Malvern Well Dressing 2019

Some photographs of the Springs, Spouts and Wells dressed in Malvern, Worcestershire for the 2019 Water Festival with the theme of Flight. I’ve only selected one photograph of each — in some cases there is a lot more to see than can be seen in one photograph.

Wyche Spring was decorated by children from Grove Primary School and you were supposed to try to find where the witch had dropped her potion. They won a Bronze Award.

Wyche Spring

Willow Spring was magnificently decorated with birds and driftwood sculpture and deservedly won a Gold Award in the Adult Class for Little Berry.

Willow Spring

Gardiners Common Spring was newly decorated this year with many examples of flying objects above the earth and in space, several of which don’t appear in this photograph. It won a Silver Award in the Adult Class for Thomas Gardiner’s descendants.

Gardiners Common Spring

The Eye Well had a truly amazing bird hanging from a substantial tree trunk and a dragon lying in wait.

Eye Well

Pixie’s Well (also known as the Devil’s Well) was interactive allowing folks to become bats and be photographed or videos while flapping their bat wings. The Ramsay Family and Harris Clan won a Gold Award in the Adult Class for this decoration.

Pixie s Well  was Devil s Well

Holy Well had been decorated by the Wool Shack with a mass of wollen constructions. They won a Silver Medal in the Adult Class.

Holy Well

The Cottage in the Wood Well was another new decoration this year and was beautifully constructed and executed in the grounds of the Hotel.

Cottage in the Wood Well

The Lower Wyche Trough had been decorated with wonderful kites and steps to form a flight of fancy.

Lower Wyche Trough

The Lower Wyche Spout was magnificently decorated by off road runners (the Malvern Buzzards who won a Gold Award in the Adult Class for their effort).

Lower Wyche Spout

Weaver’s Trough is always well decorated and this year was no exception linking Elgar his mysterious early love affair and kites. Susie & Ian Woodcock won a Gold Award in the Adult Class for their decoration.

Weaver s Trough

Rose Gully is always dramatically decorated and this year was no exception with kites and balloons (more than can be seen in this photograph). It won a Gold Award in the Adult Class for Holly Mount Church.

Rose Gully

The Coach House Theatre Pump was decorated by Malvern Girlguiding as has been the case for several years and won them a Silver Award in the Children’s Class.

Coach House Theatre Pump

Priory Park Spring was decorated winning a Bronze Award in the Adult Class for Branches Day Opportunities.

Priory Park Spring

Rosebank Garden Well was quite dramatically decorated this year.

Rosebank Garden Well

The Mount Pleasant Basin, which has not often been decorated, was prettily decorated this year.

Mount Pleasant Basin

Malvhina in the centre of Great Malvern was decorated to record the first manned balloon flight and won a Silver Award in the Adult Class for Dan and Karen Smith.

Malvhina

Elgar’s Enigma fountain cannot be directly decorated but the surrounding area was covered with butterflies, winning a Bronze Award in the Adult Class for Malvern School of Art.

Elgar s Enigma

The Old Bottling Works Spring continued the theme of butterflies.

Old Bottling Works Spring

Hayslad has often had a dramatic display and this year was no exception winning a Gold Award in the Adult Class for Mother Gaia.

Hayslad

Dingle Spring had a very artistic decoration winning a Silver Award in the Adult Class for Phil Ironside Artist.

Dingle Spring

The Dripping Well is one of the highest and one of the most tricky wells to reach on the hills. Carrying materials for decoration up here is no trivial matter.

Dripping Well

St. Anns’s Well was decorated with gorgeous large butterflies and insects and won a Gold Award in the Adult Class for Creative Cluster.

St Ann s Well

The Happy Valley Donkey Spout was decorated with apparent simplicity but effectiveness.

Happy Valley Donkey Spout

Lodge Fountain was very beautifully and effectively decorated winning a Bronze Award in the Adult Class for Out2gether.

Lodge Fountain

The little Trinity Trough (which is one of the awkward places to plant or photograph without being in danger of being run over by traffic) was simply decorated.

