tech support conversation…

Conversation I had with tech support at onlinesheetmusic.com

I would normally not print this kind of stuff, but it really irritated me that everything I wrote had to be repeated two or three times.

Please wait, an operator will be with you shortly.
Your request is important to us. Please wait, an operator will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with Bill A (Customer Support) - Customer Support
13:18 Bill A: Hi
13:18 Kae Verens: hi - having trouble printing a sheet I just purchased. invoice number 80300
13:18 Kae Verens: I use Linux. not Windows or Max
13:18 Kae Verens: Mac, I mean
13:20 Kae Verens: the Instant Print does nothing, and the Online Sheet Music Viewer requires Windows or Mac to run (I don't use either)
13:21 Bill A: Can you please try to print it,Mac or P.C
13:22 Kae Verens: I DO NOT USE MAC OR PC. I've said that twice already.
13:22 Bill A: I have reset you print rights , whenever you want print your music, you can easily take your print.
13:25 Kae Verens: clicking Print on the big green button does not work. I get a 20...40...60...80... notification, then "ERROR Please contact support at help@onlinesheetmusic.com"
13:25 Kae Verens: As I said already, "the Instant Print does nothing"
13:26 Bill A: Please open the viewer by using your Email address (that you registered with us) and password (that you use at the time of login through our website). Then click on the synchronize button that is under the Score list looks like (Z). Then you can transpose, play and print your purchased songs.
13:26 Kae Verens: What viewer?
13:26 Bill A: Please Install the Online Sheet Music Viewer 1) Download the viewer - ( http://www.onlinesheetmusic.com/download.aspx ) 2) Run the installer
13:26 Bill A: After installing open the viewer by using your Email address and password. Then you can play, transpose and print your music sheet.
13:27 Kae Verens: I am going to say this once more: I AM NOT USING PC OR MAC. I use Linux. the link you are pointing at gives downloads for PC and for Mac. There is no download for Linux. I cannot install your software.
13:28 Kae Verens: just give me the PDF. I can print it out directly...
13:28 Bill A: Please hold for a moment.
13:31 Bill A: Unfortunately, You can only take the prints, that’s why we do not have PDF.
13:32 Kae Verens: Then I would like a refund. There was no notification before my purchase that I would need to install software to print my purchase.
13:33 Bill A: Do you want refund?
13:33 Kae Verens: I just said that.
13:34 Bill A: I have refunded your money back to your account. Please allow 1-2 business days for the refund to appear on your statement.
13:34 Kae Verens: Thank you.
13:34 Bill A: You are most welcome.
13:35 Bill A: Thanks for chatting with us. Have a nice time. Bye!

At times, I thought I was conversing with a bot.

2010

I’ve the most awful memory.

While trying to remember what the hell I’d done in the last year, I came up with nothing.

Luckily, I have a spare brain in the form of my facebook friends, who came up with this list for me:

  • I started a new company, KV Sites, which will be up and running properly within a month or so, and will be selling affordable CMS websites and programming.
  • I got grade 2 in piano. I’m still waiting for an examiner for grade 3 (which I wanted to do in September). I’ll be doing grade 4 in March.
  • I got my first grading in Genbukan Ninjutsu.
  • I finished another book, CMS Design using PHP and jQuery. I hope it is as well-received as the previous book, jQuery 1.3 with PHP. btw, Packt would like me to remind people that the book “Mastering phpMyAdmin […] for effective mysql management” (reviewed here and here) has been updated to version 3.3.x.
  • I am building up to a new release of my CMS, WebME, which, despite the last downloadable version being from early 2009, has actually been very actively updated. It should be ready for release tomorrow, right on time for 2011!
  • I wrote and released two jQuery plugins: k3dCarousel, and SaorFM (which I hope to vastly improve in 2011).
  • I also built a first attempt at a clavichord made from plywood. I’ve got some new tuning pegs and redesigned the keyboard, so will hopefully be able to record on it soon.

I’m hoping 2011 turns out to be awesomer and that my head will be able to remember it all!

more music scams…

last year, I wrote about some scams where people claimed to be looking for music lessons for their son or daughter.

