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Palm Tipsheet 39 - February 2003
iSilo Edition (20k):
The Palm Tipsheet is sponsored by readers like you! You can now donate via PayPal or the Amazon Honor System, using one of the two links below. Thank you Robert for your generous donation! :-)
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I have some difficult news to share with you all regarding the Tipsheet in this month's editor's welcome... I've decided to stop publication of the Palm Tipsheet after the March 2003 issue is released next month.
This was a very difficult decision for me to make. After much thought, discussion with several trusted friends, prayer and contemplation, I feel it's a necessary step for me to take.
Why, you may ask?
Well, it all comes down to time, energy and fun. As many of you know, I've had a son enter my life in November 2002, which has caused me to reconsider many activities. But the issue I face is really about what I choose to do with my time and energy and how to best spend it at this point in my life.
I feel drained of energy as never before, physically, mentally and creatively. This drain is effecting my family, my work and my health and I've come to the conclusion that I must make changes to stop the drain. One of the changes that I've decided to make is stopping the Tipsheet.
As for fun, I began the Tipsheet in 1997 as a fun endeavor and its been fun for several years... until recently. Each issue is more of a grind than fun lately. Curiously, the past 8 issues have featured guest writers, so for 8 months the time I usually spend on each issue was greatly reduced -- yet publication has become more of a grind than ever. I've always said that when the Tipsheet stops being fun, I'll stop doing it. That time has come.
I've had good discussions with friends and family about the future of the Tipsheet, and for a while I'd considered looking for volunteers to help share the load. But after further reflection, I believe this would be a band-aid rather than a solution to the problem. Even with volunteers, the Tipsheet will continue to require alot of time and energy. Further, what I do as a writer, editor and publisher really makes the Tipsheet what it is -- it's a part of me that can't be easily delegated to others.
I really love the idea of the Tipsheet and what it's stood for all these years. It's a contribution to the Palm community; a sharing of practical ideas in a free newsletter, written by real people. I wish I still had the energy to continue, but I don't, To continue would mean either a lower quality Tipsheet or lower quality in my life and I will not allow either.
So, where do we go from here? Well, first, if you're someone who's recently donated to the Tipsheet and you feel your donation was given toward future issues, I'll be happy to refund your donation if you wish.
Next, to all 850-plus respondents to the recent questionnaire, I must apologize. When I released the questionnaire I'd not decided to stop Tipsheet. I know you all spent time answering questions, so I promise to read each and every response. Thanks so much for your input.
Finally, the Tipsheet website will stay online as a reference for you and other Palm users, with all issues and versions of the Tipsheet available for your review and download. While no new content will be added after the March 2003 issue, many articles will still be relevant for years to come.
I do hope my announcement is taken in the spirit it was intended and that you all understand why this decision had to be made. It's hard, but I know in my heart that this is the right decision for me to make.
In closing I want to thank everyone who has been a part of the Tipsheet: guest writers, interviewees, readers, and sponsors. The Palm Tipsheet wouldn't have become what it is now without your involvement. Thanks especially for all of your kind words over the years as this is probably what has kept the Tipsheet going as long as it has. :-)
PalmSource Announces Graffiti 2 -- PalmSource announced in January that it has licensed CIC's Jot, which will be used as the basis for what it calls Graffiti 2. The new text entry engine differs from Graffiti "Classic" in several ways; some letters require two entry strokes, such as K, X, and T while many letters closely resemble regular handwriting. PalmSource's desire to make text entry easier for new users and the pending Xerox lawsuit over Graffiti both had impact on the decision. Graffiti 2 is to be packaged with Palm OS 5.2 and 4.1.2 and will appear at each licensees' discretion.
Meanwhile, the SJ33 was announced after CES, with MP3 playing features, 16MB RAM, Palm OS 4.1, 66 MHz processor and 320 x 320 hires screen. The SJ33 is released in Hong Kong and Japan only for around $320 and rumors suggest the SJ33 may appear in the US for around $300.
The Musician's Palm
As each monthly interview in the Palm Tipsheet demonstrates, Palm handhelds are used all over the world by students, professionals, and enthusiasts. But a Palm handheld is also a great musician's companion. Although they are typically thought of as organizing tools, Palm handhelds can also be used by musicians to create music and improve musical skills.
In this article, I share my favorite music programs for the Palm and explain why I find them so helpful. These include educational and reference programs, guitar-specific software, metronomes, tuning forks, and music creation tools.
BDicty's free musical terms dictionary is a frugal alternative to Almond, but it lacks some of Almond's better features. For example, while BDicty can export terms to other Palm applications, I could not figure out how to browse the terms database. However, the BDicty layout is customizable, and the commercial version allows users to add entries to the lexicon.
As a quick reference tool, BDicty is an attractive option. However, I recommend Almond for its capability to browse through its lexicon and teach its user previously unfamiliar musical terms.
