Throughout the book, I found myself nodding in agreement to his conclusions–for example, using PDF as a platform for all your digital music, and scanning in black and white (or even better, text) at 300 dpi. Mr. Sung makes the point, again and again, that if you scan things correctly, they will be useable for years to come, regardless of the device of the day.

As AirTurn has a relationship with a lot of developers on every programming platform (Mac, PC, iOS, Android–not sure about Linux), it was important for Mr. Sung to remain diplomatic as he describes different devices and apps that can be used for digital sheet music, and he does this with class in the book. There is no doubt that the book is slighted towards the iPad, as the iPad has the most options for music readers–but he gives fair time to Windows, Mac, and Android as well. When he discusses various apps, he makes sure to point out a killer feature of each app. And the best part–in my opinion–is that he also devotes some time to describing his current set-up, naming the device, app, and accessories that he uses.

I have a hard time being “mean” about an app or a product–I dislike hurting feelings, because I respect that some people have different opinions than I do. I have had two run-ins with developers over the years when I wrote critical things about their app. App developers are highly sensitive about their apps, as they are usually personal creations that are an extension of the developer themselves–criticising an app can be like criticising their children. As a result of these conflicts, I have shied away from “true” app reviews and instead focus on sharing the comments from the developer–except in cases where I purchased the app myself and have a personal interest in the app (e.g. I want to use it in my job). Mr. Sung mangages to avoid any aspect of being “mean” in this book–he leaves the decision about computer platform, apps, and accessories firmly in the hands of the reader, while still expressing his personal choices. My only fear is that many readers will read the book and remain unclear of what path to follow; in that case, my suggestion would be to follow Mr. Sung's choices as a starting point (his choices would also be my choices).

I don't have any complaints about the content of the book, but I do see some areas that were left uncovered, a few products that should be mentioned, and I'd like to make the plea for an interactive iBook. First, the book doesn't cover the aspect of music education at all. This, of course, is my wheelhouse, but I think digital music has benefits for music education just as it does for any other area of music. Dealing with music from a group perspective (educational or otherwise) adds a few more twists and turns than dealing with your own individual music. Second, I want someone with a relationship with music publishers to bring the question of scanning and copyright to the forefront. Literal copyright law likely forbids the tranference of a product from one medium to another (many schools had to repurchase DVDs as videocassettes were phased out, and could not cover the videocassettes to DVD themselves), even for personal use (archiving does not mean that the archival copy can actually be used). When Mr. Sung discusses internet sources for digital music, he does talk a little about copyright. But it is time for someone to stand up and to ask music to make it possible to legally convert purchased music to digital music or to make it possible for schools to legally do so for a very minimal fee, and to make new copies of digital music significantly less expensive than printed music. Schools cannot afford to repurchase every copy of music in their libraries (as copyright is life plus 95 years) to go digital, and it is ridiculous that digital music usually costs the same as printed music (There is no printing and shipping, no storage, and composers are not getting paid any more than a printed copy)! Perhaps Mr. Sung has the voice that can bring this to the forefront; but I know it is on the minds of many music educators in 1:1 schools that want to go digital with their music, but are afraid to do so because of the potential repercussions of copyright law. Third, as a music educator, I often find that teachers also want to get music from a scanned score back into a notation program–and I would have liked for there to have been a chapter about that in the book. Finally, Mr. Sung discusses screen aspect ratio (e.g. 4:3 best shows paper on a screen, whereas most Androids and Windows devices are 16:10), but I think it is worth noting that an iPad has basically the same height as a 15″ MacBook. In other words, a 16:10 device has to be substantially larger than an iPad to make music larger than an iPad–and most devices (including laptops) are not. Even an external monitor, using Reflector, has to be substantially taller than an iPad, or the music really won't be any larger (see the picture below from the book–the mirrored image is actually smaller than the iPad):

Many musicians are secretly hoping that Apple will eventually release an XL-sized iPad.

I feel that four additional products that should have been mentioned in the book. One is an app, SeeScore, that turns MusicXML files into dynamic sheet music on your iPad. MusicXML is a wonderful standard that brings more and more accuracy between music notation apps with every new version. MIDI is great, but when it comes to music notation, more accuracy is needed than what MIDI can provide. Two products that were not mentioned were styluses–I think the Applydea Maglus is a fantastic stylus, and I love the fiber mesh tip of the Boxwave Evertouch. The price on the Boxwave is outstanding, too. Finally, as music notation apps are mentioned in the book, I feel that Notion deserves to be mentioned along with Finale, Sibelius, and MuseScore; partially beause Notion works so well and is priced right ($99!), and partially because of its iPad app (the iPad app is mentioned in the book, but files between the Win/Mac and iPad versions can be exchanged–and the iPad app is improving at an unbelievable rate).

Most importantly, I would love to see “From Paper to Pixels” become an iBook in the iBookstore, with interactive videos. Many of the chapters of the book are dedicated to step-by-step processes that would be better served with a short video tutorial, videos that could be embedded in an iBook. Let's be honest, the majority of people with the capability to “go digital” are using iPads, so it would be very much worth the time to make an iBook version.

There are a few places where I highlighted the book…I thought I would share those quotes with you. First, Mr. Sung was discussing the difference between file structure on an iPad versus file structue on an Android tablet. This struck me, as I just finished scanning and reorganizing a choir library that was stored in thirteen 4 and 5 drawer file cabinets:

Unlike Apple iPads, which try to hide those rooms full of rusting filing cabinets filled with creaking drawers stuffed with mind-numbing stacks of dog-eared file folders behind clean, shiny icons, Android tablets keep the office storage door open for you to peruse the stacks and see what a glorious mess of data you accumulate over time.

Second, referring to the process of scanning being a marathon versus a sprint (it makes sense to scan a few pieces a day):

It's amazing how fast your music library will grow with just 15 minutes of scanning a day. As the proverbial saying goes, the way to eat an elephant is one small bite at a time.

And finally, in a discussion of the reliability of using digital music versus sheet music:

Nowadays I actually feel safer with my iPad sitting on my piano rack than with a wobbly piece of paper music that might have pages stuck together due to humidity on stage, or binding that's too stiff to keep the pages open, making them susceptible to being blown over by an errant draft.

On a related note, let me add that repeats, D.S. and D.C. markings, cuts, and score addendums also make digital music a far cry better than paper music.

There is a lot to love about this book; it is a clear guide on how–and why–to go from paper music to digital music. What I've failed to note is that Mr. Sung also brings a great deal of humor to the book, so it doesn't read as a dry academic text (not that all academic texts are dry–but we all know some that are). Quite the contrary–it seems as if Mr. Sung is having a conversation with the reader. He definitely seems like the type of person that would be a great friend and colleague–this comes through in the tone of the book. Also check out the checklist for using digital music at the end of the book–very practical advice from someone who is already on the journey.

As I present at conferences and workshops, two areas of concern crop up in every location–how to deal with wireless mirroring and scanning. I deal with these areas loosely in my upcoming book–but I will certainly refer readers of that book to Mr. Sung's book, and his book will also be recommended in my presentations that deal with moving from paper to digital music from this point forward.

So yes, I recommend the book to you–it was an enjoyable read for me even though I consider myself an expert in the field. I also enjoyed the chapter on the history of digital readers, the case studies of people using digital readers, and the background of the AirTurn pedal. The book goes on sale in paperback on August 1st for $19.99, and can be purchased at Amazon as a Kindle book or from AirTurn for $9.99 in an eBook format.

 

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