So far, I have not had one single student for guitar come to me through email or the Internet. Every single request has been a scam.

Here is an example email I received today from andrewbarton67@yahoo.com (Andrew Barton):

Hello,

I’m Andrea Barton during my search for a Music Instrument Lessons teacher that would always take my Daughter (Gwyn) and I found your advert.Your advert looks great and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area I am seeking for her. My daughter will be coming to your Country before the middle of July for 2 Months. She is just 15yrs Old, a beginner, I want you to help me teach her music during her stay in the Country because i will not want her to less busy, i want her to engage in something to keep her busy during her stay.

So, kindly let me know your charges cost per week in order for me to arrange for the payment before she travels down to your country.I would also like to know if there is any Text Book you will recommend for her as a beginner so that she will be reading privately at home after the lesson during her stay.

Please Advise back on;

(1) Your charges per 1 hour twice a week for 2 Months?

(2) The Day and time you will be available to teach her During the week?

(3) Tuition address?

I will be looking forward to read from you soonest.

Best Regards.

There are a few things about this which should immediately strike anyone:

  • People don’t usually mis-spell their own name. Is it Andrea (in the text) or Andrew (in the email address)?
  • There is no mention of what instrument the girl is supposed to be learning. Guitar? Piano? Didgeridoo?
  • The weird capitalisation says to me that translation software has been used, and only for some specific words. I can imagine a template that goes something like this: “I’m ________ during my search for a ________________ teacher that would always take my ________ (____) and I found your advert”. Every one of the blanked out words was inserted with capital letters.
  • There’s a lot of talk about countries – “your Country”, “the Country”, “down to your country”. This person obviously does not know what country I am in, yet knows that his/her daughter will be coming to it?
  • As for that, “My daughter will be coming to your Country before the middle of July for 2 Months.” The email arrived at 2 in the morning today. It’s the 18th of July. A real request for upcoming lessons would surely arrive weeks or months before the trip had already started?

There is a quirky little urge in me to take this as far as I can. However, I’m also not made of time, so I won’t bother.

So here’s the warning: NEVER trust an email from anyone you don’t know.

Here’s how this would pan out if I took it seriously:

  1. We agree price and dates.
  2. They send a cheque and urge me to cash it. I go to the bank and do so.
  3. I suddenly receive an urgent email saying there’s been an error and they sent me too much, and to please send back the extra money.
  4. Of course, that involves me writing and sending a cheque of my own.
  5. They then cash my cheque.
  6. Their cheque then bounces….
  7. The student never turns up.

So don’t be an idiot. Either throw these email in the spam directory (or delete it), or have fun trying to get the guy to do ridiculous things, but never take it seriously.

Btw: here’s an example of this same exact person being a bit over enthusiastic with the attempts – 9 copy/paste messages, with two separate daughters, Rita and Marsha – this guy should probably have got the kids lessons when they were younger…

piano grade 2 results arrived

I did the grade 2 exam three weeks ago. The results just arrived: “successfully passed in the second grade examination in Pianoforte with first class honours”

Cool, I’ll shove that certificate up on the piano next to last year’s one.

I’m going for grade 3 in September. Was meant to do grade 2 a few months ago, but couldn’t find anywhere close that would do the examination. The nearest was in Louth, but that’s too far to walk.

Here are the examiner’s notes:

Max Marks Requirements Examiner’s Comments Marks Awarded
15 Scales & Arpeggios Very good. Good choice of speed but make sure you keep it nice and steady! Very good tone. 13
10 Sight Readng Very good. Mind the counting 9
10 Ear Tests Very good. 9
5 Theory Excellent. 5
20 First Piece Sonatina in G: You caught the mood well. Nice fluent performance. Good phrasing, tone, dynamics and technique. 18
20 Second Piece Waltz: Another lovely performance. Very good balance in left hand melody. Great attention to detail. Very enjoyable! 19
20 Third Piece Samba: Excellent rhythm throughout. Very good range of dynamics and good use of arm weight. Good control throughout. Well done! 18
Total/Additional Comments: Congratulations! Keep up the excellent work! 91

As you can guess, I’m pretty happy about this!