While there is value in learning how the bass, tenor, alto, and treble clefs correspond to note names, solfeg, or piano keys, I felt Mozart could do much more. Mozart does not test musicians on identifying accidentals (helpful for memorizing the piano keyboard). Although the keyboard includes two full octaves the user could play in the wrong octave without a penalty. If Mozart added a wider difficulty level and more features, I would be more inclined to recommend it to music students. RoGame also offers a bundling discount that includes Mozart, DaCapo, and Almond for $19.95.
BugBand, from Chad Mealey and miniMusic, is a simpler version of Mozart. This musical notation game draws the notes as bugs, which disappear when the player selects the corresponding note name or key. It can be played using Graffiti or by tapping on the keyboard. The keyboard layout begins at F and ends at E, mimicking the range of the inner notes of the treble clef. This may seem helpful for those new to reading music, but it is counterintuitive to someone who views "C" as framing the piano.
Although I used only the demo of BugBand 1.0, additional levels and a bass clef mode are available in the full version. Priced at $11.95, BugBand costs a dollar less than Mozart, but it lacks the tenor and alto clefs and does not appear to have a solfeg option. However, BugBand can play to MIDI instruments with the appropriate hardware add-on. For those who want to read music for the two more popular clefs, and want to utilize Palm MIDI hardware, BugBand may be a good fit. I recommend Mozart for those who want to learn all four staves and solfeg.
Gtrainer works to solve the prevalent problem of guitarists who cannot read music. A simple game, this $5 application shows note values on a treble clef and the guitarist selects the correct note, in the correct octave, on the displayed guitar neck. Unlike other Palm applications that display a graphical representation of the guitar neck, the user must tap between the frets, rather than on the fret itself.
Although fingering dots appear on the fret bar, rather than between the frets (which took me a few minutes to get used to), fret numbers are indicated for quick learning. Since guitar scales are playable in a number of positions, this handy application even includes a "play" button that will play the note, chord, or scale through the Palm's speaker. Most western scales and modes are available, as are most chords. For those who regularly pick up a guitar, FretBoard is a must-have application.
There are other programs that attempt to duplicate FretBoard's utility, but they do not come close to its ease of use. Still, GuitarChords, by Engel Martin, stands out as a quick and easy way for guitarists to learn basic chord shapes. The interface consists of a chord type menu, a graphic representation of a five-fret neck, and a "Cycle Shapes" button, which allows the user to scroll through the shapes associated with the selected chord type. This quick and easy free application can be of great value to beginning guitarists who want to learn new transposable chords.
The metronome in DaCapo is simple but effective. Users can select the tone for the metronome, which sounds an octave higher on accented beats. It would be nice for future versions to include a 'non-tonal' option for the metronome when playing atonal music. Although the tones can be turned off in the current version, displaying visual clues rather than audible ones for beats, a true click option would be nice.
Beat accents can also be set in the preferences. The beat rate can be set by beats per minute or the tempo. The slowest beat is 38/Largo, and the fastest is 210/Prestissimo (oddly, I noticed a minor display bug where the listed tempo did not always match the beat at extreme speeds of 38 or 210 bpm). There is also a clever "group" feature that allows one to use the DaCapo metronome to signal the end of a song section.
At $10, DaCapo costs less than a real pocket metronome and includes not only more features but also a tuning fork -- a great bargain for Palm-using musicians. I consider DaCapo a must have application.
For those unwilling to fork over DaCapo's $10 fee, Ondrej Palkovsky's TuneIt is a free and simple metronome and tuning fork hybrid.
File this software under cool melody tinkering software. The user can select note values and play notes on a keyboard (whose octave placement can be changed with the arrow keys below the keyboard). For each note played on the keyboard, PocketSynth records the note in a special text format. It is great fun for creating spontaneous melodies and trying ideas that might otherwise never occur.
If the developer were still adding to this application, I would suggest that he devise a way for the composer to export ideas to sheet music or a MIDI file. At the very least, having the keyboard play the notes as the melody is played back would be nice. Although PocketSynth is likely to remain in its current form, a complimentary app called Playlist offers some popular songs in PocketSynth format, though they only play one note at a time.
All in all, PocketSynth is a great melody doodling program, and I hope that some developer picks up this idea and runs with it. I am sure that great things could be done, making use of ARM processors and Palm OS 5.0.
Although PocketSynth is an easy way to tinker with melodic ideas, MelodyPad, by Girish Kulkarni, is a more robust program. Mastering the program and its complex interface takes some time, but it is well worth it.
MelodyPad allows the user to tap out complete melodies on its keyboard, and it records not only the note values, but also the rhythm and duration of notes and rests. When I encountered this program, I was amazed. For those new to MelodyPad, tap on the menu button and select "keyboard." Click on the record icon and begin taping the keyboard with the stylus. When finished, click on the stop icon, rewind to the beginning, and hit play. The melody, mistakes and all, will be played back in perfect time.
