Category Archives: General Musings
I have subscribed to Apple’s $9.99 highest-level storage plan for a couple of years, not being convinced of Dropbox’s lasting power (although I love Dropbox), data security (I have had to change my Dropbox password due to a data breach), and of course, improvements with iCloud. This means that I can store my most valuable data in Apple’s cloud system without worrying about failing drives or even stolen equipment. My most important documents, my music library (scanned and audio), and photos are all safely in the cloud for $120 a year, and Apple keeps increasing the amount of storage included in that pricing (now 2TB of data). Apple doesn’t seem to hold audio files or pictures against that total storage…although I do pay $25 a year of Apple Match (it takes all of your music and puts it in the cloud, also allowing you to re-download) and have not yet subscribed to Apple Music, although I think that subscription is coming, too.
With that online storage, I am able to backup my personal devices without any fear of running out of room. Sadly, the minimal 5GB that Apple allows for every iTunes account does not help much, and you end up buying storage for devices. I wish there was a way my family could tap into my 2TB of data, as I pay $0.99 for my wife’s devices and really should upgrade to $0.99 for our children’s iPads. We do use family sharing…but I wish there was family sharing for device backups.
Well, my new iPad Pro arrived yesterday afternoon–the afternoon of my last contract day (students were done on Friday), so receiving the iPad felt like a bonus for surviving the year. I will blog more about the year later–but I need to distance myself from it for a while before I do so.
What you read about the iPad Pro (12.9″) is true. It is huge, it is fast, and it has the potential to change your workflow. This morning, as I did my daily routine of having breakfast, doing devotions, and reading the news, my workflow was modified by having my journaling app (Day One) and my Bible reader of choice (Olive Tree) up at the same time. I could do this on my iPad Air, but doing so makes the split screen of limited use as space is minimal. I am learning how to utilize the new screen space, and am really looking forward to reading music on it. I get my first opportunity to do so this afternoon as a small group of ukulele players are playing for a Veteran’s retirement home–unintentionally on Flag Day (incidentally, happy Flag Day!).
I am figuring out how to integrate the Apple Pencil into my work flow. I have used a stylus before, but this device changes many interactions with the iPad Pro (and yes, with the latest iPad Pro, there is no perceived lag or latency). I just wish there was an “eraser” on the end of the Pencil for apps like forScore.
Back to the topic at hand…as my devices are set (in Settings) to back up when “sleeping” and plugged in, I am basically ready to upgrade or migrate at any time.
All I have to do is open a new device, go through the starting menus, tell the new device to restore from a backup, and then Apple restores the data. Apple doesn’t store the Apps with your backup–those download directly from Apple. All that downloads from your backup file is app data–which is relatively small (most of the time–there are exceptions, such as video files). Then, over time, Apple restores all of the apps you had on your device, and for the most part, you are ready to use your new device. Occasionally you will need to enter a password (such as with WordPress, which I use to blog), but that is a minor inconvenience.
I think a larger task would be the challenge of migrating from iOS to Android or Android to iOS…and even then, the carriers and companies have tools to help you migrate.
If you have been putting off the purchase of a new device because of the challenge of setting it up, and you want to use the existing setup on your current device–simply use iCloud Backup and the migration is pretty painless…it just takes a while to download everything.
One other tip: don’t erase your old device until you know that you have restored everything to your new device (or until you know that you will keep your new device)–just in case.
I have two Hewlett-Packard Apple AirPrint enabled printers at our house. One I bought for the family, the other I bought to bring to school (out of my own income). I brought the school printer home last year as students kept printing to it (not understanding or even caring that I was buying the ink and paper out of my own pocket), and we have been using our other printer as we do.
There were two problems: first, I have two young boys (5 and 9) who like to print things, and ink is expensive. As in ridiculously expensive. We are at the point where we need to buy another color cartridge for our printer (HP 60), at $25 each, or for $34 for a set of black and color cartidges. It really adds up.
