Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Why we created Scorecerer – a brief history of our local universe

September 21st, 2011 No comments

While there have been a few devices around to display music notation, the problem was that it took far too long for me to actually get my sheet music into those devices. As a technologist and a serious amateur musician, I always wanted to use one of those devices and so many years ago with great excitement I bought a MusicPad tablet. However, I found that the process of pulling in my sheet music was painfully slow and I had to use external image processing software such as Photoshop to clean up the scanned images and so forth. Consequently, it took about 5-10 minutes to import each page of sheet music. No way could I afford to spend that amount of time.

So I ended up not really using the tablet for anything serious.

Years later, along came the Kindle DX from Amazon. This thing had the ability to display images and PDF files and I thought, if only I had an easy way to get my sheet music into it efficiently, this could be really cool. So along with my partners, we created Deskew Technologies, LLC. By the way, the word “deskew” (pronounced dee-skew) means to straighten. Amazingly, the domain was not taken so we grabbed it.

We build the first version of the desktop application, which allowed you to just drag scanned images into it. It didn’t care too much about the resolution, gray-scale, color or other “stuff” that one normally worries about with scanners. Nor did you have to worry too much about getting the paper perfectly aligned or straight. Just thow the page on the scanner and save it on your computer. It also understands most popular image file formats so you can just use whatever format for which your scanner is currently configured. No need to make sure it’s suitable for Scorecerer. Scorecerer would then straighten the music automatically as well as remove empty borders so as to maximize the available screen space. It could then “publish” the music directly to the Kindle DX optimized to display nicely and as fast as possible. All of these operations were designed so that you didn’t have to spend any time “futzing” to get it right. So with Scorecerer, the 5-10 minutes became 5-10 seconds, or at worst just slightly longer than your scanning speed (because it takes a second or two of your time to actually drag the scanned images into Scorecerer Desktop!)

It worked very well but the speed at which the Kindle DX could turn the page was not-so-great so although it was usable, it wasn’t wonderful.

We also built Scorecerer Player, an application designed just for displaying Scorecerer processed sheet music on a laptop. We figured that Windows-based tablets would arrive and perhaps even a Mac OS-X based tablet was on the cards. Scorecerer Player is still included as part of the Scorecerer package and it also supports remote MIDI so you can turn the page by pressing a button or a pedal on your MIDI rig.

Then we heard that the iPad was coming. We signed on to the Apple Developer Program, got the iPad SDK and built a “Player” for it. Scorecerer Desktop could now publish in a format optimized for the iPad and boy, were we happy with the page turning speed. We submitted Scorecerer Ipad to the app store in time for the launch.

We added wifi-based publishing recently so you don’t have to depend on iTunes to transfer sheet music. This is particularly worthwhile for those people who have hundreds or thousands of songs. There’s a quick search built into Scorecerer iPad so you can quickly find the song you need.

We’re still adding new features, based on feedback we’re getting from users. Feel free to contact us through our support center with your own requests.

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Why Bother?

January 17th, 2010 No comments

Every now and then, while perusing, or perhaps responding to a question on a forum, I’ll see a response from another user to the originator of the question that is of the form

1) “Why bother?”

2) “There’s no need for that”

3) “Just do it this way”

I came across an example of this earlier today in a music forum when a user of a music product called MainStage (an application to support musicians for live-performance ) wanted to know how to record what he (or she) was playing into Logic (a digital audio workstation, intended for composition and recording).

I usually find the “why bother” response quite jarring. For one thing, it’s a condescending, almost religious response that essentially implies that “I know better than you” but quite frankly, that’s often just not the case.

Much better of course would be to (a) answer the question if you know how and then (b) ask nicely why the user wants to do something that you think is not worth doing or might be the wrong way to do it. In such cases, everyone gets to learn something.

Now, I don’t know why the user asked that particular question although I can certainly come up with my own reasons as to why I would want that functionality. (Hint – inspiration can come at any moment, need a way to capture it)

But the real reason I’m always bothered by the “why bother” retort is because responders often fail to recognize that (sometimes very significant) progress often comes from people who are combining elements together for new purposes that were not obvious to others. There are plenty of examples where people didn’t know that “it can’t be done” and so they went ahead and just did it.

Even if you’re certain you know much more than the questioner, you might be surprised. Remember that teachers and professors continue to learn new things from their students.

So whenever you see a question that doesn’t fit into your own mental model of how things are supposed to be, how about pausing for a moment and ask the user why they asked that particular question. At worst, your questions will help clarify what’s needed. Others may be having the same difficulty or confusion. At best, well, you might discover something that helps you improve your own work or even takes it in a new direction.

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