I’m hoping the keep up the high marks for the next exam. My teacher says my pieces for that exam are already at “pass” level, so three more months of practice can only improve that!

I’m hoping to have enough money next month (royalties from my last book) to afford a new piano and a camera, so may be able to stick some tunes online soon.

what I’m up to

As usual, I’m behind on stuff.

I just submitted chapter 3 of my upcoming book “CMS Design with PHP and jQuery”, and chapter 4 was due to be complete and sent two days ago.

My clavichord project stalled when the cumulative number of mistakes made it incredibly unlikely I’ll complete it in a usable fashion.

In work, I’m behind on a pretty large online-store project, but in that case I’m okay with it – I wasn’t slacking; things are just very busy at the moment.

My piano playing has also stalled – I’ve been trying to learn The Heart Asks Its Pleasure First for the last month. I’m stuck on the final page, where the left hand is all over the place and the right has an intricate tune to play. Its all in my head, but I just can’t play it smoothly. Thinking of putting that on the back-burner and going onto Bach’s 2-part inventions instead.

upcoming

Packt have asked me to review Expert PHP5 Tools. Looking forward to it. It’s got some stuff in it which I’ve read about but never tried. Including: UML design of applications, incorporating tests into subversion submissions, and automated documentation of source (among other things).

My piano teacher found an examiner who will be testing in Monaghan next month, so I’ll finally be able to get grade 2 out of the way. I’ve been practicing grade 2 and 3 tunes for months. Playing 6 tunes every day before I do anything else has been reducing th amount of time I have for the rest of my practice, so I’ll be glad to get this one passed as well.

I’m trying to push myself to get the current book finished as soon as possible. This is difficult as writing a CMS is a much more complex job than writing a cookbook of techniques. The chapter I just finished had 40 pages in it. By the 40th page of the previous book I was already into chapter 3. Chapter 2 wasn’t much smaller either!

When this book is finished, I’ll be starting a new one, on building a clavichord as cheaply as possible. Because I failed with the current one, but learned quite a lot from it, I feel I’ll get it right this time, and would like to document it as I go. There’s a lot of math involved in building a clavichord, and I think I may even get a good programming application out of it!

After that, I’m thinking of starting up contact juggling again, and completing the book, this time with videos.

When I get the time, I’d also like to get back into building robots. I think the gardening robot is a bit beyond me at the moment (involves some very complex AI), but I thought I’d try build a digger bot. You tell it what you want dug, where to put the debris, etc., and it gets to work.

ToDo

List of things off the top of my head that I want to do:

  • write a book. already had a non-fiction book published, but I’d love to have an interesting an compelling original fiction idea to write about. I’m working on a second non-fiction book at the moment.
  • master a martial art. I have a green belt in Bujinkan Taijutsu (ninja stuff, to the layman), but that’s from ten years ago – found a Genbukan teacher only a few days ago so I’ll be starting that up soon (again, ninja stuff).
  • learn maths. A lot of the stuff I do involves guessing numbers or measuring. it’d be nice to be able to come up with formulas to generate optimal solutions.
  • learn electronics. what /is/ electricity? what’s the difference between voltage and amperage? who knows… I’d like to.
  • create a robot gardener. not just a remote-control lawn-mower. one that knows what to cut, what to destroy, that can prune bushes, till the earth, basically everything that a real gardener does.
  • rejuvenate, or download to a computer, whichever is possible first. science fiction, eh? you wait and see…
  • create an instrument. I’m just finishing off a clavichord at the moment. when that’s done, I think I’ll build another one, based on all the things I learned from the first. followed by a spinet, a harpsichord, a dulcimer, and who knows what else.
  • learn to play an instrument. I’m going for grades 2 and 3 in September for piano. I can play guitar pretty well, but would love to find a classical teacher.
  • write a computer game. I have an idea, based on Dungeon Keeper, for a massively multiplayer game. maybe I’ll do it through facebook…
  • write programs to:
    • take a photo of a sudoku puzzle and solve it. already wrote the solver.
    • take a photo of some sheet music and play it.
    • show some sheet music on screen, compare to what you’re playing on a MIDI keyboard, and mark your effort.
    • input all the songs you can play on guitar/keyboard. based on the lists of thousands of people, rate all these songs by difficulty, to let you know what you should be able to learn next.
    • input a job and your location. have other people near you auction themselves to do the job for you. or vice versa: input your location, and find all jobs within walking distance to you where you can do an odd job for some extra cash (nearly there: http://oddjobs4locals.com).
    • takes a photo and recognises objects in it (partly done)
    • based on above, but can also be corrected and will learn from the corrections (also partly done)
  • stop being damned depressed all the time.