Trinity Trough

Stocks Drinking Fountain included a open birdcage — the bird had flown. It won a Bronze Award in the Adult Class for Petals Flower Shop.

Stocks Drinking Fountain

The Clock Tower was decorated inside and out (there were too many people around to photograph outside). It won a Gold Prize in the Children’s Awards for Malvern Vale Primary School.

Clock Tower

The North Malvern Tap was colourfully decorated and won a Silver Award in the Children’s Class for 1st Malvern Link Brownies and Rainbows.

North Malvern Tap

The Danzell Spring had a beautiful butterfly decoration.

Danzell Spring

The Westminster Bank Spring was full of many details.

Westminster Bank Spring

St. James’s Churchyard Spout was decorated to record Roget’s burial in the churchyard and his thesaurus enabling us to use a variety of words in our flights of fancy. It won a Bronze Award in the Adult Class for Gwyn Klee.

St James s Churchyard Spout

The West Malvern Tap was decorated with many examples of flight — several not shown in this photograph — there were plenty of bees and other insects dotted around. It won a Gold Award in the Children’s Class for St James’ Primary School.

West Malvern Tap

The Park Road Spout which I think was decorated for the first time this year included many models of bees and butterflies, and won a Gold in the Children’s Award for the 2nd Malvern Scout Group — Beaver Scouts.

Park Road Spout

Security Certificates

The Let’s Encrypt system is a revolution for providing web security certificates for free. While these are simple certificates they provide encryption and at least the assurance that the website is the one that it appears to be.   Siteground that is the host for this website has now included a facility in Cpanel to allow users to install Let’s Encrypt certificates in a very simple manner. I’ve done this for this blog and other sites that I own. Credit to Siteground for implementing this.  

Returning to Blogging

It is over two years since I have posted to this blog, and even things that I’ve done on a number of years — like post pictures of the Malern Well Dressing have not been done.   There is no particular excuse for this other than not finding the time, although poor health — and particular poor eyesight has been a contributory factor.  To be honest, my purpose when creating this blog was more to explore WordPress and the general idea of writing rather than to create a site that would necessarily be of interest to others.

I do intend to get back to posting somewhat regularly, and certainly have a number of items that I want to write about.  I have to say that it is mostly for selfish reasons:  I find writing about a topic has two consequences: if it is technical, I tend to have a better understanding; and if it is something less technical it becomes a way of giving some personal therapy to myself.

Anyway, my copy of MarsEdit still seems to work, so hopefully if I press the button this will appear on the blog.

Malvern Well Dressing 2013

In previous years, I have posted some photographs of the dressings on the wells, spas, springs, spouts, fountains, taps and troughs in Malvern, Worcestershire.  Once again this year, on Sunday 5th May, I visited all but one of the decorated wells (apologies to whoever dressed the Dripping Well this year).  This year a total of 39 of the wells were decorated and there are photographs of 38 of them here.  The theme this year was “once upon a time …”

Evendine Spring

Evendine SpringThis spring is always well decorated, and this year won a Silver Award for Aquartet.  There was an amazing amount of detail in this decoration some of which is shown in the following photographs.

Evendine Spring
Evendine Spring

Evendine Spring

Evendine Spring

Evendine Spring

Wynds Point

Wynds Point

This is a small, tap on the side of the road, that is difficult to decorate and difficult to photograph as the pavement is narrow and the road busy, but this simple decoration works well and won a Bronze for Margaret Fox.

Eye Well

DSC 6396

This well is up on the hill behind the Holy Well.  This year it was very well decorated, but was not competing for an award.

Holy Well

Holy Well

This was beautifully decorated this year and won a Gold Award for Three Generations.  Here is a photograph from the outside:

Holy Well

Devil’s Well

Over recent years this has often been beautifully decorated and this was no exception and it won a Gold Award for The Devil’s Advocates.  Here be dragons.

