Identify Music Keys With This Simple Mnemonic

One aspect of music that has mystified novices is the identification of a song’s key when looking at the sheet music. We see a bunch of sharps or flats, but figuring out which key it all means is a code that isn’t broken intuitively. With a simple mnemonic, however, one can easily decipher this code.

Good Deeds Are Ever Bearing Fruit

When there are no sharps or flats, things are simple. It’s the key of C. However the introduction of sharps can throw people. Simply count the number of sharps, move that many words to the right, and take the first letter of the target word.

Consider this key, for example:

There are two sharps, so if we go to the second word in our mnemonic, we land on Deeds. Therefore this is the Key of D.

How about this one?


There are four sharps, so we go four words to the right to the word Ever, telling us this is the Key of E.

So, for sharps we proceed to the right through our mnemonic. For flats, we simply start on the right, and proceed to the left in the same manner as before.

For example:


There are two flats, so when we move to the left two words from the end, we land on “Bearing”, so this is the Key of B Flat (It’s the “flat” when more than one flat is shown. One flat is the Key of F).

How about this example?


There are three flats, which puts us on the word “Ever”, so it is the Key of E Flat.

Here is a fun one:


With five flats, we land on “Deeds”, so this is the Key of D Flat.

So there it is. Now you can look at any piece of sheet music and identify the key by just remembering that Good Deeds Are Ever Bearing Fruit!

Forcing Nexus 4 To Daydream

One of the new features in Android 4.2 is a screensaver called “Daydream”. On some Nexus 4 models the feature will not work, even with the Daydream feature “On” and a theme selected. This is because the phone is set to never sleep while charging, by default. In order to activate Daydream, one must turn this “never sleep” setting off. Here is how:

Enable Developer Options by going to Settings | About Phone. Repeatedly tap and long press on the Build Number section until you unlock the Developer Options.

Go to Settings | Developer Options and deselect “Stay Awake”.

This should enable proper behavior with the Daydream feature on a Nexus 4.

Google Blows Nexus Launch, Still Stuck on “Amateur”

Nexus4On Tuesday Google held its worldwide, online launch of the much anticipated LG Nexus 4 phone, the flagship, pure Google, phone in the Android family. Sales were a smashing success, with both SKUs of the phone selling out in around 30 minutes in all international markets. Google has not released sales numbers, but certainly the demand for the phone outpaced the company’s initial estimates.

The phone did not sell out so quickly in the USA, however, due to failures of Google’s e-commerce software. Potential customers were greeted with failing shopping carts, erroneous “Coming Soon” notices, and unresponsiveness from the Google Play Store. After around 8 hours of sputtering, Google finally posted that the units had, indeed, sold out in the US, too.

After four hours of refreshing my browser Tuesday, I finally got a Nexus 4 ordered…I think. The transaction occurred 36 hours ago and there is still no indication of any shipping at all on my account. I have never ordered anything online that performed this poorly, so the complaining by members on Android Central’s message board is justified; the sale of an item by one of the largest online software companies in the world is far below the standards of typical e-commerce transactions.

Google knows that their commerce operation fell apart for a big product launch, and they have yet to send an email to customers a) thanking them for their loyalty and b) apologizing for having logistical problems. These types of logistical failures happen in business and customers, especially the company’s most loyal, are going to be understanding if they are treated right. The actual sale isn’t the only detail that Google failed to execute. I signed up to be notified of the sale 10 days ago and have yet to receive notification of when the sale begins…still.

In fact, a top-notch customer service experience after a successful launch, actually, would have included an automated Thank You email set to go out at 5pm EST from any of the people on the Management Team or from the Android Team. That’s over 50 people tied to the success of this product, the flagship Android phone. If Google wants to make their brand the top brand, they need to treat their most loyal fans well. Be honest with them. Tell them “we goofed”. State the goal of the Android experience and how Google is striving to offer the finest digital experience out there and “we won’t quit until every last customer is amazed”. That kind of thing.

Instead…here we sit…looking for imprints proving our transaction actually occurred and that we will actually get this product we had to work so unusually hard for..

This is a complete failure of customer service, and if Google wants to be held in high regard as a consumer company, then they need to act like first tier large companies do during customer service crises.

November 15 Update: I just received an email from Google notifying me that the phone is on backorder, and they expect to ship units in the next three weeks. They also stated that they will credit me for the shipping charges. This is actually surprising. In my ordering I actually bought an 8GB unit initially, then was able to get through and order a 16GB model 20 minutes later. Apparently many on the Android Central Forum also had multiple orders. So, that night I cancelled the order for the 8GB model, which should have added to the actual supply for others ordering. I expected there to be no problems filling orders once all of the duplicate and mistaken orders were removed from the system. This is a bona fide mess!

