Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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July 2006, Week 4

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BEAUTIFUL MUSIC

     
   Want to hear some beautiful music? Go to www.soundclick.com, a Web site frequented by talented amateur musicians and composers, as well as Soundclick some not-yet-famous professionals.

     The quality at this site is very high. We tuned in to a great James Bond theme concert by an orchestra in a small town in Spain and to a German church organist playing Bach's famous "Fugue in G Minor." You can upload your own pieces, if you feel you're good enough, and a listener can download them for 75 cents. The artist gets half the fee. You can listen on the Web site for no charge, of course.   Some of this music was written or enhanced using one of the programs we're going to talk about below.

 
  It's a Piece of Cakewalk

   Almost all recorded music uses digital equipment and synthesizers these days. So we have three new programs from Cakewalk, a software house well-regarded by both amateur and professional musicians.
 

·  The best deal for those just starting out is Cakewalk's USB Music Pack. It's $49 from www.cakewalk.com and contains software plus the cables you Cakewalk USB Music Packneed to connect a MIDI instrument to a USB computer port. We paid much more than that for just the cables when we wanted to connect our Yamaha keyboard to the PC. (MIDI is an acronym for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface.")  

The software includes a synthesizer program for composing music and thousands of instrument sounds to choose from. More than 250 sound loops let you move sections of music around the composition. When you like what you've done, you can add reverberation and other effects, burn it to disk and even print out the sheet music. Can't beat it for $49.

·  Moving up to Cakewalk Kinetic 2 costs $299. No cables included here. This synthesizer software also has thousands of pre-recorded instrument sounds and hundreds of loops, and includes lots of special effects and an equalizerCakewalk Kinetic 2 board, like the ones used by recording studios. Almost everything is mouse-controlled with "drag and drop." You can tap out your own rhythm with the mouse or keyboard.

·  Dimension Pro is $359 and definitely professional level. The synthesizer has an infinite number of instrumental and synthetic sounds to compose with, and comes with two extra DVDs of 1,500 extensive instrumental recordings Dimension Proand programs. The program can be loaded in English, Spanish, German or French. You are safe in assuming you can do anything here that you can do with the lower-cost programs, but again, no cables are included.

Dimension Pro is for Windows XP or Mac 10.3.9 and above; the others are for Windows XP.      

Faster than a Speeding Fax Machine
        

For the past several weeks, Joy has been trying out Pando, a free program for transferring large files, such as video and photos. This is an alternative to YouSendIt, which we have used for quite a while.
    

Both Pando and YouSendIt are free to use with files up to 1 gigabyte in size, which is still a very large file. YouSendIt will handle 2-gigabyte files if you are willing to pay $5 a month. That's a lot of information, but images eat up file space like an alligator on steroids. You can connect with this service at www.yousendit.com and to Pando at www.pando.com.
    Pando    Both send an e-mail link to your recipients and they click on that link to get the file. But with Pando the recipients must have Pando software on their machine to send or receive files. This tripped us up when we tried sending birthday photos and scrapbook stuff to a friend with an older Macintosh. Pando works with both Windows and Mac, but the Mac has to have operating system 10.3.9 or higher.

 
         Both services encrypt files for secure transmission, and the transfer speed is way beyond what any of us are used to. Speed depends on your connection, of course, but other things being equal, Pando is faster.

         With a high-speed connection, a 50-megbayte file typically takes about five minutes with Pando, but about 8 to 9 minutes with YouSendIt. Using a phone line connection, often called "dial-up," it would take twice as long or more with either service. These times vary wildly, depending on how well your Internet server is working right then.          If you sign up for Yahoo.com's free Instant Messenger service, you can use Pando to send huge files as an instant message. Here, too, what is actually being sent is a link to that file. By the end of July, Pando plans to add plug-ins that allow you to send large files in this way with a simple click while handling e-mail in Microsoft Outlook and Hotmail, or Google's Gmail.      

The Movies

Games    "Stunts and Effects" is a much-acclaimed new expansion pack for the popular Activision moviemaking game "The Movies" (www.activision.com). It strikes us that this would be good for adding scenes to the make-your-own-comic-book program we wrote about recently and to your own videos.

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