Devil's Well

There were also dragon’s eggs:

Devil's Well

Jubilee Fountain

Jubilee Fountain

This was more simply decorated this year, than it has been in the past, but won a Silver Award for Friends of Malvern Wells Primary School.

Lower Wyche Trough

Lower Wyche Trough

This was another relatively simply but beautifully dressed spring that won a Bronze for Caroline Harris and Jean Williams.

Lower Wyche Spout

Lower Wyche Spout

This was not competing for an award this year, and although very simply decorated was very effective.

Weaver’s Trough

Weaver's Trough

This is another small trough but which was beautifully decorated to represent the story of Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake.  It won a Gold Award for Mark and Helena Illingworth.

St. Ann’s Well

St. Ann's Well

St. Ann’s Well was not competing but had been dressed effectively.

Malvhina

Malvhina

This is Malvhina at the centre of Great Malvern, and it won a Bronze Award for Jan Bowden and John Bibby.

Enigma Fountain

Enigma Fountain 

This is the Enigma Fountain with the statue of Sir Edward Elgar.  This had been decorated to make the point about possibly the death of reading and including, amongst the “cobwebs”, books to read and exchange.  It won a Bronze Award for the Meadow Road Crew.

Enigma Fountain

Old Bottling Works Spring

Old Bottling Works Spring

This well was dressed by The Courtyard Shopping Experience and was full of detail and it won a Gold Award

Detail of Old Bottling Works Spring

Trinity Trough

Trinity Trough

This is pretty much impossible to decorate, and wasn’t competing.  It is right on the edge of a main road with no pavement.

Stocks Fountain

This was dressed by the 7th Malvern Girls Brigade and won a Silver.  This fountain has often been very well dressed and this was no exception.

Stocks Fountain

Here is another photograph of the detail of the bridge with the troll beneath.

Detail of Stocks Fountain

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

This had been beautifully decorated with lots of detail and some more decoration outside.  It won a Silver Award and was decorated by Ian Woodcock and Susan Hale.

North Malvern Tap

North Malvern Tap

This won a bronze for the 1st Malvern Link Rainbows & Brownies.  

Danzell Spring

Danzell Spring

I found this impossible to photograph well, so my apologies to Harriet Harnden who decorated it with fantastic detail and won a Silver Award.

Westminster Bank Spring

Westminster Bank Spring

A beautifully decorated spring by Malvern St. James School that won a Gold Award.

St. James’ Churchyard

St. James' Churchyard

Love decoration that was not competing for an award.

West Malvern Tap

West Malvern Tap

An outstanding decoration by West Malvern Garden and Nature Club that won a Gold Award.  There was a lot of detail in this, as shown below.

Detail of West Malvern Tap

Detail of West Malvern Tap

Detail of West Malvern Tap

Detail of West Malvern Tap

Dingle Spring

Dingle Spring

Another design based on a dragon, this won a Silver Award for Phil Ironside.

Hay Slad

Hay Slad

This was more simply decorated this year — but given the size, it is still a lot of work to decorate and there was a lot of detail.  It won a Bronze Award for Dan and Karen Smith.

Royal Well

Royal Well

The Royal Well was not entered for an award, but as always was well covered in flowers.

Wyche Spring

Wyche Spring

The Wyche Spring became Bag End and won a Gold Award for Sheila Maund.

Willow Spring

Willow Spring

Another simple and effective decoration.

Ellerslie Fountain

Ellerslie Fountain

This is another of the many springs that is in a dangerous position on the side of the road and was not competing for an award.  It is hard for anyone to decorate or photograph. 

Wilson’s Fountain

Wilson's Fountain

This decoration is on the site of the Wilson Monument.  The spring emerges just below at another dangerous corner of a road.  It won a Bronze Award for Sheila Young.

Hay Baptist Well

Hay Baptist Well

This well, at the back of the Baptist Church, was a Bronze Award for the decorators from the Malvern Baptist Church.

Coach-houseTheatrePump

Coach-house Theatre Pump

Another decoration with a lot of detail that won a Bronze Award for Girlguiding Malvern.