What’s also troubling is the lack of media coverage for this event. Here we have one of the world’s largest companies launching a flagship product, met with overwhelming demand and the mainstream media doesn’t even notice. Yes, we don’t know what the numerator and denominator are, and we only know that the numerator is greater than the denominator. However this is still an unusual event in the current retail era. Had Apple outsold their units in the same manner, well, you know…

How to Add Money to a Child’s iTunes Account

itune_dollarYesterday I spend well over 30 minutes trying to figure out how to add a small amount of money to my daughter’s iTunes account. Unfortunately there isn’t a simple way for parents to transfer and exact funding amount to another iTunes account. I found a way, however, to add to my child’s account without worry that she will irreversibly extend my credit card too far.

When we set up the iTunes account on Christmas day, we did not enter a credit card number. Rather, Santa Claus brought her a gift certificate for $10 worth of iTunes downloads. Through the year she has been able to credit her account via iTunes’ excellent redeeming system using various iTunes gift certificates she’s received along the way.

The credits are drained, though, and she wanted one song this week for a school project. ONE SONG! Online gift certificates are only purchased in $10 increments, and I wasn’t about to throw that her way. Instead we logged into my credit card account at Bank of America’s website and created a ShopSafe (temporary credit card) with a $2 limit. We entered this number into iTunes’ credit card setup.

Then my daughter purchased the song on her iPod Touch. As her $0.52 credit remaining in her account wasn’t enough to buy the $1.29 song, iTunes kicked in and charged the remaining $0.77 to the temporary credit card.

iTunes Help system ignores this method and, instead, wants you to purchase $10 increments. Not..”simple”…

Apple really needs to overhaul iTunes. There is no reason that one could not go ahead and transfer any dollar increment to the iTunes account from a credit card. These funds should show up as iTunes credits in the exact same manner that gift certificate redemptions do.

Additionally, Apple needs to set up a Secondary account system where children’s accounts can be adequately managed. A log of all app and song purchases, texts, YouTube videos watched, and FaceTime sessions should be readily available from the Primary user’s iTunes account. Primary account users could also shuttle funds in exact amounts to and from these accounts as needed.

The internet is a potentially dangerous place, and few will disagree that parents need to carefully monitor their children’s activities on the internet. The iOS system is extremely difficult to monitor, however. Apple needs to help parents do an adequate job by allowing linked accounts and by opening activity logs to parents.

Installing Pagemaker 6.5 to Windows 7 (64-bit)

pagemakerThe sun is setting on those old applications from the early 90s. Much has been made about digital obscurification of JPG images and MP3 audio resources. Even the .DOC and .PDF formats have been questioned as smart, long-term formats for data. However accessing old desktop publishing files is getting harder and harder, too. What are we going to do when, because we upgraded our operating system, we are locked out of much of our old work? This will be, perhaps, the biggest problem in computing in the next decade as we move to the third generation of operating systems.

Pagemaker 6.5 was a wonderful desktop publishing application. The placement of text and objects was extremely logical, thus making future editing of projects easy to manage. Adobe purchased Pagemaker and, instead of screwing it up like they have done with Flash and Acrobat, Adobe quickly lost interest in the application. The application, however, continues to suit our needs even today.

I was able to get the installer to work with Windows 7 32-bit a couple of years ago. If I recall correctly, I used the XP compatibility mode on the installer (right click the .exe file, click Compatibility, and select Windows XP SP3). You won’t find a 32-bit computer on the market these days, so with my new 64-bit computer, I ran into a problem with Pagemaker installation. The installer does not work in any of the compatibility modes. Luckily there is an easier way.

  • Open Windows Explorer and navigate to your Pagemaker directory. (for me it is C:\Program Files\PM65).
  • Copy this PM65 folder over to your new Windows 7 machine’s c:\Program Files (x86)\ directory.
  • Once all of the files have copied, double click on a .p65 file, and select an application with which to open the file. Navigate to your c:\Program Files (x86)\PM65 directory and select PM65.EXE.

I’m amazed this works, to be honest. Hope it helps with you! In the meantime, it might be smart to create future works in another application (like Microsoft Publisher), because who knows if good ol’ Pagemaker will continue to work once Windows 9 rolls around.

Time for Apple to Deflate the Air

macbookairIn the computing world, 2007 was a long, long time ago. Over the previous decade laptops had taken a stronghold and had severely weakened the traditional desktop PC market. Consumers wanted portability, however even with the newest designs at the time, the weight, size, and baggage (literally) of carrying around a traditional laptop were still too much for people to enjoy. That’s why in 2007 we saw the introduction of both the “netbook”, a miniature, lightweight, underpowered laptop that could be thrown in a purse, and the iPhone. Both portable platforms were immediate successes.

Seven months after introducing the iPhone, Apple followed with the thinnest laptop the world had seen. The lightweight MacBook Air was decidedly more portable than popular laptops at the time, and certainly more powerful than the handcuffed Windows and Linux netbooks that were catching on.