There’s probably a load of other stuff, but that’s all I’ve got at the moment!

what’s up!

Short run-down of what I’m doing lately: nothing.

Less short: I’m trying to get work out the door, get a good run at some personal projects, pass grade 2 piano, get organised, and generally improve my lot.

None of this is working. I think the “get organised” bit is the most important, as it will help the rest of it fall into place.

I usually only post about web-development-related topics here, as that’s the only subject where I feel I can contribute something new and interesting, so I tend to not talk about other stuff. But sometimes, rattling off the current state of the head is good for clearing it.

In work, I can’t really complain – we have a number of largish projects which are slowly creeping towards completion. The hardest thing about them is getting information from the clients, and then a week or two later being told that half the information is not required. I guess my main complaint at work is the inexorably slow completion rate.

On the personal projects side:

There are still a number of small bugs in KFM 1.4, and either I don’t have the time to get to them, or there is no enough information to recreate the bug and the submitter doesn’t give me access to their copy so I can’t see it from their side.

KFM 2 has been halted for a while – the idea is huge, but I simply don’t have the time, and no-one is clambering for it. I’ll get to it when I have time, but I might have to approach it by evolving KFM 1.x into meeting what I wanted, instead of the original goal of building KFM 2 from scratch.

I started a new project, OddJobs4Locals two weeks back, and got a good two-day run at it, then time got ahead of me again. I think this will be a good one, when I can complete it. Useful for students, people with a little spare time, or simply people that just want to make a little extra cash. Not yet working, but it will be soon, I hope… This is doubly interesting to me, as it is done purely through AJAX, so it will be easy to do a smart-phone client or a desktop client when the time comes.

I’m in the back/forth stage of working with Packt publishing to see if they want me to do a second book (the first one has no bad reviews at all). We’ve mostly agreed on a table of contents, and I’m just trying to get the time to combine a few of the smaller chapters together.

On the piano, I’ve been ready for the grade 2 exam since November, and am still waiting to see if there will be an exam near me any time soon – I hate the effort that goes into travelling (I have a family, and no car). I was hoping to do a grade every 6 months. It looks like this might not be possible, despite me being ready for it… The tunes I’m doing for it are Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major, a waltz by Bela Bartok, and Boys And Girls Come Out To Samba, by Terence Greaves – by the way, I don’t like those videos; there are no dynamics in any of them, and I can hear a number of mistakes as well. No video apparently of the Terence Greaves one.

As for organisation… well I guess I’d better start working with Mantis again.

My lot will have to wait – I’ve a load of work to get done before it can improve.

Meh. Depression taking hold again.

notation viewer, day 2

notation-screenie

Spent an hour and added new abilities – you can now view music in the bass clef (and notes will be placed correctly based on that), note stems will be automatically up or down depending on staff position, and you can zoom in or out.

demo (source)

If you want to try it with your own files, create a MusicXML export (I’m using Rosegarden and NoteEdit for my own stuff), and gzip it, then place the gzipped file into the “tests” directory (for example, here).

Next step is multiple staffs, to show left and right hands simultaneously.

music notation through JavaScript

I’m working on a project which will hopefully make me rich (mwuahahaha!).

The idea is that I build an application, where people with MIDI keyboards can test their sight-reading online.

The program will judge your playing objectively, according to whether you hit the right notes, what your timing was like, whether you got the dynamics right, etc.