Rose Gully

Rose Gully

The size of Rose Gully allows extensive decoration and it won a Gold Award for Holly Mount United Reformed Church.  Again there was a lot of detail, some of which is shown in the following photographs.

Detail of Rose Gully

Detail of Rose Gully

Detail of Rose Gully

Lyttleton Well

Lyttleton Well

Unfortunately, the courtyard was closed when we visited this one, so the photograph had to be taken through the gate.  It won a Gold Award for Creative Clay.

Davenham House

Davenham House (Perrins Wellhead)

We haven’t visited this well in previous years.  It is situated in the grounds of and just outside the door of Davenham House.  It was decorated by Northleigh School (we had fun trying to find the answers to the questions from the Narnia Chronicles), and won a Silver Award.  The well has a lion statue so there is only need for a witch and a wardrobe.

Davenham House (Perrins Wellhead) - The Wardrobe

Temperance Drinking Fountain

Temperance Drinking Fountain

This was beautifully decorated — complete with a story book — and won a Gold Award for St. Joseph’s Swans and CygnetsPre-School.

Lord Sandys’ Spout

Lord Sandys' Spout

The decorations had been contributed to by virtually the entire school to gain a Bronze Award for St. Matthias School.

Barnards Green Trough

Barnards Green Trough

Over the past few years there have been a number of stunning decorations of this large trough.  This year the Wolf was in the bed and Little Red Riding Hood is on her way.  Team Trough won a Gold Award.

Railway Station Trough

Railway Station Trough

Some simple decoration that won a Bronze Award for Malvern Parish Primary School.

Earl Beauchamp’s Spout

Earl Beauchamp's Spout

This was fantastically decorated for a Very Hungry Caterpillar to win a Silver Award for Barbara Meadows.

Mac OS X Lion

posted over a year ago on my initial thoughts of updating to Lion.  Earlier this year I did start using Lion but only as a result of replacing my ageing Core Duo iMac with a reconditioned 27 inch, i7 3.4 GHz iMac.  This came with Lion installed and other than having some problems with the wi-fi (a common challenge judging by this thread, but solved in my case by using different names for my 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks and fixing the iMac to the 5GHz network)

After running Lion on the new machine for a month or so, I bought Lion and updated my MacBook.  I had been doubtful about how well it would run on a Core 2 Duo 2GHz machine with only 2GB of memory, but in fact it seems to run as well as Snow Leopard.  I only tend to use the MacBook for e-mail and web browsing when away, or occasional use of Aperture when away from home, although Aperture is pretty slow on it (and always has been).

I think it is now time to update the iMac to Mountain Lion, but I’m still waiting to make sure that everything I use regularly on the machine is ready for Mountain Lion.  I’ve tended to reduce the amount of applications I use these days, but those that I do I tend to rely on, so don’t want any surprises.

DiscUtility and FileVault2

On my MacBook (which is now running OS X 10.7 Lion), I set up FileVault 2 to do whole disk encryption, as I’ve always been a little concerned about the possibility of a laptop going missing when travelling and the consequential danger.  Since running Lion, the MacBook although rather old being a late 2006 model, has been very stable.   (A lot more stable than some years ago when I experimented at some cost with using PGP Whole Disk Encryption – but that’s another story.)

However, a week or so ago the MacBook become unresponsive and I needed to power it off and reboot.  Whenever I have to do such drastic measures on my Macs, I always run Disk Utility afterwards on the system disc and any other drives that were connected at the time.  Mostly these verify with no problems.  On this occasion the verification reported the need to repair the drive.  As one can’t repair the drive on which one is running I did as was instructed and rebooted in to the recovery partition (hold command-R when booting).  Running Disk Utility from the Recovery Partition on the System Drive set to repair ran for a while but then reported that it couldn’t repair the drive.  I wasn’t too worried by this as I had a SuperDuper cloned backup from about a week before (and I don’t do a lot of work on the MacBook these days), and also an almost up to date Time Machine.  