The Air saw modest success, however the big story in the last five years has been the iPhone. As applications and power came to the device, people droves…to a device that quickly saw computing, not telephony, as the iPhone’s primary role.

Two years after the introduction of the iPhone, Apple released the iPad, a slate computer that was about 4X the size of the iPhone. Initial sales of the device were good, but certainly didn’t have netbook fans worried about the future of that platform. In fact that year stalwart Microsoft supporter Paul Thurrott patronizingly proclaimed that the iPad was no match for netbook sales. Netbooks were forecasted to sell 46 million units in 2010, and grow to 60 million by next year (2013).

In fact the opposite happened. Apple sold 40 million iPads in 2011 while netbook manufactures like Dell quit the netbook market altogether. The iPad not only “killed the netbook”, it sent Microsoft scrambling to totally redesign history’s most popular operating system. When Windows 8 is released later this year it will be clear to everyone that tablet computers are well on their way to taking over.

The consumer PC world certainly has changed in the four years the MacBook Air has been on shelves. What hasn’t really changed is the MacBook Air. While there have been modest improvements, the low end of Apple’s traditional computer offering now stands as a relic: an underpowered and overpriced traditional laptop that, while light and reasonably mobile, is hampered by problems solved by its younger sibling, the iPad.

One of Steve Jobs’ last mantras repeated in public was the concept of a “Post-PC World”. The development of the iPad can eventually offer all of our computer needs on a tablet. While cloud storage services such as iCloud, Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc, gained popularity, Apple removed the disk drive and DVD drives from the MacBook Air, leaving the question of just why this device is even needed in Apple’s catalog in an iPad world.

Instead of a 13” MacBook Air, a better solution for Apple would be a 13” iPad. By widening the device by the width of the right bezel (0.75”) and extending the device’s length by a little more than 2”, Apple could have a device that, when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, could serve all of the functions a MacBook Air currently does. The new 16:10 form factor would borrow the screen proportions from the 13” MacBook Air and would match the rumored screen coming to the new iPhone. If the iPhone is going long, then perhaps the entire iOS platform, including the iPad should, too.

* * *

Microsoft’s clever answer to the iPad will spawn a new market of tablet PCs. The Intel-based tablets will not only run Windows 8’s iOS-like Metro “layer” and its apps, but also will run the classic Windows Desktop and legacy applications. With these capabilities it is likely that a revolution will ensue on the Windows side. Windows 8 users will be able to use Metro apps on the go, but when they want to get serious work done, they can dock their tablet to a large external monitor, keyboard, and mouse to offer a full desktop experience. In all likelihood in just 3 years the traditional laptop will disappear from store shelves as flexible portable devices with great battery lives take over.

This is a scenario to which Apple will absolutely have to respond. Their best bet is to consider how the iPad can be used productively in a desktop setting. The current size is too small for such work, so the offering of a video out method (via HDMI or an Apple TV-like wireless device connected to the desktop monitor) is essential to Apple for extending the growth of the iOS platform. However a large iPad, such as the previously-proposed 13” model, might by itself offer enough screen real estate to get considerable work done, just as the 13” MacBook Air offers.

When we first met the MacBook Air, it was the beginning of a mobile computing revolution that still isn’t over. The trajectory of the revolution is becoming clear, though, and where we are headed is a world where thin, touch-centric tablets will be the centerpiece of most people’s work flow. Some will still desire the full capabilities of a traditional laptop, and for those people Apple is continuing to push the MacBook Pro. However did you see what is happening to that machine? The DVD drive is disappearing and the device is getting much thinner and lighter. It’s almost as if Apple knows it has no choice but to deflate the Air.

Creating Metro Layer Media Center Apps

MCMetroThe shelf life of Windows Media Center has been a much-discussed topic. Many questions were answered when Microsoft included Media Center in its Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The app exists for all intents and purposes exactly as it does in Windows 7; a Desktop Layer application.

Some have pondered how Media Center could exist in Microsoft’s new Start Screen environment (which I will call the “Metro Layer”). Folks like Josh Pollard at the Entertainment 2.0 podcast envision a situation where Media Center’s core, unique DVR functionality could be split into three or four Metro Layer apps. The the remaining functionality (like Photos, Music, Netflix, etc) will exist in their own Metro Style apps that are already being built.

I love this idea, and have gotten the essentials of this concept to work. By using some shortcut coding that has been on the internet for a few years, we can create Metro Layer shortcuts that deep-link into Media Center’s modules.