I was trying to exchange our used cartridges for credit at Office Depot, but it turns out that you can only exchange ten cartridges a month (we had a stockpile of nearly 50) and you have to spend at least $10 a month to get the $2 credit per cartridge. We had exchanged 30 cartridges before figuring that out (I had to e-mail customer service), so we are no longer participating in that process. We were hoping to earn a good amount of money towards a new printer–but Office Depot’s policy/strategy makes it impossible to do that. Having to spend $10 to get $20 back that expires is not a good compromise.
We were intrigued by the promise of the newer Epson EcoTank printers that use refillable ink (very inexpensive on Amazon from other sources) for a printer that doesn’t cost that much more than a new HP printer. So, as we needed another set of cartidges, it was time to buy a new printer. I headed to Sam’s Club last week and bought the entry level Epson ET-2650 for just under $290 with tax.
Early reviews criticized print quality and connection to Apple devices–but in our experience so far, the printing looks fine, and it connects perfectly to our network and our devices–no worse than our HP printers.
We can now print in color without thinking of the price to do so. We can let the boys print things when they want to. My wife can print things without worrying about running out of ink. I can print things for school without having to worry about sending them via e-mail to print on school printers (for large orders, I would still send items to our district printing office).
And I will try to sell the printers, as is (needing ink), on Craigslist this summer for $25 each. Reastically, it might be a year of printing in our house and the EcoTank will pay for itself (particularly if you factor in the printing we are doing now that we were avoiding before).
I metion the printer on the blog, as you might need a printing solution for your home or office, or you, too, might be tired of the cost of ink cartridges for your printer. The EcoTank does require filling–but I don’t mind this–and you don’t need to take your empty cartridges to a specialty cartridge store to be refilled, either. The refill process is pretty painless…certainly easier than the old “fill your own cartridges” I used in previous printers (before manufacturers started putting smart chips on the cartridges that track how many copies they have printed).
A combination of a busy life and very little news has resulted in a rather sparse number of posts in the past months.
Just a few news items for you:
- Notion for iOS is on sale for $7.99 right now. If you don’t have it, buy it.
- Sheet Music Scanner was recently updated. That is another app to purchase if you don’t have it.
- Komp was released today…a handwriting-based music notation app. It is subscription based.
- Music Jot (yet another handwriting-based music notation app) recently had a major update.
- UberChord was recently updated
- Check out Monster Chord (driven by UberChord), which now has ukulele as well
Paul and I will be returning with the Music Education and Technology Podcast very soon, with a number of episodes in the coming months. To those of you who are teachers, I hope these months of warming weather and mandatory state testing are treating you well!
There is a big April Fool’s Sale happening on Finale right now…if you have not purchased Finale 25 and area previous owner OR looking to crossgrade, you won’t find a better price. And if you have never purchased Finale…$149 is INSANE (my first version of Finale was $250 back in the early 1990s). That is significantly lower than even the normal education pricing. The catch is…you need to act now. Tell anyone that you know who might be impacted by these very temporary prices.
Earlier this week, I was contacted by Mona Lisa Sound about their relatively new (January 26, 2017) music notation app, MusicJot. They offered a promo code, which I was happy to accept, and I have had the chance to work with the app a little bit this week.
iOS is fortunate to have so many quality apps, and there are several music notation apps. My long-time favorite is Notion, which has most of the features of a desktop program. In addition, there is Symphony Pro (more like a desktop program), NotateMe (notation by hand), and several other apps such as TouchNotation and iWriteMusic. On the horizon is Komp, another handwriting based notation app. In addition to these apps, both flat.io and Noteflight will work on iOS devices. As a result, MusicJot enters a field that is somewhat already crowded in terms of music notation applications for iOS. As a disclaimer, I am an unpaid beta tester for Notion and Symphony Pro, and I often am in touch with many of the other programs mentioned in the post.