However, before attempting to reformat and rebuild I thought I would try booting from my BackUp and running Disk Utility from there.  This produced the same result as Disk Utility on the recovery partition — couldn’t repair.  It was at this point that a bit of web searching revealed the need to unlock the encrypted drive (which I suppose is obvious when one thinks about it — but there was no suggestion from Disk Utility that one should do this).  

On Disk Utility under the File menu there is an option to Unlock the drive.  This produced a password prompt.  At this point I wasn’t really sure what password was required but I had stored in 1Password accessible on my iMac, the “Master Password” for the encrypted drive.  (Later reading other articles, it would seem that a password for any authorised account on the machine would also work.)

Anyway, this enabled Disk Utility to do its repairs and get the system drive up and running again smoothly.

Here is a useful post from Der Flounder on the same topic.

It would really have helped if Disk Utility gave some hints that the drive needed to be unlocked.  It would appear that I might also have got stuck with re-installing as well, and repartitioning also requires the drive to be unlocked.

A Happy New Year and Disc Drive Problems

A Happy New Year to you all.

I have something of a disc drive and back-up obsession.   My various computers all of have a number of external disc drives that are used for back up, or for holding my photo and music libraries.  I must have at least a dozen external drives in all.  My MacBook has an external drive that I use for a Time Machine backup and another that is used once a week with SuperDuper! to clone the internal hard drive.  My Mac Mini which is now used only to serve up my permanent large music, film, TV show iTunes library has the iTunes library on an external drive which is also copied to a second drive together with another drive that is used for Time Machine and a SuperDuper! back up.  My iMac until just before Christmas had three external drives: one for Time Machine, one that is holding a SuperDuper! clone back-up and the main photo libraries (and small iTunes library).  Another drive held a copy of the photo libraries and iTunes library.   In addition, I have a couple of portable drives that I use with the MacBook and a couple of other external drives that have been used for media with the MacMini.  Most of these drives (other than the little portable ones) are multi-interface and I generally use the firewire to connect to my Macs.

It does become quite a challenge to make sure that all these drives that hold copies are updated regularly, although that is not too difficult as the iTunes library on the MacMini is pretty much static; it holds my classical CD collection that is mostly ripped from my own purchased CDs, together with a relatively small number of recordings purchased from iTunes and other classical digital download services.  It also holds some TV programmes and films — mostly that have been downloaded from iTunes as a result of free promotions (typically from The Times/The Sunday Times in the UK or iTunes promotions like the 12 days of Christmas.  Periodically, particularly after a new item has been added, I will re-copy the whole library.   At some point I’ll get around to using an rsync based tool and a script to do it automatically at regular intervals.  The Photo Library held on the iMac is also fairly easy to back up as the iPhoto libraries are now pretty much static as all my new work is stored in Aperture and Aperture has the concept of a vault which makes it easy to periodically (e.g. every time I import new photographs) update it from within Aperture.

Over the last couple of months the iMac had been behaving strangely where it would occasionally lock up.  While the iMac is old (a 2006 model, that I really should replace with a new one that can run Lion), it hadn’t generally behaved in this sort of way. I would have to use the power button to turn off the iMac and then reboot it.   Being the sort of person that I am, I would then normally use Disk Utility to verify the internal drive and all of the external drives connected at the time.   As I’ve mentioned before, checking a Time Machine is not for the faint-hearted.  A drive that has been used for some time will take a long time to check.   I’m not sure quite what caused me to start thinking it might be an external drive problem — I don’t think I found anything in the logs, although I had noticed that often a Time Machine update was taking a long time (although on my iMac not a lot typically changes, other than the receipt of more mail messages).  Anyway, the Time Machine hard drive (which had been used for some years) would not repair.   Trying Disk Warrior also failed, and indeed the drive wasn’t even showing up at all some times that I tried connecting it.   This was a shame as I really would have liked to have copied the contents to a new drive and continued the Time Machine sequence, but it wasn’t going to happen.  When the Time Machine drive did show up on the machine, I could typically access most of the content but trying to do a complete copy to a new drive always failed.