The essential components needed on the Metro Layer are: Live TV, Recorded TV, and Guide. I went to the Windows 8 Desktop Layer and simply created three shortcuts that use these lines as their targets:

  • %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation "/mcesuperbar://guide"
  • %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation "/mcesuperbar://tv?live=true"
  • %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /nostartupanimation /directmedia:TV

Then I right-clicked on each shortcut and selected “Add to Start Menu”. This creates a generic Metro Layer shortcut button for each. Finally, I moved the buttons to my Media group of icons in Metro.

The resulting shortcuts allow the user to access the Guide, Live TV, and Recorded TV (respectively) with a remote control on the Metro Layer. (I do not have a tuner set up on this machine, however, so I can only guess that the Live TV shortcut does indeed work).

There are a couple of caveats, however. One needs to place a Windows button on their remote control in order to return to the Metro Layer. This is easy for Logitech Harmony remote controls. The dedicated Media Center remotes, however, don’t have this button, and their green buttons take the user back to the Start screen in the Media Center environment. In order to return to the Start Screen one has to arrow down to Settings and Close the Media Center app.

Additionally, these shortcuts, and the Windows 8 Metro experience do not convey to extenders, and that is something that will never be developed, unfortunately. In the Windows 8 era, extenders will still remain fully in the Media Center environment.

The only other shortcoming in my in vitro test is the unsightly generic icon used for shortcuts in the Metro Layer. Presumably Microsoft will add the ability to customize Metro Layer icons which would enhance the user’s experience in this UI.

Certainly the code level deployment of a separated Media Center would be offer a reason for Media Center users to upgrade. In its current condition Windows 8 offers nothing to dedicated Home Theater PC users that isn’t available in Windows 7. However as Metro Style apps get developed by media outlets such as Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Hulu, and others, HTPC users will increasingly find themselves wanting to be in the Metro Layer. A graceful entrance to and exit from the Media Center environment would sustain Windows Media Center as the premier DVR experience in the market. Until then, though, a little bit of work with a PC can give us an workable experience in Windows 8.

Nintendo Opening Door for Apple TV

AppleTV-642x546While watching CES this week it is clear that the top trend in consumer electronics is the connected TV. Vendors know that customers really hate their cable boxes, and are trying to figure out ways to deliver internet content to TVs.

So far there are products on the market like the Roku box, the Boxee box, and Apple TV. The other approach we’ve seen is services built into the TV, such as Yahoo Widgets. Apple fanboys are spilling over with giddiness about rumors of an Apple-branded TV with Apple TV built in, but this approach is hopelessly flawed. If your phone were as old as your TV, would you be happy? The television is a expensive monitor meant to last more than a decade, and in that time software advances will lap the abilities of the TV’s software multiple times over. 

Clearly the external component box is what will win over the masses, but the key is getting critical mass into living rooms before content providers will choose this alternative delivery route over traditional cable or network delivery. The problem with Roku, Boxee, and so many others is that streaming shows and movies is all they do. They will never be accepted by Americans until the content is there, and the content won’t be there until the hardware is in place. Chicken meets egg.

Microsoft certainly is in place with 66 million XBox360s sold (worldwide). However as we’ve seen with Windows Media Center’s Internet TV offerings, Microsoft is completely incapable of making content deals with providers. iTunes, on the other hand, has much to offer, and makes Apple the most likely player to win this game. However Apple TV has only sold around 2 million units, and has completely flopped at getting into people’s living rooms. With Apple TV, the only draw is to buy TV shows that we already purchased from our cable company; tough sell.

The key to the XBox’s market penetration was games. People’s primary purchase intent with this device was to play games. However when they got home and realized streaming content from Netflix and others was available, they started doing more.

The big opportunity for Apple TV is coming in 2012. As the Nintendo Wii recently turned five years old, that company is looking forward to releasing its newest generation of Wii, the Wii U, in 2012. What the Wii U offers is a bulky, smart controller that contains a video screen. The concept is brilliant, allowing certain players to be privy to information that other players aren’t. However rumors swirl about a $600 price for this system, which only comes with one smart controller, a worthless device once it leaves the living room.

There is also this to consider: while Nintendo sold 89 million Wii’s, there have been 108 million iPhones sold, 40 million iPads sold, and 60 million iPod Touches sold. That’s over 200 million potential smart controllers already in people’s hands.

Consider this, too: one of the most popular XBox360 games is the Madden series, which sells around 1.5 million per year. However Rovio’s Angry Birds, the most successful smartphone game to date, has had over 500 million downloads so far. Just on Christmas Day (2011) alone there were 6.5 million Angry Birds downloads.

With so many potential gaming controller components already sold, all Apple has to do is introduce a better Apple TV that integrates iOS devices as controllers, and they have Nintendo’s number. If the Apple TV also features HDMI pass-thru capability, customers could gracefully switch between cable TV, games, streams without having to use the TV’s remote control to change inputs.

Nintendo’s pricey system looms on the horizon, opening the door wide open for Apple to not only take over the simple gaming market, but further that market position to become a major force with studios.