MusicJot is a handwriting-based music notation app that is being developed in part by a musician and arranger who has arranged over 100 string quartets. The development team consists of two programmers. The idea behind MusicJot is to give composers an easy path to entering music, with an eye on the accessibility of StaffPad on Windows Surface devices. MusicJot utilizes the handwriting to notation engine of MyScript, which hails back to the “original” handwriting to notation app (which failed crowd funding) by Think Music Technology. Interestingly, Notion, offers this same functionality (from MyScript) as an In-App Purchase for iOS devices, and the feature is included in the desktop versions as well (generally for Windows Surface owners).
My initial thoughts about MusicJot can be summed up in one statement: the app is still young. It works–you write notes and then click outside of the measure to convert the notes to digital notation. After the notes are entered, you can play or edit what you have written. You can also add notes via touch, as well as change settings such as clef, time signature, key signature and so on. In other words, it has the standard functionality you would expect for a music notation app (missing, however, is ukulele as an instrument, which has become very important to me). Printing is coming soon, but you can export your notation (in my world, in the preferable Music XML format), but for now you have to e-mail the file to yourself (the actual MusicXML export feature saves the file in iTunes, whereas “Open In” would be a far more useful solution). The app opens with animated tutorial pages, and help is available on every page.
Recognition is fine–I have not been unhappy with any handwriting to music notation app. As Notion uses the same handwriting backbone, MusicJot is just as accurate. I have no complaints in this area. And yes, the Apple Pencil is supported, but I do not have a device that can use an Apple Pencil at this time (waiting for the 2nd generation 12.9″ iPad Pro).
The copy and paste features of the app seem to be very well thought out, and if you are editing (and have an Apple Pencil for best results), the ability to drag a sequence of notes (for pitch or length) and the ability to drop an octave after pasting is pretty novel. This just goes to show that every app has excellent features.
I’m not sold on the visual appearance of the app–it is clean (a much less cluttered approach than NotateMe, whose real power is in the PhotoScore In App Purchase anyway), but it also appears–for me–too “basic.” This is why I say that the app is young–it is missing features and its appearance will mature over time. To be honest, as it now exists for use, I would rather see the integration of the new SMuFL font in place of MakeMusic’s font.
All that said, I don’t want to be too harsh, as I am in support of every app that can be used to create and teach music.
For my level of music notation, I need apps that can quickly edit (from a scanned score) or create a chart, and as such entering notes by hand is a inefficient use of note entry for me. I much prefer to use handwriting recognition to add diacritical markings after I have entered notes into a score (this is a great use of Notion‘s handwriting IAP). However, if you only need to write short passages of music or don’t want to learn the intricacies of a notation program, apps like MusicJot, NotateMe, and the upcoming Komp would be an easy way to get music into digital format, particularly without StaffPad on iOS (can they really be selling enough copies of the app to stay on Windows on one family of devices?).
The app is $29.99 until March 16th, and then will go to $49.99. I realize that apps are FAR underpriced on the App Store. Finale is a $650 program (without education discount). The fact that Notion for iOS is $16 is crazy–although you of have to spend $30 for ALL the sounds and another $8 for handwriting. NotateMe is a $40 app, with a $30 PhotoScore scanning In App Purchase. All that said, I’m a little worried that the $50 regular price of MusicJot will not appeal to the basic user who doesn’t want to deal with the intricacies of Notion (which is pretty easy to use). At the same time, developers should charge what they want to charge.
So…keep your eye on this app. If you are intrigued by the app, get it while it is 50% off.
You can learn more about MusicJot. at Mona Lisa Sound’s website (http://monalisasound.com/musicjot.html), what appears on the MyScript website (http://myscript.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/170217-MyScript-Blog-MusicJOT-Case-Study.pdf) and also check out their introductory video (which should appear below):
Note: All the app links in this blog post are referral links. If you buy an app from that link, 7% of the purchase price comes back to me for the referral, out of Apple’s 30%. The developer still receives their full 70% for the value of the app, no matter how you buy the app. So…if you choose to buy an app from a referral link, thank you. My next cup of coffee (or part of a cup of coffee) might be from you!