Strangely a second drive on the iMac (used for a copy of the photo library) also started playing up at the same time, and so a new 3TB Western Digital drive was purchased (just at the time when prices seemed to be going up daily because of the floods in Thailand), to hold both a Time Machine backup and a copy of the libraries stored on the other external drive.  Since installing the new drive, I’ve had no problems with the iMac locking up.

Fast forward a few weeks to earlier this week and I noticed that the Time Machine drive used with my MacBook wasn’t showing up on the MacBook.  Indeed the drive didn’t seem to be on despite being plugged in to the mains.   This particular Western Digital drive actually has an on-off button on the back which I’ve never been able to quite understand the logic for but pressing it briefly or for a longer time had no effect.  However, using the power supply from one of the now retired failing drives caused it to spring in to life.   So at least that wasn’t a drive failure — just a power supply failure.  Strangely though, I had noticed that recently the MacBook would take a long time waking up from sleep (or at least it would appear to wake instantly, but then hang for some time before allowing one to type a password); however since replacing the power supply this seems to have got much less obvious.   I know that FireWire is a technology that is very tightly coupled in to the machine and I wonder whether the failing power supply on the external drive had been causing some strange behaviour.  All of this is consistent with the advice often given when trouble shooting to disconnect all external items.

As a result of all this, I’ve now replaced two external drives (although not necessarily the oldest).  I still need to tidy up my process for ensuring that content primarily stored on external drives is always duplicated (and if necessary backed up to the cloud as well).

 

Site back up

My apologies to anyone trying to visit this blog during the last four or five days.   It appeared to get hi-jacked and redirected to a (probably unsavoury) site.  I  believe that everything is now back to normal.

I’ve been somewhat remiss in posting over the last three months.  I have been quite busy but hope to devote more time to writing now.

Software for Music Notation

For many years, I’ve occasionally needed to generate printed music notation.  This has been for a variety of reasons including arranging music for piano, piano accordion, or choir, or re-printing old copies of music that are no longer available and where my originals are literally falling to pieces.  Finding satisfactory software has never been easy.   I remember using a few shareware programs in the days of DOS.  These programs worked well within their limited capabilities, but they were extremely limited.  Some of these have continued in development.  Noteworthy Composer is one that I played with many years ago which I see is still available.

For a considerable time when I was using Linux and Mac OS X, I became quite adept at using the open source LilyPond.  LilyPond is not for the faint-hearted as it is a scripting language — no graphics, just text. The output is first rate but it does take some effort to learn, and I found that often between versions (and updates for LilyPond were, and still are, released fairly rapidly), there were often changes to the syntax which meant running a provided utility to upgrade the existing input files.  If I didn’t use LilyPond for some time, then the update might need to be done by hand, and also I found that I had to at least partially relearn the program.  There are some graphical front-ends for LilyPond and also some nice environments for doing the development of notation.  I would recommend reading the essay on the LilyPond Web site which gives fascinating insight into music engraving.

As the LilyPond essay makes clear, music engraving is more complex than word processing because of the inherent two dimensional nature of musical notation.  One of the biggest problems with music notation, particularly when the music is more than very simple lead sheets, is that the articulations, expression and technique instructions, and any lyrics, not to mention the notes themselves can easily collide without some sophisticated algorithms for placement.

Recently, I’ve taken another look at the software available for music notation.  The two “big” programs are Finale and Sibelius, both of which are available for WIndows and Mac OS X.  Trials are available for both but these are expensive programs.  Finale 2011 is $600 and Sibelius 7 is £460.  In both cases academic discounts are available that make the prices much more palatable, but I do not quality for these.  Both Finale and Sibelius have cheaper versions with reduced functionality.