Editing melodies is a complicated matter, and it takes time to learn the meaning of all the icons, but the help icon offers a quick reference guide. If you find yourself without notation paper and want to jot out a quick melody before it leaves your head forever, fire up your Palm and tap it out with MelodyPad's two-octave keyboard. Once home, you can export your melodies to your PC as MIDI files (unfortunately, there is no Mac conduit). MelodyPad is a must-have for anyone who writes music.
Although NotePad only played back a single melody line on my Palm device, the newer Sony models seem to have better support for audio. If you have an older Palm device, miniMusic also has recommendations for sound module add-ons and MIDI interfaces. However, if you are in the market for a new Palm device, and you wish to compose music on the go, I strongly recommend a look at Sony's newest Clié and NotePad.
Like all music notation software, NotePad's interface and tools take some time to learn, but the investment of time is often well worth the freedom from pen and paper. In addition to composing music on staves, NotePad has a MIDI pattern mode that allows electronic musicians to compose in perhaps a more familiar format. Composers can also place notes on the stave by using the four-octave keyboard mode.
The full version of NotePad allows composers to export their songs to a desktop computer, save multiple songs, and create Palm alarm sounds by interacting with miniMusic's miniAlarm program. Be sure to check out the miniMusic website which features a hardware section, with recommendations for Palm MIDI add-ons and polyphonic tone modules.
Like most of miniMusic's offerings, BeatPad is another amazing program that expands the potential of Palm devices. BeatPad is a $29.95 full-featured real-time pattern sequencer allowing the user to create melody or bass patterns and drum patterns, manipulating them with the stylus.
This application can be played through MIDI hardware, and experimenting with the demo made me seriously consider putting down my guitar and picking up some MIDI hardware. It's important to note that NotePad and BeatPad are best realized with either the newest Palm hardware or a tone module. This is good news for Handspring users who can purchase a relatively inexpensive Springboard module.
For serious musicians interested in NotePad and BeatPad, miniMusic offers the Mobile Software Pack for $59.95. This includes both applications and a serial to MIDI interface. Check out the miniMusic website to find out if your Palm can take advantage of this deal.
I've seldom seen other Palms in use. The only people I've actually seen with them are my friends in the computer industry. Some of the senior doctors have iPaq's, poor souls, though they seldom use them. Recently some medical students have expressed the ambition to buy Palms with their first paycheques.
Barbados is a tiny island in the Caribbean, about 166 square miles in area. With a population of nearly 300 000 people, though, we have one of the highest population densities in the world- a density more comparable with a city than a country. I think we're in fifth place or so.
Well, my friends have either decided that I'm securing my very own permanent abode in Nerdville by hunching over the Palm, or that they want one. Usually people become intrigued when they see me open the GoType and start banging away, or when they find out that I keep several novels on it at all times.
Onlookers have been especially galvanised by the diminutive size and colour screen of the Tungsten T that I've been familiarising myself with recently in preparation for my own purchase.
I am by nature absent minded and procrastinatory, so my scheduling program has become my accessory brain. At 3 am on call, I now have easy reference to the phone numbers of the social worker or district mental health officer on duty. Between e-books and games (I bought PocketChess 2.0 some time ago) I never want for entertainment.
Datebk4 -- for scheduling:
Progect -- for project management:
ePocrates -- my medications reference:
McPhling -- for switching between apps and recently used apps list:
ReadThemAll -- e-book reading:
Gnu Keyring -- for securing passwords:
QuickSheet -- for budgeting:
DiddleBug -- for doodling:
Well, I've recently become intrigued by the new Palm, the Tungsten T. I'll probably be buying one when the price comes down a little bit, along with a hardcase and some software -- gotta update the library to take advantage of that high-res screen.
I'd also buy a large SD card for MP3's -- kudos to the sterling work of the guys at Aerodrome Software, makers of the .ogg/ mp3 player for the Tungsten, Aeroplayer:
I've also been playing around with another game- Kickoo's TakTik:
Ah, at last the opportunity comes. After so many years... I'm actually *invited* to tell a funny story! :-)
I have a couple of tragic stories of broken screens and data lost at the worst possible moment, but the funniest recollection I have of my palm is of fiddling with the TV volume via OmniRemote, to the confusion of the other watchers who didn't connect the changes to me or my Palm.
Just that this is a wonderful time to own a PDA -- there are so many developments, so many improvements happening in the industry, that it's a tremendous time to be involved. I'm not a rabid Palm fan -- I really believe that they represent the best solution for any but those whose needs center on multimedia -- and I think that the competition from WinCE, HHPC and Psion has really helped drive the industry forward.
Thanks again for joining us for another issue. I hope you found Colin Folawn's article on the Musician's Palm insightful and inspiring. Thanks to Colin and to Adrian for their help in making this issue of the Tipsheet happen! :-)
Want more? Check out the Palm Tipsheet website for archived issues, article and interview listings, Tipsheet FAQ, the 'About the Tipsheet' area, our mobile edition and the handy search tool:
Talk to you soon,
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