But anyway – in order to do that, some technical hurdles needed to be cleared:

  • 1. how do you read from a MIDI keyboard in JavaScript?
  • 2. how do you render notation online in JavaScript?

Before you ask – I’m using JavaScript because that’s what I’m good at. JavaScript for the front end, and PHP for the back.

The first part already has a solution – not too long ago, Daniel created a Java applet which reads from the keyboard and passes the key events to Flash, by way of JavaScript.

So all I need to do there is to hijack the middle part, which is not difficult.

On the rendering side, though, there does not appear to be any existing music notation rendering software for JavaScript.

One solution might be to pre-render the notation with a console app and save them as images. That’s not perfect, though, because I want to be able to highlight wrong notes, and render the sheet in different ways according to how the reader’s screen is set up.

So – I need to write a renderer in JavaScript.

Here’s the beginning of it (source).

notation-screenie

To work on this, I will be going through my piano books and picking out pieces that are gradually more difficult for the notation renderer to try to render. Soon enough, it will be good enough for use.

Its current features:

  • reads from compressed MusicXML files.
  • renders crochets and minims, with appropriate padding between all notation symbols.
  • will wrap onto a second line of staff (or further if need be) if there is not enough room in just one.

Short-term upcoming features:

  • render two staves (bass and treble) to show left and right hands.
  • render semi-breves</li
  • show fingering on notes
  • dotted notes
  • quavers
  • tied quavers

The big idea with the application is that the site will be able to gradually increase the difficulty of the pieces, according to how well the player performs.

It’s not confined to sight-reading either – there’s no reason why this idea could not also be used to teach full songs.

grade 1 piano results

Last week, I went to Dublin to attend the OSS BarCamp in DIT, and to meet up with friends and to do a piano exam.

Bronwyn and myself have been learning piano for a few months, and I wanted to have some evidence that I was progressing.

piano exam results

I was nervous going in. In the exam, what happens is that you play a few scales and other little things, you play 3 songs from a selection of 8, and then you answer some questions.

The major scales were pretty easy – I was asked to play a few major scales, only one octave, and only one hand. Wasn’t asked to use the left hand at all.

I started out on the minors a bit wrong – the examiner asked my to play “A Minor Harmonic”, and I accidentally played “A Minor Melodic” (the difference is that the leading note, before the tonic, is sharp when ascending and natural when descending, in Melodic, and sharp in both directions in Harmonic).

I apologised and played the requested version. To be honest, I think the examiner made a mistake there, because the examinee is supposed to play /either/ harmonic or melodic, personal choice.

I made another mistake when asked to play triads. A triad is a group of arpeggios which start on a different note of the chord each time. For example, C triad is C E G E G A G A C A G A G E G E C. But, my teacher learned in the London School of Music, and the triads I learned ended on the dominant note – C E G E G A G A C A C A G A G E G E C G.

I corrected myself there as well. These were honest mistakes, but I think knowing the difference and being able to play them, helped with the score.

I had chosen three songs to play.

First, I played Menuet in F, by Leopold Mozart. I really like this piece – it’s light and airy, and there are a few stacatto bits that really fit well into the rhythm of it. I fumbled a bit on the first arpeggio, and wasn’t able to get the dynamics correct on the piano – the piano sounded weird compared to my own (tinny, maybe), and the keys didn’t have much “feel” to them – pressing the keys, I didn’t feel any “power” under them. Very hard to do piano forte when you can’t feel the difference between piano and forte ;-).

The second song, a waltz by Breslaur (Op. 46, No. 25), went perfectly – that’s another airy one, and I tried to play it as if it was being danced to, not as if it was being examined. Again, the dynamics were difficult to put n, but the fact that is a dance, and had a load of stacatto to it, helped get around that problem.

The third song, Study No. 1 by Felix Le Couppey, wasn’t too good. I chose this song because it was totally different in feel to the others – this was going to be the one that showed off the dynamics. I really should have practiced it on a few different pianos, so I knew how to approach the exam one.

I’ve been beating myself up all week over these mistakes, so was very surprised to find I’d passed the exam, “with first class honours”.

Yay me!

I’m choosing songs now for grade 2.