In the case of Finale there is a whole suite of programs from the free Finale Reader (which is only for printing and playing a file that you might have received in Finale format), through Finale NotePad, Finale SongWriter and Finale PrintMusic.  (There is also Finale Allegro but that doesn’t seem to have been updated for modern operating systems.) I have tried NotePad in the past and it really is only for the simplest music, but SongWirter and PrintMusic are both fairly capable.  Finale have a very open policy about upgrades so that you can buy without regret in that if you want one of the more expensive members of the Finale Family, there is an upgrade price that means you won’t have wasted money by buying a lower product first. For the things I needed to do, Finale Songwriter was almost good enough and Finale PrintMusic certainly was able to do the job.

Sibelius only has one reduced version for general use (there is a Student version but that I think is specifically tied to use by education establishments in conjunction with full academic versions).  This reduced version is Sibelius First.  Avid, who now own Sibelius, indicate that there is an upgrade discount for upgrading to the full version of Sibelius, but there is no explicit information on their Web site.  Avid also control the forums for discussion of Sibelius a little more than MakeMusic (Finale publisher) does for FInale.

I downloaded the trials for Finale PrintMusic, Finale SongWriter and Sibelius First.  In all cases I went through the tutorials that are included in their documentation.  I think this is pretty much essential with these types of programs.   While you can do a lot just by clicking around with a mouse, one really needs to learn the keystrokes in order to be able to enter and annotate music with any speed.  If it was going to take me an hour to notate a page of music then I would be as quick using LilyPond (for free!).

Finale PrintMusic ($120) essentially did what I needed.  However, the disadvantage is that the output required a lot of tinkering to get it to look right.  The only limitation that hampered me was that I couldn’t change a clef in the middle of a bar (measure).  I also found that adding some articulations to notes was fairly time consuming in the number of key strokes needed (and scrolling of lists).  However, I was pretty much inclined to go ahead and buy Finale PrintMusic.  PrintMusic and most of the FInale products import and export MusicXML which is the preferred way to exchange music between notation programs.  Overall PrintMusic seems to have a somewhat old-fashioned interface.

Sibelius First (£120) also did what I needed.  There are some more obvious limitations in Sibelius First over its full price big version.  I noted a strong negative review on Amazon pointing out the limitations.  The most obvious one is the lack of being able to do double dotted notation.  Having said that, none of the music I need to notate seems to have any double dotted rhythms, and so for the moment that is not a restriction, and one can always get around it in a rather clumsy way by using tied notes.  There are some articulations missing that may also be a little restricting, but I haven’t had a direct need for them in my sample tests.  Sibelius First does not do export of Music XML making it much more difficult to get stuff out of Sibelius First.  in general, the number of key strokes required to do things in Sibelius First was less than in Finale Print Music and so input was generally a little quicker. The biggest plus of Sibelius First is the “magnetic layout” which automatically moves objects to avoid collisions.  While this was not at all perfect it meant that the time to do adjustments to get the music looking right was much reduced over Finale PrintMusic (where I gave up before doing all of the tweaks).  A disadvantage of this is that occasionally the notation can move around under one in a somewhat disconcerting way.  Manual tweaking is not so easy (which is a limitation of Sibelius First — I believe that Sibelius 7 has user modifiable rules and also the ability to turn off magnetic layout for individual items).  The other problem I noticed was that it was rather easy to accidentally move an object when intending to scroll the “paper”, or to mistype and have something unexpected happen, as many keystrokes are defined as keyboard shortcuts.  LIke Finale PrintMusic there is considerable documentation, and the Sibelius First user guide is both detailed and thorough while having a light hearted touch which is a pleasure in reading documentation, and as I said before, I believe that for these types of applications one really has to read the documentation to get the best out of them.

I also took a look at a graphical open source program, MuseScore.  This is remarkably good and a worthy contender with the big programs.  It is highly capable and has none of the restrictions of the reduced Finale and Sibelius versions.  There is a lot less documentation available for MuseScore than for the commercial programs and I found that some things didn’t seem to work quite as the documentation indicated.   Again, manual layout tweaks would be necessary to produce good output.  I also tripped over some inconsistencies which I couldn’t explain.  I found that MuseScore was fairly slow to input music and lacked some of the finesse of the commercial programs.

Another application of a similar nature is Notion 3.  I have not tried this, but I believe from the description and from other comments that it is probably more suited to those who are looking for a system to perform music which also provides notation.  I was more concerned with the notation as the primary objective, although all of these systems can drive MIDI devices (and take input from them) and have built in synthesisers.  Notion 3 is much cheaper than the full price offerings from Finale and Sibelius, but more expensive than their limited functionality versions.

What are my conclusions?

I think that for someone who is making money from music, or is able to get an academic discount, then they can really choose the big programs and the choice is probably one of what is used by colleagues, school or personal preference.   However, if the full versions reflect the reduced versions, I suspect that Sibelius 7 wins on getting good looking copy quickly.

For those of us who have to pay full price for software, then if cost is the prime consideration, then MuseScore is clearly a winner.  However Finale Songwriter is only $50 which makes it pretty affordable considering what it can do.

For a little more money the choice is really between Finale PrintMusic and Sibelius First (although the latter is about 60% more expensive in the UK at the current exchange rate).  I believe at this level the choice is between PrintMusic which can probably notate almost everything that I would ever need to do but take longer to get decent output, or Sibelius First where I suspect I will hit a limitation at some point — although not in my current test — but where the output requires very little tweaking to get a good result.  The “no regrets” upgrade path with Finale PrintMusic is attractive.

For what it is worth, I’ve bought a copy of Sibelius First having decided that getting good looking output quickly is worth the extra money.  If and when I hit limitations in Sibelius First, I hope that an upgrade path will be possible, or else I’ll be using MuseScore.

 

Mac OS X Lion

In the past (or at least since I’ve been using a Mac), I’ve bought upgrades to OS X on the day that they have been released.  Having said that, it has usually been a month (or even several months) before I’ve actually upgraded.

I remember the transition from Tiger to Leopard being particularly painful.  Although the operating system came out in the Autumn, I didn’t attempt to update my iMac until Christmas because some of the software that I used was not ready for Leopard.  When I did upgrade my iMac, I ended up reverting back to my Tiger system within about 24 hours or so because of problems.  (I’ve been a keen user of SuperDuper which is an excellent way of cloning one’s main drive to produce a bootable back up from which one can restore.)   Sometime in the following year I upgraded my MacBook successfully and my MacMini and then eventually updated the iMac.

The transition to Snow Leopard went more smoothly.  Again I didn’t do it for a month or two while waiting for applications to be declared stable, but the upgrade went smoothly with no problems that I can recall on both my MacBook and the iMac.  The Mac Mini couldn’t be upgraded to Snow Leopard because of hardware limitations.

With Lion and the download from the App Store, the buying and installing steps can be one and the same and so there is no real point in buying so that one has it ready for when one thinks the time is opportune.  On this occasion, only my MacBook is a candidate for being updated as the iMac is one of the first Intel based iMac machines and so only has a Core Duo processor rather than Core 2 Duo.

I haven’t even thought of updating the MacBook OS yet.  I know that I will need to do the following:

  • check software for compatibility
  • clean up the machine as there is precious free space on the hard drive currently
  • consider whether running different OS on my iMac and MacBook will be too disruptive.

My impression from reviews is that it is definitely an advantage to have a laptop with one of the modern trackpads that can do all the gestures (or to buy a Magic Trackpad for a desktop Mac).  Needless to say, my MacBook is sufficiently old that I’m not going to be able to use many gestures.

Lion clearly marks a major change in philosophy for the operating system in many ways.  The introduction of versioning, interaction with more gestures, and the “consumerisation” of the computer are an acceleration in the direction that Apple now seems to be moving.  It remains to be seen, how many Apple users slip away in this transition.  There is also the problem that some of the new features may not be fully baked yet and so prove a little fragile.  This article by TedLandau in the Mac Observer is a good summary of some of problems facing early adopters.

It would be nice to play with Lion, but I suspect that I will leave it a couple more months (at least until there are one or two “point” releases) and possibly until I need to replace on of my machines.